By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Bristol will soon welcome more senior housing into the community.
Last Tuesday, the City Council voted to approve the proposal from Park Lane Group to turn Bingham School into market-rate independent housing for senior citizens. Park Lane proposed to bring up to 70 units of market-rate senior housing for both Bingham and O’Connell schools. Half of the $219,000 proposal would be applied to both schools. During a Real Estate Committee meeting held in December, members endorsed Park Lane’s proposal for O’Connell School.
Besides housing, the proposed plan has considered using the gym or auditorium of both former schools for community use.
Charles Nyberg, an architect who represented Park Lane, said Bingham would have approximately 35 units, with a combination of one to two bedrooms per unit. The plan also does not include any additional structures. In addition, there would be 35 to 40 parking spaces, and an elevator would need to be installed.
Park Lane also will apply for historic tax credits.
“Schools in a majority of communities are found to be [repurposed] into residential facilities,” said Nyberg, adding that Park Lane’s proposal would bring less traffic than the hospital’s proposed plan.
Bristol Hospital’s proposal entailed converting the former Bingham School into medical office space, using a total of 60,000 square feet of new construction built in three phases.
For more than a year, the hospital had discussed constructing a medical office building that would bring many of its outpatient services to one centralized location. The project would ultimately bring about 75 patient care providers.
During the meeting, Bristol resident Steve Coan showed support for preserving Bingham School instead of tearing it down to bring more medical offices.
“I can’t believe that we are even entertaining the idea of tearing this school down,” said Coan. “This makes no sense.”
Attorney William Tracy who spoke on behalf of Bristol Hospital, said additional medical office space would serve a great deal to the community. He said such space would bring an expansion of specialties that are already in place.
“The hospital has identified a need for additional medical office space in this community,” said Tracy. “The hospital has been a significant institution in this community for a very long time.”
City Councilor Mary Fortier, who sits on the Real Estate Committee, expressed her support for the proposal from Park Lane Group from the beginning for both O’Connell and Bingham Schools.
“I think it’s the best use of the property based on the Planning Commission’s recommendations after their extensive public hearings at different locations,” said Fortier. “The Park Lane Group’s proposals fit into those plans and suggestions from the Planning Commission.”
“It’s a great thing—we’re saving two old schools,” added Mayor Ken Cockayne. “We’re getting them back on the tax rolls in the first time they’ve ever been built, and we’re making them living buildings again.”
City Councilor Eric Carlson, who serves as chairman of the Real Estate Committee, voted against Park Lane’s proposal.
“I’m not against the Park Lane proposal because I’m against senior housing or the preservation of the school,” said Carlson. “It’s a very sturdy building…but my support for the Bristol Hospital project is based solely on economic advantages to the city. I thought that was the best use of the school.”
By LISA CAPOBIANCO