Letter: Reader asks, what about changes with Renaissance?

To the editor:
I went to the special Bristol Downtown Development Corporation meeting Monday evening, April 20. For whatever the reason, the regular scheduled meeting had been cancelled previously
The meeting was posted after noon on Friday, which precluded many people from being aware of the meeting, and I could not find it online, even after I found out about by going to City Hall. A total of six citizens showed up, and three BDDC members were absent. No city officials were present.
As has been reported, while Renaissance feels they will make the June deadline, they have scaled back the project even more, again. And this change still has to get land use approval. I am sure that the council will have a say after BDDC takes a position.
All this after six to seven years of “negotiating.”
When the developer was approved, the economy was depressed. Yet, they felt that they could do the project as they were proposing it at the time, and got the city’s approval. The economy has bounced back somewhat (still has a way to go, but it’s better than it was a few years ago), but the developer still hasn’t gotten the necessary financing, at least from private financers.
Why is that?
Seeking and getting public financing might require some conditions to be met that many people feel are undesirable.
There is talk at the federal level of increasing interest rates. Even if financing is acquired for the again scaled down version of phase one, will subsequent financing be even more difficult? After all, just so many people will want to live downtown without some real good reasons. Supposedly, the developer is coming to that conclusion, too. Supposedly they are asking the city to provide some parking. Will we be providing parking for other property owners too?
Originally, they were talking much more retail, much more commercial. What brought about that change? Originally they were talking about a concept that included about 3,500 units (mostly outside Depot Square, and ostensibly not their project). Obviously that was not, is not realistic. Many people ask: who are these that would live there, where will they come from? No answers have been provided.
Over the past few years many questions have been asked of BDDC, of our elected officials. Very, very few answers have been provided. Why? Where is the supposed transparency? With our questions not being answered, where is the openness?
Don’t our thoughts and ideas matter? It has been suggested numerous times that maybe the city should start looking at a “Plan B,” as a backup, but I have been told that that would break the contract. Hasn’t the contract been “broken” many times already?
Earlier in the process, about six years ago, a BDDC member asked some very meaningful questions regarding the developer as to vetting them, and their performance record on other similar projects. There was serious concern in these areas, but apparently not much, if any, follow-up and no information provided to the public by BDDC.
We are at a point where a decision has to be made. It is too late for the public to provide meaningful input due to the scarcity of information made available to us.
We all want a better Bristol, and while some have different ideas of what that might be, why shouldn’t we, the tax payer, be listened , heard, and have explanations provided?
William T. Stortz
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