By KAITLYN NAPLES
The city’s Real Estate Committee heard two very different proposals for the former John J. Jennings Elementary School building on Burlington Avenue at its meeting last week. It will allow the public to weigh in on the proposals at a public hearing on April 10.
D’Amato Construction, a family-run company in Bristol, gave a presentation to the Real Estate Committee last week about its plan to turn the school into an active senior living facility, and a childcare building.
The D’Amato’s plan would house an expansion of Bristol Preschool Child Care Center in the basement of the school building, with the senior housing on the remaining two floors.
Marilyn Lobaczewski, former executive director of Bristol Preschool and current grants manager, said the preschool has been looking to expand its current services for the last five years, and if it were to expand to the Jennings School building it would increase its daycare, preschool services, and also add all-day kindergarten.
“Bristol Preschool would be a committed tenant to this project,” Lobaczewski said, adding that intergenerational programs is highly in demand, and by being located in the same building as active seniors, it would allow for them to read to children, or volunteer in classrooms and interact with the children. The space would allow for about 96 new students, and between 16 and 20 new employment opportunities.
Charlie Nyberg of Associated Architects said the plan would consist of plenty of parking spaces that would be required, would have a play area for the preschool to utilize and would not do any degradation to the school, but rather maintain the windows of the facility, do some facial work to improve it and improve the landscape.
“We would continue to maintain the character of the building,” Nyberg said, adding that the building was constructed in 1928. He added that the project may also include utilizing the school’s auditorium to keep for community and building activities. There would be separate entrances for the residents, and then for thoseusing the preschool, and there would be access so seniors living in the building could get to the preschool easily.
Anthony D’Amato said this “two-prong concept,” with active senior living and a preschool center, is unique and would address the need for both kinds of facilities in the city.
“This would be filling voids in the community,” D’Amato said, adding that the project would be investing in education, the community and producing tax revenue for the city.
The project would be expected to cost about $6 million, overall, and if it D’Amato was the company to be approved to purchase the property, it would begin work in about a year-and-a-half, and would take about two years to have everything up and running, with the preschool being operation one year after construction begins. The project would seek funding sources. However Ed D’Amato Jr. said it wouldn’t seek funding that would come with stipulations.
Another proposal for the property and former school building was presented by Martin Laviero Contractors, also a Bristol company, which plans to demolish the building and create a single-family neighborhood with about 14 homes.
“We would continue the type of neighborhood that’s currently there,” Greg Laviero said, adding that the lots would be about 10,000 square feet, and houses would be two-floors at about 1,600 square feet. The project would leave 1.5 acres of open space that can be shared by the neighborhood. Laviero’s proposal would have the school demolished, the property cleaned up and subdivided within one year.
The public will have the opportunity to speak about both proposals at a public hearing on Wednesday, April 10 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
The city’s Purchasing Agent Roger Rousseau said he had received no proposals for the former O’Connell School building, or Bingham School, so the committee voted to send both schools back out again for Requests for Proposals. Rousseau said he has spoken with parties interested in potentially bidding on Bingham School.