BDDC rejects financial plan for Depot Square

By LISA CAPOBIANCO
STAFF WRITER
With its new deadline approaching on June 30, Renaissance Downtowns recently submitted its financial plan to the city for the long-awaited Depot Square project.
But the future of Renaissance’s proposal still remains unclear. During a special meeting held last Monday, the Bristol Downtown Development Corporation (BDDC) voted unanimously not to recommend the developer’s financial package to the city.
“We are committed to trying to make this work,” said Ryan Porter, vice president of Planning and Development at Renaissance.
BDDC members said they have supported a mix-use development for downtown, which Renaissance proposed in its plan. However, BDDC members said Renaissance failed to include in its plan what was required under its agreement with the city. Overall, the BDDC did not feel comfortable moving forward with a financial plan that needed more information, including a draft of a construction contract.
“There were specific requirements,” said BDDC Chairperson Jennifer Arasimowicz.
John Lodovico, a member of the BDDC, said although Renaissance has worked hard to develop a strong plan to move the downtown project forward, the developer’s financial package was “looking for a lot of soft commitments.”
“It was a little thin and [there were] too many soft commitments—not enough detail,” said Lodovico.
Renaissance has proposed a $23 million, four  story, mixed-use building, which would front Main Street and Riverside Avenue (known as Building B). The building would include 100 market rate housing units, consisting of one-bedroom and two-bedroom residential units as well as studio units. The proposal also includes over 20,000 square feet of retail space and a public Piazza.
Under its financial plan, the developer requested a $3 million grant from the city for the development of the site. Renaissance also requested a $3.9 million investment from the city for the development and construction costs of the ground floor retail space. That would bring a total commitment from the city of Bristol and taxpayers of $7 million.
Under the plan, Renaissance also chose two main avenues of funding the project: the Competitive Housing Assistance for Multifamily Properties and a non-competitive loan program through the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority. CHAMP, which provides attainable housing for working professionals and families, can offer up to $5 million in financing for any given project.
“We are certainly going back and looking at what those concerns are,” said Porter, adding his team has worked on many financial scenarios over the past year or so.
Although the BDDC did not approve its financial plan, Renaissance remains as the only developer of the Depot Square site until its new deadline of June 30. Last December, the BDDC approved a 7th amendment to its agreement with Renaissance. Under this amendment, June 30 marked the major deadline for Renaissance to complete its financing plan. The exception to that date would be limited circumstances that entail potential government funding. If the deadline is not met by the developer, the city will be allowed to search for other developers or end its work with Renaissance, according to the new amendment. Until then, the City Council still has yet to make a decision on the financial plan.
Arasimowicz said Renaissance’s deadline is still June 30, and the BDDC continues to support a downtown project.
“We’re not giving up on downtown,” said Arasimowicz.
Lodovico said last Monday’s meeting was difficult, as he too, would like to see downtown revitalized.
“It was an extremely tough decision,” said Lodovico, adding how the BDDC has been working with Renaissance for over four years now. bristol city seal