When the $220 million Storrs Center opens its first businesses this summer, a familiar name will be attached to one of the restaurants.
During a press conference at the Nathan Hale Inn and Conference Center on the UConn campus Tuesday afternoon, UConn women’s basketball head coach Geno Auriemma announced he will open an Italian/ American restaurant in the complex, tentatively called Geno’s Grille.
Crediting the work of various individuals and organizations involved with the project, Auriemma said his role is simply to attach his celebrity name to the project.
Auriemma has coached seven championship teams and made it to 13 Final Fours. “I’m kind of like the Queen of England, you know,” he said. “They paraded me out there. I don’t do any of the work.”
The hope is his name will attract people from across the state to Storrs Center, and help make it a hot destination for current students, graduates and other Connecticut residents.
It was an exciting moment for Mansfield Mayor Betsy Paterson, who serves as an ex-officio member of the Mansfield Downtown Partnership Board of Directors, the group overseeing the project.
“We know you (Auriemma) will be successful in this venture,” said Paterson. “This will be the place to be in Storrs Center.”
Construction on the restaurant is expected to begin in May and it is expected to open around Labor Day, as part of the first phase of the development.
It will seat more than 100 people and have a bar and an outside dining area.
The Storrs Center location is the second restaurant opened by Auriemma and his partners, who also own and operate Geno’s Fast Break restaurant at Mohegan Sun casino.
The new restaurant will serve a variety of appetizers, entrees and desserts prepared by chef Calvin Silva.
Auriemma said only food he likes to eat, such as pizza, pasta and sandwiches will be served. “Other than my mother’s food, it will be as good as you can get,” he said.
Those who attended the press conference got a taste of the food Geno’s will offer, as a variety of wraps and other foods from Fast Break were served.
Auriemma’s restaurant is the latest of many businesses to sign on to Storrs Center, a development project that will bring a retail, commercial and residential components to the town.
According to Howard Kaufman, managing member of Leyland Alliance, the master developer on the project, approximately 80 percent of the commercial leases have been signed for the first phase of the project. This includes Moe’s Southwest Grill, Husky Pizza, Fro-yo World (frozen yogurt) and Insomnia Cookies. Some existing businesses also have signed letters of intent, including Storrs Automotive.
The UConn Co-op bookstore is expected to sign a lease to set up a second business in Mansfield. And talks are underway with three more businesses, Kaufman said.
“We’re well on our way to becoming fully leased by the time the project opens up,” he said.
Posted April 13, 2012 as edited by HTNP.com Editor Brenda Sullivan
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