For sale, four schools

By KAITLYN NAPLES
STAFF WRITER
All four vacant school buildings s are on the market, for sale or lease, as of last week’s council meeting.
While the former Memorial Boulevard Middle School building has been on the market for a few weeks, city councilors voted to put the remaining— Clarence A. Bingham School, Clara T O’Connell School and John J. Jennings School— out for a Request for Proposal (RFP) as well.
One item that arose was to attach a 25-foot easement between O’Connell school and the Pequabuck River incase the city ever wants to construct a walking or bike path connecting downtown to Rockwell Park. Republican Councilor Henri Martin, who proposed this request, said while the city is developing the downtown area, it would be an added bonus to be able to connect that to a “jewel” in the West End Neighborhood, referring to Rockwell Park.
This proposal was approved by the council, with a 4-3 vote. Backing the support of Martin were Republican Councilors David Mills, Derek Czenczelewski and Eric Carlson. Republican Councilor Ken Cockayne, Mayor Art Ward and Democratic Councilor Kevin Fuller were against the proposal.
Public Works Director Walter Veselka noted, however, that a developer wouldn’t be able to build on the land within 100 feet of the Pequabuck River without a special permit, due to the protection of wetlands.
Purchasing Agent Roger Rousseau said he expects to have proposals in by mid-February, and will require the bidder to explain the intent they have of the building and the acreage around it, as well as financing vehicles and feasibility.
Rousseau said the city is looking for the future  use of these buildings to blend with the neighborhood they are in. For example, O’Connell and Jennings would be good candidates for residential use, while Bingham could be either apartments or professional buildings. The RFP for Jennings will include the city may have potential interest in the fields, and the RFP for Bingham will also include the property in which the building sits on, as well as a .three-acre parcel behind the building called “James Street” that the city isn’t using.
Rousseau said he will provide information about bids to the city’s Real Estate Committee in February. However, he said, O’Connell will be going out to bid a little later than the other two schools since it is storing materials from all of the vacant schools in preparation for an auction.
In the last two years, five schools in Bristol have been closed. The district did, however, gain two brand new K-8 schools, West Bristol on Matthews Street and a new Greene-Hills School on Pine Street. But now there are still these three, plus Memorial Boulevard school, sitting empty. The old Greene-Hills School was demolished and now a new parking lot for the new school is in its place.
The former Memorial Boulevard Middle School building went out for bids for a second time a few weeks ago. The first time it went out for bids it received one and the committee turned it down. Memorial Boulevard will be collecting bids until Feb. 1. At the December City Council meeting, the council voted to send Memorial Boulevard School out to bid again, however not all councilors agreed the initial decision the Real Estate Committee made in rejecting the proposal from the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce.
The chamber proposed a plan to move its offices to the building and use the vacant space as an incubator for small, start up companies that focused on media technology, bio-science, and informational technology, to get up and running.