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CENTER STOP: Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk, South Windsor, Conn.

Getting off the South Windsor exit of I-84, it’s clear you have landed in Retail Central in the eastern suburbs of Hartford. There’s The Shoppes at Buckland Hills, Brookfield’s regional enclosed mall. There’s a stacked outdoor center and a Walmart Supercenter. We wonder if we’ve been led astray that Evergreen Walk was an established, successful, class-act mixed-use center.

But past the Lowe’s on Buckland Road, we note a discreet sign for Evergreen Walk and take the left down a steep hill into a gully where the mixed-use center resides. With none of the surrounding retail in sight, the Poag Shopping Centers-managed center exists seemingly alone, complete with luxury apartments, city streets, a town square, even a small “police department” housing its private security force.

“You come down the hill into Evergreen Walk, and you feel as if you’re in an entirely different place,” said marketing coordinator Nicole Powell, who has been employed at the site since its opening 15 years ago.

Many such centers have a hard time getting the parking right, but Evergreen Walk found the right formula. There are angled, front-in parking spots fronting the tony shops of Williams-Sonoma, Talbot’s, Scout & Molly Boutique, and many others, reminding one of the regal retail found in wealthy Connecticut towns like Westport. Additional parking sits behind and out-of-sight of the center’s main street.

Many of the major tenants did their own buildouts, so storefronts present unique brands and identities. A Brooks Brothers with a circular colonnade on the second level recalls Greek Revival architecture present in so many New England Towns. Next to it, on a green being re-outfitted with fire pits, is an unusual stand-alone Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop.

Evergreen Walk continues to expand like an organic town, as well. A hotel is being added and a big-box shopping center with LL Bean and The Paper Store sits in a corner of the complex.

“The Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk is a shining example of a best-in-class lifestyle center,” said Brian Smith, chief strategy officer and executive VP of Poag. “By combining in-demand retail brands and destination dining in an idyllic environment, we have given the residents of the Hartford and South Windsor region a place they can be proud to shop.”

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