The Chamber is dismayed by the action of the City Real Estate Committee and sees their decision as being a poor outcome for the City and its residents. From the beginning the Chamber has made every effort to work collaboratively with the Real Estate Committee. Chamber leadership attended every meeting and public hearing and was prepared to answer any and all questions regarding the contents of the detailed proposal that we submitted in accordance with the City’s process. No questions or concerns were raised.
Of even greater concern was the tenor of the “workshop” conducted by the Real Estate Committee on November 15th. Those speaking for the City took great pains to paint the situation regarding the Memorial Boulevard facility as dire. In light of the fact that the building housed school children no more than 5 months prior it was clear that the City was not interested in a collaborative effort but instead was attempting to create an adversarial environment in which nothing gets accomplished.
As such it is the decision by Chamber leadership to withdraw our proposal for Memorial Boulevard effective immediately and we will not respond to any new RFP process. We are taking this position for the following reasons:
It is important to understand that the Chamber’s involvement in this process originated when we were approached by a small group concerned with the preservation of the theater. After much thought and analysis we developed our idea based on the understanding that neither an arts center or business incubator would be able to operate successfully as independent entities. However, using the Boulevard building to do both provides and environment where the two concepts can work to support each other while bringing another form of economic development to the downtown area.
The RFP to which we responded provided no information as to the building’s condition and/or any possible challenges. By its nature any outcome based on the RFP response required a collaborative process by which the City and Chamber would establish a structure of control and a more refined understanding of responsibilities. Instead the process languished in meeting after meeting with no new questions or detailed discussions on how to reach the goal of constructive reuse of the building.
Based on the comments by department heads at the “workshop” on November 15th it is clear that few had read the document or understood the concept. Our proposal included a detailed 5 year revenue projection for both the Arts Centre and Business Incubator. After numerous special meetings and presentations the Real Estate Committee did not ask one financial question yet now claims that the proposal lacked sufficient detail.
Collaboration means working together for a positive outcome for all involved. While there can be diverse opinions the parties should work to find middle ground or ask all the questions pertinent to the opportunity. That never happened in this case and we will not utilize any further Chamber time or resource to participate in what amounts to a new academic exercise designed for the purposes of doing nothing.
The failure of the Real Estate Committee to take decisive action that would quickly begin the process of mitigating the cost of the building to the taxpayers as well as save the Theater should have every resident concerned. We are also very disturbed by the method by which the decision and motion to start over took place.
If Bristol is to see growth in the grand list and avoid continued budget challenges the City’s leadership will have to have some vision and a willingness to try new ideas. It will be nearly impossible to cut their way out of the current fiscal challenges. Growth must be part of the equation as well as ideas that offset costs. The Chamber offered a plan that accomplished both of these goals. Councilmen Cockayne, Fuller and Carlson apparently think that an empty building, at risk of vandalism and burning in excess of $10,000 a month is a better idea. We disagree.
Michael D. Nicastro Atty Timothy Furey
President & Chief Executive Officer Chairman of the Board