Redevelopment Wrecks: East Hartford, Connecticut

East Hartford, Connecticut

In 2000, the redevelopment agency in East Hartford voted to take Nardi’s Bakery and Deli—a popular local eatery—by eminent domain as part of its plan to redevelop Main Street.  Despite the fact that the bakery had been in the family and in the same location for 93 years, Town Centre LLC insisted that it stood in the way of its large redevelopment project.[1]  Under the threat of eminent domain, Nardi’s reluctantly sold its prime location, and the City bulldozed the historic building.

Forcing the sale and destruction of a viable business turned out to be a substantial mistake for the City.  Town Centre failed to produce a redevelopment plan that was acceptable to the City’s redevelopment agency, and the City soon found itself without a private developer for the property—and with an expensive bill.  The City had also condemned two other small businesses, underestimating the cost of those acquisitions.  For several years, the land where Nardi’s once stood and thrived remained vacant, and the City remained deeply in debt.[2]  Recently, First Merchants Group purchased the property and the site is currently still under construction and under review by the Planning and Zoning Commission.  Six years after destroying a longstanding local business, the future of the development remains uncertain.[3]  What is certain, however, is that the project is a failure, an example of local government buying a developer’s promises only to see them completely fall apart.

[1] Christopher Keating, “Nardi’s Seeks More Time for Move,” The Hartford Courant, Apr. 9, 2001, at B1.

[2] Carrie Budoff, “Project Faces Cost Overrun; Agency Asking for $75,000,” The Hartford Courant, Nov. 19, 2001, at B3.

[3] Charles Karno (Development Director, East Hartford Municipal Development Office), Telephone Interview with Institute for Justice, Mar. 8, 2006.