Dept. heads give testimony on future of Memorial Blvd.

The future of the former Memorial Boulevard Middle School building was still in the process of being determined as of last Friday. The city’s Real Estate Committee held a workshop last week, hearing from city department heads, who have explored the building, possible uses, cost of renovations and more. The committee was expected to meet on Tuesday evening, however results weren’t available at press time.
Last week, the three-panel committee listened to what department heads had to say about the future of the building. According to Chief Building Official Guy Morin, “because of its age, there is very little (in the building) that meets today’s building codes.”
He said school buildings typically see the most “wear and tear” and would need new boilers, have mechanical issues like heating and cooling addressed, and the theater’s electrical system is “pretty deteriorated.” He did say some of the positive aspects of the building are the new roof, which is a 30-year roof on its fourth year, and also the sprinkler system.
Many of the department heads said the committee needed to provide more of a specific potential use of the building before items such as building and fire codes and costs of renovations could be defined.
The city’s Public Facilities and Public Works Fleet Manager George Wallace presented three scenarios, and said a major change to the building could cost $3 million per year, over the next 10 years.
Fire Chief Jon Pose also stated he wouldn’t be able to pinpoint specific fire codes that are out-of-date without a specific use of the building. He said it could require expensive additions, however added that it is a benefit that the building has a sprinkler systems and an alarm system.
When the building went out to a “request for proposal,” the sole bid on the school came from the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce. It has proposed to lease the school and turn the building into a multi-use facility, including using its historic theater, something the public has been vocal about. The plan for the building would be to house its offices in the current administration area of the school, and then create an “incubator” space for small, start-up businesses.
President and CEO of the chamber Michael Nicastro said the chamber was aware of several issues that would need to be addressed if its plan is approved. The school is located in an “R-40” or residential zone, and in the Bristol zoning regulations it does not state that offices and small businesses are allowed in an R-40 zone. Also, Nicastro said parking for long-term use would need to be improved and environmental issues would have to be addressed.
Tim Furey, chairman of the board of directors for the chambers, said the RFP response was to “get these discussions going.” However, he said if “things come together, the city’s problem will be alleviated or possibly eliminated,” meaning the current financial burden on the city and its taxpayers.
Most of the councilmen spoke at last week’s work session, some saying to send it to the council for a vote, and other saying they needed more time to look some things over. The Real Estate Committee, which includes Republican Councilors Eric Carlson and Ken Cockayne and Democrat Councilor Kevin Fuller, who chairs the committee, all said they would take a few days before their next meeting, which was Tuesday, to look at all of the information they had received.
“We have one shot to get this right,” Fuller said.