BETHEL — Caraluzzi’s is hoping to expand its current grocery store in downtown Bethel as well as construct a two-story, mixed-use building on a nearby lot, according to a letter submitted to the Bethel Planning and Zoning Commission.
The plans would require a special permit and zoning changes, according to the letter, which was filed on behalf of the family business by attorney Thomas Beecher.
“The Caraluzzis are committed to the downtown area and this project will clean up and revitalize certain properties,” Beecher wrote. “A vibrant, healthy village center needs anchors and an improved Caraluzzi’s Bethel Food Market is such an anchor, which will draw shoppers downtown. … Growth and improvement of existing developed properties is a necessary component of smart growth for the village center.”
Caraluzzi’s, under the entity B.F.M. Limited Partnership, seeks to construct an 18,000-square-foot building at the corner of Greenwood Avenue, Chestnut Street and Nashville Road. It would have retail on the ground level and office space and apartments on the second floor. The plan would also expand the current Caraluzzi’s Food Market building by 1,630 square feet.
Renderings by Danbury-based Seventy2architects have been submitted to Bethel’s Planning and Zoning Department.
“We’ve been working with the Caraluzzi’s for the last year and a half on this proposal and I’m excited to see the enhancements that will happen on that corner,” Bethel Town Planner Beth Cavagna said.
A public hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 27, at Bethel Town Hall.
The plan would include parking, streetscape, architectural and egress improvements, including along Greenwood Avenue. “The landscaping there will be a great asset to the area — a great improvement,” Cavagna said.
The project would be constructed in two phases with the new building done first, followed by the expansion of the current store. The second phase also includes the demolition and rebuilding of three homes on South Street.
Caraluzzi’s has been in downtown Bethel since 1949 and at its current site at 98 Greenwood Ave. since 1959.
“The Caraluzzis desire to continue to be a fixture in the village center,” Beecher wrote in the letter.
Caraluzzi’s also has a wine and spirits store at 279 Greenwood Ave., as well as food markets in Newtown and Wilton. Last year it took over Fairgrounds Wine and Spirits on Sugar Hollow Road in Danbury.
The proposed project would require a zoning change from RM-O, or Residential Multi-Office, to VC, or Village Center. Beecher wrote that many surrounding properties are already VC zoned.
Beecher said the project would fit in well with the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development, as well as Bethel Forward, a transit oriented development, or TOD, plan that would revitalize downtown Bethel and make it more pedestrian friendly. Caraluzzi’s Food Market is located at the southeast end of the TOD area.
“This project will contribute to the goal of a strong mixed-use village center,” Beecher wrote.
Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker is on board with the project and hopes the family has a “smooth approval and construction process.” It will expand business opportunities and attract more shoppers, he said.
“It’s such a well-run company and family, and they have been such an integral part of this community for decades,” he said. “The plans they have are gorgeous and will be a great asset to the town.”