A new Dollar General store at the end of Arch Street near Shuttle Meadow Avenue will be just the beginning of a neighborhood transformation if local Latino leaders have their way.
Joined by Mayor Erin Stewart and other officials, the New Britain Latino Coalition attended the groundbreaking ceremony for Dollar General Tuesday afternoon, saying the project is the first step in what is envisioned as a multi-pronged neighborhood redevelopment initiative.
Local Latino leaders are calling the nascent district “Barrio Latino.”
Francisco Cuin, the coalition’s founder and former president, said the development plan represents a longtime vision.
“It’s not a new idea,” he said.
Carmelo Rodriguez, the coalition’s chairman, said the vision aligns with and is fundamental to the organization’s efforts to change the area’s image from that of a run-down sector to one of a growth community.
“We are sick and tired of the media portraying us negatively,” added Mario Santos, a Neighborhood Revitalization Zone and municipal Board of Assessment Appeals member. “We are very serious about making this New Britain neighborhood a much better place.”
Construction of the 7,500-square-foot store began last week and is expected to be done by the end of the winter. The store is slated to open in the spring.
The new store will be distinct from most of the discount retail chain’s other locations. Rather than the standard block-and-steel construction of most Dollar General stores, the building’s exterior walls will be made of brick on the bottom with New England-style siding above it. The store will also feature awnings, frosted windows, special interior lighting and intricate landscaping.
New Britain officials insisted upon the unique design because of the location’s proximity to Berlin, viewing it as a gateway to the city. It is also seen as the first phase in the transformation of Arch Street into Little Poland’s Latino equivalent in the south of the city.
“This is just the beginning,” Stewart said, adding she hoped to see many new businesses open in the vicinity. “We have high hopes for the area.”
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