By LISA CAPOBIANCO
The first step of developing downtown Bristol’s Centre Square site has officially started.
Last Tuesday, city leaders, staff and dignitaries celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony of the new access road on Centre Square right across from City Hall. Known as the “Centre Square Access Road,” the 1,000-foot roadway will feature many streetscape components—from trees to decorative lights and landscaping to a center median. The road will match the current look of North Main and Main streets, and will contain a bus stop.
The city has contracted with Schultz Corporation of Terryville, which began the $2.7 million project shortly after the groundbreaking. Construction is projected to be completed in May 2018.
For many city officials like Bristol Development Authority Board Vice Chairman Howard Schmelder and Bristol Hospital Board of Directors member John Lodovico, the groundbreaking marked a historic moment, as they have seen development come and go through Centre Square over the years.
“I saw it all. I saw it when I worked at Bristol Savings Bank,” said Schmelder, who has served on the BDA for over 40 years. “When it was a dust bowl, I saw everything knocked down. I saw the mall go up, then I saw the mall go down.”
“We have it now—the roadway, the hospital,” added Lodovico, who served on the former BDDC. “But more importantly, we’re going to be changing the landscape of downtown.”
BDA Executive Director Justin Malley said just about every city department was involved with the planning for the new roadway, including Public Works, which has supervised the project.
“This project has touched almost every department within the city,” said Malley, calling Public Works a “heavy lifter” for the project.
Planning consultant Milone & MacBroom, which began working with the city last year, designed the access road as part of the Centre Square Master Plan—a road map that aims to guide future development at the 15-acre site through the general layout of buildings, roadways, and parking areas.
Jason Williams of Milone & MacBroom said the important part of a planning project like this involves the city’s commitment to creating the infrastructure. Besides aesthetic elements above ground, the new road will be fully equipped with utilities, including sanitary sewer lines, potable water pipelines and telecommunication infrastructure.
To date, the city also is updating the traffic signal on North Main and Laurel streets.
“What is really important in getting a planning project and an urban design project started is having the city kick in first—not relying on a developer to come in and create roadways, but having the municipality create that first spark to get the process moving,” said Williams, adding how Milone & MacBroom was involved with the project from the beginning.
Once completed, the project will not only offer access to future commercial properties north of the new road, but will also provide access to future development on the corner of North Main Street and Riverside Avenue. The road also will provide access to Bristol Hospital’s planned ambulatory care center, which will be situated on the corners of Main Street and Riverside Avenue
Bristol Hospital President and CEO Kurt Barwis said the ambulatory care center would not be possible without the infrastructure in place.
“This roadway marks the first part of that project,” said Barwis, who thanked city officials.
Currently, the hospital is getting closer to having its site plan approved for the 60,000-square-foot, three-story medical office building.
Tiffany Fernandez, project lead for the site, said the project is on track to break ground at the end of this year. For now, the hospital is waiting to secure few remaining permits before the city officially approves the site plan.
“We’re really excited to have this new building revitalize downtown and really provide a state-of-the-art space for our physicians,” said Fernandez.
Meanwhile, the hospital also has recruited new physicians from throughout the world who will work in the new medical office building.
Mayor Ken Cockayne thanked Bristol Hospital for stepping up with its downtown project, which he said has sparked interest among other potential developers.
“Bristol Hospital is going to be able to expand,” said Cockayne, adding how the city is now negotiating with another developer who is looking to bring mix-used buildings to downtown. “It’s giving us the vibrant downtown that we all want.”
For more information, visit www.bristolcentresquare.com.