WHAT’S IN STORE? Foster could be getting a 35,000-square-foot retail complex, which could include a restaurant, a grocery store, coffee shop and library. Pictured above are Town Librarian Kristen Chin, left, and developer Ann Valentine.
Why does former data-processing company owner Mike Valentine want to build a 35,000-square-foot retail complex with a new public library in rural Foster?
“Because there’s nothing there,” said Valentine about the town on the border with Connecticut he’s lived in for 20 years. “The whole concept is to create a place where people here can go without driving from one parking lot to another in another town.”
On the site of a burned-down restaurant on busy Route 6, Valentine is planning the start of the village center Foster never had.
His project, called Simmons Crossing, would add a restaurant, grocery, mini-post-office, automated teller machine, coffee house and other shops to the northwest corner of the Route 6 and Route 94 intersection.
Already nearby are a church and a fire station, which Valentine sees forming the heart of a local gathering place, possibly with an outdoor farmers market.
“Now the only choice for food in town is a Sunoco station and it is difficult to make a whole menu out of that,” Valentine said. “We think it is important for the town to have a sense of community.”
In character, Valentine is pitching Simmons Crossing as fundamentally local, community-focused and homespun, in contrast to the typical suburban retail-strip plaza.
The home page of the project’s website mentions listening to wildlife each night, supporting local cottage industries and “being a pie judge at Old Home Days.”
Valentine has been pursuing Simmons Crossing since he and his wife, Ann, purchased the 5-acre site where the Backdraft Café was located before it was razed after a fire.
The town recently rezoned Route 6 from a traditional commercial “strip” zoning to business mixed use, allowing a developer to utilize an entire lot and encouraging a village-center design, said Town Planner Ann-Marie Ignasher.
Along with the need for a gathering place and retail option, the town has also been looking for a new library, so Valentine decided to make that a part of the complex.