By LISA CAPOBIANCO
The deal is now official between the city of Bristol and Bristol Hospital for the planned ambulatory care center downtown.
Last week marked a landmark moment for the city, as Mayor Ken Cockayne and Bristol Hospital President and CEO Kurt Barwis both signed off on the purchase and sale agreement for the Centre Square project. Under the agreement, Bristol Hospital now owns a portion of the Centre Square site development to construct a 60,000 square-foot ambulatory care center on the corners of Main Street and Riverside Avenue, which will be taxable property.
City officials and staff witnessed the official signing last Friday in the Council Chambers. The formal signing comes after a recent vote that authorized Cockayne to execute the purchase and sale agreement on behalf of the city, which has been working to develop the 15-acre downtown site.
Before he signed the agreement, Cockayne thanked Bristol Hospital for stepping up to the plate downtown. Serving the Bristol community since 1921, the nonprofit community hospital is the second largest employer in the city.
“We’re now talking to other developers, and you can really feel the momentum building downtown,” said Cockayne, adding how the city is already in the design phase for putting in infrastructure downtown. “Bristol Hospital has been and always will be a great community partner.”
Barwis said cooperation with the city has been “outstanding” throughout the planning process over the past year.
“This truly is an excellent opportunity. We’re glad to be a community partner,” said Barwis, who also thanked the hospital staff involved with the project.
Now that the agreement with the city is official, the hospital is working on the interior and exterior design of its downtown project. Barwis said the architects have already gone through several initial drafts of the building’s interior space.
The three-story building also is expected to have a coffee and sandwich shop, along with an outside patio.
“Now they’re actually going to take the draft and live it. In other words, look at actual schedules, study how the patients are going to flow. They’ll superimpose real patients on the design, make sure that things make sense,” explained Barwis, noting how doctors also will be involved in testing the design.
A blend of traditional urban design and a modern state-of-the-art medical facility, the ambulatory care center will use glass to maximize natural light in waiting rooms and commons areas while providing a sense of arrival through a street level entrance. The goal is to offer a comprehensive patient experience that addresses every part of a patient’s visit, including comfort and ease of access.
A combination of the hospital’s medical offices that are leased throughout Bristol and other towns, the downtown project will bring more jobs to the city. Barwis said the hospital has already recruited new medical professionals, including an urologist and an orthopedic ankle surgeon. The hope is to bring between at least 30 and 50 new jobs, if not more over time, added Barwis.
The project is expected to break ground towards the end of the year, and looking ahead, hospital officials said they hope to expand the new medical facility.
“With the way that the building is built, we can easily expand the space inside,” said Barwis. “It’s a great economic stimulus for the community, and truly will help create more foot traffic…and more desirable businesses to locate there.”
“This is what we’ve been waiting for in Bristol downtown, and this is the spark to get it all going,” added Cockayne.
Cockayne said that potential developers have already contacted the city about their interest in the remaining portion of the Centre Square site that is available.
“These are developers not only from Connecticut, but also from outside the state that we’ve met with,” said Cockayne.
Meanwhile, the hospital is close to completing its contract with Rendina—a nationally-recognized leader in medical office development for nearly 30 years. Bristol Hospital announced its decision to bring Rendina on board in January after reviewing proposals from eight potential developers. Rendina has developed over seven million square feet of buildings throughout the country, including an 80,000 square foot outpatient facility in Bayonne, N.J., which is expected to open this summer. Equipped with a 24/7 emergency department, a retail pharmacy, and a full diagnostic imaging center, the new facility served as a downtown redevelopment project.
“Rendina has been an amazing partner,” said Barwis.