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               MANCHESTER PARKADE: MANCHESTER, CT

Tim Putman's Commentary

User submitted September 28, 2010 (user submitted)

The Manchester Parkade was a large retail development in Manchester, Connecticut (a Hartford suburb). The development encompasses two acres of land, with frontage on West Middle Turnpike (also known as U.S. Routes 6 & 44) and on perpendicular Broad Street; however, except for the ends of the rear edifice and the edges of parking lots, most of the complex lies behind other retail and commercial buildings with direct street frontage. Its presence is indicated by large, illuminated signs at its primary intersections with both streets.

When it opened in 1957, it consisted of the front strip - an L-shaped building running east to northwest, anchored by a D&L family department store in the center, and by the discount Treasure City department store at its northwestern end. Other tenants included specialty clothing and music stores, and the second and, to date, only satellite of the popular local Shady Glen dairy bar. A small cocktail lounge operated at the center of the "L" - it has had many name changes over the years, and operates today as a sports bar, with most of the original 1950's architectural touches intact. The rear was excavated to a full story below the front, so that D&L in fact commanded two floors of retail space, one mostly subterranean, and had its corporate offices on the facility's only second-level space. There was also additional parking in the excavated rear section, predominantly for employees, but also for a handful of smaller retailers facing the back (a small tailor shop and an accountant's office, if memory serves), and for overflow parking during the holiday season.

In addition to the strip mall itself, a free-standing Brunswick bowling alley stood at the eastern end of the complex, and a branch of the Savings Bank of Manchester operated a free-standing building toward the West Middle Turnpike entrance.

In the absence of any other large shopping centers in the area, the Parkade thrived, and a "twin" strip mall was erected on land behind the existing facility in 1968. The newer section was in a straight line rather than "L" shaped, and anchored by a King's discount department store at its eastern end, followed by specialty retailers such as Card Gallery, So-Fro (later Jo-Ann) Fabrics, Record Breaker, and a second cocktail lounge. A freestanding Butterfield's department store completed the "L" illusion, though it was connected to the main building only by sidewalks. A 3-screen discount cinema with its own parking lot opened behind Butterfield's.

The tenants came and went over the years. Butterfield's closed up shop in 1978 and sat empty for several years, until its interior was converted into a mini-mall anchored by Marshall's discount clothing and CVS pharmacy, with a small non-chain pizza restaurant and a branch of Northeast Savings claiming most of the remaining floor space. In 1982, a Stop & Shop Supermarket was added onto the eastern end of the rear section, eclipsing a great deal of the parking lot and bringing the building almost all the way to the Broad Street property line. A second small building was erected near the Middle Turnpike bank, hosting several fast-food restaurants over the years, most recently Kenny Rogers' Roasters, before being converted into its present use as the offices of an accounting firm. D&L vanished in the early 1980's, and its space was split up into small retail on both street levels, and smaller office concerns on its upper level. Treasure City also fell upon hard times; its space was split into the surviving Blockbuster Video, and two other spaces with rapidly changing tenants, currently a Christian book and gift store, and a weekly-membership gym.

In the late 1980's, the mammoth Buckland Hills Mall opened, occupying a former golf course and tobacco plantations in Manchester and South Windsor, directly adjacent to I-84. The Parkade saw most of its customer base abandon it for the more modern, enclosed and convenient mall, and its tenants (those that hadn't already fallen victim to the recession) quickly followed suit. The smaller stores in the back facility relocated or went out of business. Marshall's relocated to the satellite strip malls behind Buckland Hills. The CVS chain closed its branch; only in early 2010 did CVS again appear in Manchester, ironically on West Middle Turnpike, on the site of another failing strip mall. The former Butterfield's mini-mall, robbed of its two anchors, closed its doors again, and they remain that way today. The Bradlee's discount chain went bankrupt and the Parkade branch (in the former King's) went with it, leaving only Stop & Shop, the movie theater, and a Connecticut Department of Income Maintenance office operating in the back half. Stop & Shop tore down the bowling alley and added a brand new facility to the eastern end of the front strip, leaving the rear strip completely empty. Currently, the rear strip is boarded up, still bears the names of long-defunct tenants, and is in full view of drivers utilizing that entrance to access the thriving front strip. Once or twice a year, the rear parking lot is weeded and patched, and used for charitable carnivals.










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