By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
Wielding a pair of oversize scissors, Mayor Nancy R. Rossi, joined by a delegation of city and state leaders, cut the ribbon Monday with franchise owner Prakash Wadhwani and General Manager Anton Tomaj to celebrate the ceremonial opening of Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes at Route 1 and Atwood Place.
While the morning event was touted as the restaurant’s “grand opening,” Mooyah, a fast-casual, “better burger” concept, officially opened its doors July 6 on the ground floor of The Atwood, a new $18 million apartment and commercial building developed by the Acorn Group.
Founded in 2007, the Plano, Texas-based chain specializes in made-to-order burgers, hand-cut fries and milkshakes.
The West Haven location, which employs about 40 people, is Mooyah’s third in Connecticut, after Mansfield and Newington.
The new 2,463-square-foot restaurant, open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, seats about 100 people inside and 24 at six tables outside. It also offers online ordering and delivery services.
The symbolic ribbon-cutting took place as many of The Atwood’s residents, all students of the nearby University of New Haven, headed to their first day of classes.
It was attended by Mooyah regional owner Jay Hummer, Acorn General Manager Rick Pollack, and UNH Police Chief Tracy L. Mooney, Brian Kench, dean of the College of Business, and Ron Kuntze, nonprofit institute director of marketing and quantitative analysis of the College of Business.
It also included state Rep. Michael A. DiMassa, D-West Haven; City Council Chairman Ronald M. Quagliani, D-at large; Councilwoman Robbin Watt Hamilton, D-5; Councilman Peter V. Massaro, D-6; City Clerk Deborah Collins; mayoral Executive Assistant Lou Esposito; and city Planning and Development Commissioner Fred A. Messore.
Wadhwani, of New Canaan, is a former banker who also works in real estate. He also owns three franchises in Greater New Haven for a men’s grooming business, Kennedy’s All-American Barber Club.
The Atwood, standing between Atwood Place and Taft Avenue, is just 400 feet from UNH’s Route 1 campus, which is home to about 6,000 students.
The four-story, 90,150-square-foot building, built by the Acorn development company Forest Road Manor LLC on the former 89-year-old site of Carroll Cut-Rate Furniture, houses 67 market-rate apartments, composed of one- and two-bedroom studios, and 15,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor.
In addition to Mooyah, the national retail tenants occupying the ground floor of the brick and fiber cement-sided building include Torrington-based EbLens Clothing & Footwear and Rye, New York-based USAlliance Financial.
The Atwood is complemented by the Park View, Acorn’s budding mixed-use development across the street at Route 1 and Cellini Place, in making the neighborhood around the Allingtown Green a destination.
Rossi, Messore and David Kooris, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, recently toured the site with Acorn officials.
The 85,000-square-foot project, scheduled for construction on the site of what years ago was the Park Theatre, would include 50 market-rate apartments with covered parking and 20,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor.
Like The Atwood, which opened Aug. 17, 2017, the Park View would consist of one- and two-bedroom studios, according to preliminary plans.
On July 24, 2017, the City Council approved the sale of 9,024 square feet of the Louis J. Piantino Branch Library’s parking lot at 1 Forest Road to Acorn for the Park View project. The property was sold for $106,000.
Acorn, based in New Haven, has also announced plans for The Forest, a third mixed-use development.
The 90,000-square-foot project, slated for construction on the former site of the demolished Forest Theatre at the intersection of Boston Post Road, Campbell Avenue and Forest Road, would include 62 market-rate apartments with covered parking and 15,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor.
In all, the three developments, collectively known as University Commons, are projected to produce more than $1 million in annual property tax revenue for the city’s coffers, officials have said.