Renaissance revamps its downtown intents

May 9, 2014

By KAITLYN NAPLES
STAFF WRITER
Last week, Renaissance Downtowns, the city’s downtown developer, released its financial information for what it wants to do with the vacant Depot Square lot. However, the plan has changed a bit from what was originally proposed.
Renaissance Down-towns has, so far, spent over $2 million on planning, architecture, market research, marketing, legal costs and more for the proposed downtown project, and is anticipating that the first phase of its plan could ultimately cost more than $17 million, with about $6 million coming from the city.
The developer has decided to split the original first phase of the project, so that it is more cost effective, into Phase 1A and 1B. The first phase would include constructing a 101 residential unit building with about 2,200 square feet of retail space, parking, temporary event space, and an enhanced public green space, the report said. The second phase would construct 140 residential units and about 20,000 square feet of retail space with parking, a permanent piazza, and also green space.
The first phase, Phase 1A, could come with a price tag of $17.7 million, and the developer is looking at a public/private partnership to pay for the cost. In the city’s contract with Renaissance, there are no stipulations addressing whether or not the company can use public or private funding. However, some residents don’t want to see government funding for the project, as it could require some Section 8 housing to be incorporated in the plan.
“Low income scares a lot of people,” said former mayor Bill Stortz at last Wednesday’s special Bristol Downtown Development Corporation meeting.
Don Monti, president of Renaissance Down-towns, said there will be no federal funding included in this project, however the company is looking to see what could potentially be available on the state level.
“The numbers either work or they don’t,” Monti said. “Bristol either wants to see economic develop ment, or they don’t; we will do our best to come up with a plan that will either be accepted or rejected.”
One possible financing measure that is being proposed is an incremental tax that would cover the cost of bonds sold to acquire, clear and improve the land for development. Renaissance is expecting to raise $11.7 million in private capital, with the remaining $6 million coming from the incremental tax or other public funding sources.
Bristol resident Matt Zarrell said he understands financing plans can be difficult, but he is concerned with the city losing control of what happens and is not in favor of a tax increase for this project.
Other residents spoke about not wanting all residential spaces in the downtown area with little retail because they don’t see it being sustainable.
Andrea Adams, an individual who has been very much involved in championing the project, said she wants to see both residential and retail and commercial space so that Bristol becomes a destination for people.
In its report to the BDDC, Renaissance also provided a letter from Eastern Bank, of Boston, stating its interest in the project and interest in further discussion of potentially funding 65 percent of the project, provided the first phase is full built. The letter encouraged Renaissance to turn the original Phase 1 into two sub-phases, because of the cost in renting apartments in the area is low.
The entire Renaissance plan is available on the city’s website at www.bristolct.gov.
The BDDC is scheduled to have its next meeting on Monday, May 12, and Renaissance Downtowns is planning an informational session at Nuchie’s Restaurant in Forestville for Monday, May 19, where the public is invited to attend to listen to the plan and ask questions.
Comments? Email knaples@BristolObserver. com.

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