By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Whether gearing up for streetscape and road projects or bringing in new businesses, towns and cities of the central Connecticut have reported a variety of enhancements to look forward to.
During the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce’s 2015 State of the City & Town Breakfast held at Nuchie’s last Thursday, municipal leaders provided an update on their community’s current economy and economic development. Sponsored by Farmington Bank, ESPN, Bristol Hospital, Liberty Bank, Covanta Energy, Thomaston Savings Bank, HealthyCT and Webster Bank, the event featured representatives from all seven chambers within the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce.
From expanding the Southeast Bristol Business Park to launching a new logo to providing incentives for businesses, the city of Bristol had a lot to say about its local economy. Besides seeing ESPN expand with its newest digital center, the city has maintained its manufacturing presence and has continued providing tax incentives and grants to businesses relocating to Bristol or expanding in Bristol. Recently, GMN received a $150,000 grant to build a new $3.5 million facility in Bristol. A German-based company that specializes in spindle manufacturing and repair, GMN is located in the Southeast Bristol Business Park.
Approximately 51 acres, Mayor Ken Cockayne said the business park continues to be instrumental for manufacturers. Two building lots now have existing operations, and a third lot was sold last September to GMN.
“The city continues to aggressively market the park to manufacturers and other potential tenants, with several parties expressing interest in just the past few months,” said Cockayne.
In addition to launching a competition to launching the business plan competition StartUp Bristol, the city partnered with the Chamber to market and to promote Bristol through the new All-Heart logo. As part of this initiative, residents and non-residents will soon have access to a new website promoting Bristol.
“This website will provide an easy, complete picture of events, attractions, positive stories within the community…a centralized community calendar,” said Cockayne. “This is something we never had.”
Although redeveloping Depot Square has continued to be a challenge for Bristol, the green space at the corner of Riverside Avenue and North Main Street will be used for a variety of community events, including the Farmers Market.
“The city is in relatively sound economic shape,” said Cockayne, adding how efforts have continued to address blight. “The outlook for Bristol’s future is positive.”
Meanwhile, the town of Plainville recently approved a property maintenance ordinance that looked to Bristol’s ordinance as a model. Town Council Chairperson Kathy Pugliese said the goal was to develop an ordinance that could address some areas that are unsightly.
In addition to working on a turf field project at Plainville High School and including monies in this year’s budget to demolish Old Linden Street School, the town also celebrated the grand opening of Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute at The Hospital of Central Connecticut.
The center’s hospital area faces New Britain, while its offices face Plainville.
“We were very happy to be a part of this project,” said Pugliese, adding how the building is welcoming. “It was a long, multi-year project that’s now up and running.”
Other projects the Plainville has been working on include the installation LED lighting, pursuing grants to make improvements at Robertson Airport, and repaving the parking lot at the senior center as well as refurbishing the Northwest Drive Bridge. In addition, the state will repave New Britain Avenue.
After experiencing a long and harsh winter, residents in town approved a $5 million road bond project at referendum last month. The project will take place over a five-year period.
“We’re hoping to pave approximately $1 million a year during the paving season,” said Pugliese. “We’re going to get our roads in good shape.”
Like Plainville, other communities also are working on their roads after the long winter months. This year, 10 miles of road will be reconstructed in Wolcott.
“It hasn’t been upgraded in many years,” said Wolcott Mayor Thomas Dunn, adding the reconstruction will benefit the town’s school projects.
Wolcott also has a new dog park, which will celebrate a grand opening soon, and a walking trail is currently being built.
“We’re making great progress on it—the bridges are in, the walkways are in,” said Dunn. “It’s a great walk, it’s a beautiful area.”
Situated as a gateway between the northwest corner, the Farmington valley and the Bristol-Southington-Plainville corridor, Burlington completed a streetscape and sidewalk installation in its central business district last year, and recently completed a two-mile reconstruction of its Rails to Trails. Upcoming projects include a library expansion, among others.
“Overall, we’re continuing to move forward with infrastructure enhancements to better position ourselves for the growth and development,” said First Selectman Theodore Shafer.
Despite dealing with the aftermath of $800,000 stolen by its comptroller last year, the town of Plymouth continues to move forward with a variety of projects, including a streetscape project downtown and bridge repairs. Besides putting in new sidewalks and light poles downtown, Plymouth Mayor David Merchant said the town also is working on a Safe Walk to School project to create more sidewalks for children as well as a waterwheel project.
Other future projects include remodeling the fire station and working with the Connecticut Department of Transportation to remodel Route 6.
“We want to widen that road…put some on-street parking, take down a few buildings,” said Merchant, who announced he will seek reelection in November. “That’s going to be a major improvement in town.”
Plymouth also added a new taxpayer, Inland Fuels, which is building a propane distribution center.
“They will be our largest taxpayer, once they’re complete,” said Merchant, adding how there are several expansions happening in the town’s industrial park.
One of the most diverse towns statewide with just shy of a thousand businesses, Bloomfield is undertaking 58 capital projects on an annual basis from streetscape projects to bridge repairs to facility activities.
“There’s a lot going on in terms of…the financial base for the town,” said Bloomfield Town Manager Phil Schenck, adding how the town received a bond rating increase last year.
The town of Farmington received a Main Street investment grant, which will be used to upgrade sidewalks in downtown Unionville. Rose Ponte, economic development director for Farmington, said Unionville is bustling with an interesting mix of businesses.
“We really want to invest in our infrastructure, so that Unionville continues to be a vibrant main street,” said Ponte, adding how United Technologies headquarters moved to Farmington.
In Farmington, the DOT Route 10 traffic project recently began, which was in the planning stages for many years. Ponte said that area is right for change and redevelopment.
She added how the Town Council formed a subcommittee to study Farmington with the goal of understanding the potential for more development. The subcommittee identified seven areas of town for redevelopment, including Route 4. The town held a three-day community-wide planning workshop where facilitators allowed residents to express what they wanted there. Ponte said the town just received a consultant’s report, which will be available for residents. The council also funded to seek design consultants who will create formal plans to be adopted in the town’s plan of conservation and development.
“In 2017, when that Route 4 project is complete and ready for and right development, we will have a guiding document to give developers, so they understand what it is that we want as a community,” said Ponte.