Towering above Plainville: Blue steel framework of 12-story high-tech warehouse for frozen food

Don Stacom, Hartford Courant
·2 min read

Amidst a small industrial park with low-rise factories, Americold this winter erected a massive structure of metal framework that towers 140 above Plainville.

The company’s refrigerated warehouse won’t be operating until sometime next year, but it’s been drawing the attention of drivers in the region for months.

“You have to see it to believe it,” Southington resident Geri Maxwell Gribinas wrote last week in a Facebook post that drew nearly 60 replies.

Calling it “some amazing high tech construction,” Gribinas recommended readers of the Southington Talks page see the structure before workers close in the exterior later this spring.

“Have been seeing the progress for a couple months and it started as a long skinny structure,” Helen Henkel replied. “Couldn’t imagine what it could be.”

Gribinas said Thursday that she never expected her post would get so many comments and questions.

“My husband and I just went by, I took some pictures with my phone. I had no idea it would get this reaction,” she said. “But it’s definitely worth a field trip to see it. It’s like a giant erector set. And the refrigeration units are huge — you can only imagine what they weigh.”

When Americold’s roughly 200,000-square-foot warehouse is completed, it won’t be the biggest building in Plainville but it will easily rank as the tallest. The high point of 146 feet will be more than 20 feet higher than the smokestack at the Clean Earth processing plant, Town Planner Garrett Daigle said.

Contractors completed the foundation months ago and have erected blue shelving units that rise nearly the full height of the building. Workers have begun putting up outer walls.

“They’re a couple weeks behind because of the winter, but they’re looking to have the outside done by end of summer and they should be up and running next year,” Daigle said Thursday. “The blue structure is the storage racks that will support the ceiling of the refrigerated section.”

Ahold Delhaize USA, parent company of Stop & Shop, contracted with Americold to build twin frozen warehouses in Plainville and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Plainville warehouse will serve a region roughly bounded by Cape Cod and northern New Jersey.

By building high, Americold was able to use less space on the ground, and can economize on utility costs, Daigle said.

“That reduces the footprint and the amount of permeable surface they cover. It’s economical and environmentally friendly,” Daigle said.

An automation system using pallet elevators, cranes and conveyors will move frozen foods around the warehouse; the main job of employees will be to assemble and package shipments and load and unload container trucks.

Americold will probably begin operations sometime next year, Daigle said.