Funds OKd to give old Press building face-lift

By LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

The old Bristol Press building underwent a facade improvement project last week after owners received a grant from the city.

Last week, the gray, discolored stucco material was peeled off of the front half of the building, located at 99 Main Street. The project was funded by a grant from the Downtown and West End Façade Improvement Program.

“It is a face you see when you drive down the Boulevard,” said Bob Desmarais, the owner the building, who also owns Bikers Edge. “There’s life in the building. Now we hope to do it with the front portion as well by putting some tenants in there.”

Recently, the Bristol Development Authority board’s Neighborhood Preservation Committee approved this grant for the project, which marks the last one for the program.

Desmarais said the goal of the project was to expose the original brick of the oldest part of the building.

Operating since 1972, Bikers Edge moved to the rear part of the old Bristol Press building just after Thanksgiving last year.

“It gives us a comfort feeling knowing the town is behind preservation as much as we are, and willing to help out,” said Desmarais, noting all of the stories he hears from folks about the building. “We always talked about restoring the front half of the building to the original red brick look.”

Removing the existing stucco is just one part of the façade improvements that Desmarais has planned for the building, which dates back to the 1900s. The business owner said custom-made windows are expected to go up, along with a roof before winter.

“The outside will go back to a similar window design and window size,” said Desmarais. “We won’t do anything inside until we get a firm commitment from a prospective tenant.”

BDA Executive Director Justin Malley said the state-funded program will close. Before Malley began his current BDA role, the city received an Urban Act grant, which provided funding for downtown activities and streetscape work on North Main Street.

“The state has basically asked us to close it out,” said Malley, noting the possibility of the program closing temporarily.

When he came on board as BDA Executive Director, Malley said he became aware of $100,000 in funds that this program left. This leftover funding has helped 14 facade improvement projects over the past several years.

“I worked with the state at that point to run a facade improvement program for the downtown, West End area,” said Malley. “Over the last several years…we’ve provided grants to either business owners or in some cases, business owners to basically improve the facades of their properties…to improve the look and feel of the downtown environment.”