Renaissance Downtowns explores financing for Depot Square project

By LISA CAPOBIANCO
STAFF WRITER

Renaissance Downtowns is working on a financial package that will move the long-awaited Depot Square project forward.

During a Bristol Downtown Development Corporation meeting held last Monday, project manager Ryan Porter shared an alternative financing method to pay for Building B.

In an effort not to request millions of dollars from the city, Renaissance has considered using CHAMP Gap financing, a multi-family housing assistance program that provides up to $5 million in low interest financing for mixed income and workforce housing developments. Renaissance plans to apply for funding in June, and expects to hear back from the state in September.

Awarded through the Connecticut Department of Housing, CHAMP offers housing to working professionals who earn 80 to 120 percent of Hartford County’s median income. These incomes for a single person range from $44,000 a year to $72,000 a year.

Bristol’s average median income is lower than the West Hartford/Hartford County numbers, said Porter.

“This brings the income requirement numbers higher than they would normally be,” said Porter.

John Lodovico, a BDDC member, said the move shows “the most progress” the city has seen “in a long time” with the project.

In January, the City Council and BDDC approved a seventh amendment to an agreement with Renaissance. The new amendment extended the developer’s time to finalize its plan until June 30. Since that time, Renaissance has held meetings with smaller working groups and an architectural team to review necessary changes of the plan.

Under the seventh amendment, Renaissance was required to focus on the financing and development of Building B, a mix-use building that fronts Main Street and Riverside Avenue, and consists of a public piazza. The building has a retail component on the ground floor and residential units above that.  If Renaissance cannot meet its new deadline, the city will be allowed to search for other developers or end its work with the current developer, according to the seventh amendment summary.

“We’ve made amazing progress in the last couple of months with both design and financing,” said Porter.

During his presentation, Porter noted some site plan amendments that provide parking that “is even more convenient.”

“The closer and more convenient retail parking is, the better is for the actual retailer,” said Porter. “Focusing specifically on Building B has allowed us to rethink some of the parking.”

Another change Renaissance added was amenity space segregated for the use of residents. Porter said there is now approximately 4,000 square feet of amenity space and 16,000 square feet of retail.

Porter added the building will stay relatively the same on the upper levels of the building, which now will include 152 units instead of 138.

“It has more efficient units and larger units,” said Porter. “We’ve been able to standardize and get rid of some of those smaller micro-type units that we thought ultimately were going to be difficult to lease.”