Renaissance scaling back Depot Square to roll back costs

By LISA CAPOBIANCO
STAFF WRITER
With the long-awaited Depot Square project underway, Renaissance Downtowns has reduced the proposed building size on Main Street in an effort to cut down costs.
During a joint meeting with the City Council and the Bristol Downtown Development Corporation last Thursday, project manager Ryan Porter of Renaissance Downtowns presented the site plan changes.
In order to cut costs, Porter said the size of Renaissance’s proposed building has been reduced from five stories to four stories, which will include three floors of one and two-bedroom residential units and one floor of retail. In addition, the number of residential units has decreased from 138 to 100 units, which Renaissance originally proposed over four years ago.
The overall cost of the building decreased from $23.8 million to $20.5 million, and the total square footage is now 103,000 square feet.
The site plan also has been amended with more parking for both the residential and retail component of the building, said Porter. Porter said the ground floor of the building will contain amenity space, including the lobby, a bike room, and storage space.
In March, Renaissance announced its plan to consider 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. When initially proposed, Porter reported the cost of the building to be $12 million in public financing.
During a BDDC meeting held several days before the joint meeting, Porter said Renaissance has dived into the CHFA (Connecticut Housing Finance Authority) portion of the program, which includes bond financing for the construction loan.
The application for the program deadline is June 10.
“If we were successful in being awarded, we’re very confident that we can make the numbers of this project work,” said Porter.
Porter noted one challenge of the project has been the retail numbers, which he said “doesn’t work.”
“The retail is the one challenge as far as making number work, especially with financing because ultimately the area around here, the retail rents are low, so we have to compete with that and we have to provide rents that are competitive to those rent rolls that ultimately then makes it difficult to pay for the cost of building the retail,” said Porter during his presentation to the BDDC last Monday. “It’s the same challenge that we’ve always had, but we’re trying to get as creative as we possibly can with all the financing mechanisms that there are out there.”
Porter said once a strategy is discovered, it will be presented to the public. After the meeting, Porter, along with the City Council and the BDDC, convened in executive session to discuss amendments of the contract terms with Renaissance. No votes were taken during the meeting.
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.
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. 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 are still on target—the architects and the engineers are still working towards the June 10 CHAMP application to the state,” said Porter. “We look forward to moving the project forward.”

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