A group of Bristolites are still making an attempt to save the former Memorial Boulevard Middle School from being sold to a developer.
The school is currently in the middle of an RFP, or request for proposal, process with one developer, Summit Real Estate Strategies, eyeing the property to turn the school into a residential building with a gym and access to the pool, while also preserving the theater.
Last month, the Memorial Boulevard Arts and Technology Center group was created by residents who want the city to keep the school in its possession and create a building that would preserve the theater, have incubator space for businesses and artists, and maintain “the historic integrity” of the building, group member Jesse Gallagher said.
“Imagine driving down Memorial Boulevard into the heart of the city, and seeing an anchor building (with artists, entrepreneurs, and more welcoming you into Bristol),” Gallagher said, adding that the group has reached more than 5,000 people.
“Everyone I have spoken with supports this idea,” which has three main focuses, he said.
The first focus is to gain a surplus in revenue for the property. Right now, the city is paying about $120,000 per year to maintain the facility. Gallagher said the property would begin to start creating $250,000 in revenue for the city after three years, and could potentially bring in $500,000 after five years. The figures for the building include rent costs at about $500 per room for incubator spaces.
This idea came several months ago from the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, who Gallagher said the group has been working with and would like to work with on this idea venture. The chamber proposed to create a private/public partnership, which is another one of the group’s focuses, and would have relocated their offices to the old school building. They also would bring in small companies that are looking to get out of their homes and into the community.
At $500 rental per room, and 30 to 35 rooms available, Gallagher said that income alone would bring in $180,000 annually.
In addition to that, the theater would be open for use with a possible rental fee of $1,000, which Gallagher said would bring in $5,000 if the theater had five major concerts per year. There would also be ticket prices and other sources of revenue.
Another idea the group has is to turn the gym into an indoor playground for children, where revenue would come from admission prices, birthday parties, and concessions.
Gallagher also said the state’s Regional Planning Agency is interested in assisting with a possible incubator space and said there are grants available of upwards of $2 million.
“It doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything; to me it is a no-brainer,” Gallagher said, adding that he has spoken with city leaders about the group and its mission. “Selling the building would be offensive (to myself and others),” Gallagher said, especially since he is a resident in the historic Ingraham House on Federal Hill.
At last week’s Real Estate Committee meeting, the commissioners postponed any action on the school building. They said the mayor is meeting with the Summit Real Estate Strategies, and head of the committee Councilor Eric Carlson said he will wait until after that to start planning workshops that would be open to the public. City Councilor Ken Cockayne, who stated in the past he is in favor of Summit’s plan because it will get the building back on the tax rolls, said he had no comment on the Memorial Boulevard group because the school is still in the middle of the RFP process.
Primarily, this group is looking to keep a historic building, alive, and increase the traffic into the city’s downtown, especially when it is in the process of its revitalization.
Gallagher said the group is open to other— and better— ideas from the local community on the possibilities for the school, other than selling it.
He said there is no way of guaranteeing that once the building is sold the theater will be preserved, and the building could even potentially be razed. He said the group is looking to engage the city leaders and community in a dialogue.
There is an opportunity for the public to express their input about what they would like to see done with the old school.
Anyone can visit www.surveymonkey.com/s/T9Z3726 to take a survey that has been sent out by city leaders.