Key piece of downtown puzzle put into place

By KAITLYN NAPLES
STAFF WRITER
The city’s Zoning Commission unanimously approved what developers call “the first piece of the puzzle” in the downtown development project. The preferred developer of Bristol’s Depot Square site, Renaissance Downtowns, was given the “go ahead” with relocating the current McDonald’s restaurant to the opposite side of the site, by Center Street.
“It is important for the commission and the public to know that this (relocating McDonald’s) is an extremely necessary piece of the puzzle,” Renaissance Down-towns Project Manager Ryan Porter said. “We are taking an existing use in downtown, and improving it.”
The plan that has been presented to the commission is to relocate McDonald’s from Riverside Avenue, to North Main Street, where Discount Food Outlet once stood. The McDonald’s will have a dual drive-thru window, an outdoor patio for seating and 39 parking spaces. The move of the current McDonald’s is necessary for the project because of the large easement it holds, which includes the possession of 400 parking spaces and prohibits development at the bottom of the Depot Square site. If the plan wasn’t approved, McDonald’s would stay where it is and Renaissance would have to build around that.
“This gives us the opportunity to fill out the other half of Main Street,” Porter said to the commission on moving McDonald’s.
Zoning Commissioner David White said he has always been an opponent to drive-thru windows.
“I find them to be counterproductive,” especially when the city is looking to incorporate more pedestrian traffic, and there is a national presence on eliminating pollution and advocating for physical fitness. “However, if we are going to have a drive thru, this plan is the best one I’ve seen,” White said.
Zoning Chair Gina Newman agreed and said the drive thru window was the only detail she was most concerned with. She said the plan brought to the zoning commission by Renaissance Downtowns was to create a downtown that was pedestrian friendly. That is still the mission of the developer, but Newman said “a drive thru doesn’t equal pedestrian friendly.”
Vice Chair Brian Skinner also said the drive thru was a concern of his, however he said “do we want to let vacant property stay there or just bite the bullet and say let’s go ahead.”
All of the commissioners voted in favor of the plan, and Newman added the approval was going to “start the ball rolling to get downtown rebuilt.”
Attorney for Renaissance Downtowns Timothy Furey said the approval would be “the true beginning of what has been a long process,” and will start the development of the downtown vacant lot.
Once the new McDonald’s is built, the old one will be razed and the phases of the development will continue. There are four phases, which include the building of 22 buildings of mixed use, from housing, retail, dining and more. Of those 22 buildings, eight buildings are mixed residential and retail use, seven buildings are residential, one building is retail only, one is for office use only, one is a 125-key boutique hotel, two parking structures, one transit facility and one landmark building. Zoning Chair Gina Newman agreed and said the drive thru window was the only detail she was most concerned with. She said the plan brought to the zoning commission by Renaissance Downtowns was to create a downtown that was pedestrian friendly. That is still the mission of the developer, but Newman said “a drive thru doesn’t equal pedestrian friendly.”
Vice Chair Brian Skinner also said the drive thru was a concern of his, however he said “do we want to let vacant property stay there or just bite the bullet and say let’s go ahead”
All of the commissioners voted in favor of the plan, and Newman added the approval was going to “start the ball rolling to get downtown rebuilt.”
Attorney for Renaissance Downtowns Timothy Furey said the approval would be “the true beginning of what has been a long process,” and will start the development of the downtown lot.
Once the new McDonald’s is built, the old one will be razed and the phases of the development will continue. There are four phases, which include the building of 22 buildings of mixed use, from housing, retail, dining and more. Of those 22 buildings, eight buildings are mixed residential and retail use, seven buildings are residential, one building is retail only, one is for office use only, one is a 125-key boutique hotel, two parking structures, one transit facility and one landmark building.
Comments? Email knaples@bristolobserver.com.