By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Last Thursday marked another landmark moment for the city’s downtown Centre Square project, as Bristol Hospital unveiled two renderings of its proposed ambulatory care center.
Hospital staff and leaders, along with city officials and other community members watched in excitement during a press conference as the covers were released from the drawings depicting the two main entrances of the 60,000-square-foot, three-story building located on the corners of Main Street and Riverside Avenue.
Last month, Bristol Hospital and the city of Bristol signed a purchase and sale agreement for a parcel of the Centre Square site.
The building will house numerous sub-specialty practices of the Bristol Hospital Multi-Specialty Group and a dedicated space for laboratory, and physical and occupational therapy services. Among the specialty practices that will move into the building are cardiology, endocrinology/Diabetes, neurology, orthopedics, rheumatology and urology. The ground floor of the building will offer a café for visitors and employees.
Bristol Hospital President & CEO Kurt Barwis said the Multi-Specialty Group has recruited a number of new physicians in recent years, especially in the specialty of orthopedics.
The project also includes available land for a possible future expansion of the building.
“We’ve had an extensively positive and exciting recruitment cycle over the last six to seven years. We’ve expanded to really meet those needs,” said Barwis, adding that the hospital plans to make more EMT recruitments within the next year. “We really have no choice but to expand in a bigger space and a more efficient space for those physicians.”
“This building will allow us to house the physicians we added in recent years and continue to grow our Multi-Specialty Group,” added newly appointed Bristol Hospital Board of Directors Chairman Doug Devnew after the press conference.
Calling last Thursday a “historic day for Bristol,” Mayor Ken Cockayne thanked Bristol Hospital for “stepping up to the plate.”
“This is going to be a show piece for downtown,” said Cockayne.
Bristol Hospital has partnered with Rendina—a medical office developer.
During the press conference, Brian Cich, the chief operating officer for Rendina, walked the city through the drawings that depict the ambulatory care center’s two main entrances, including one that faces the south for walk-up traffic.
“We were looking for a presence on that corner,” explained Cich, as he pointed out the use of awnings and enhanced glass for that particular entrance. “We wanted it to be pedestrian-oriented.”
The second entrance, which is located on the back side of the building, features a canopy-covered drop-off for patients to enter the building, which also includes a café for visitors and employees.
“We used a lot of glass throughout this building—natural light is important for use inside the building for both the patients and the providers,” said Cich.
Cich said the goal is to finish up the design of the building this summer, and activity has already started on the site. Pending numerous city approvals, added Cich, the project is expected to break ground later this fall, with an estimated completion date of 2019.
Throughout the design process, Cich said Rendina listened to the vision that the Bristol community has shared for downtown redevelopment.
“We spent a lot of time in the last several months doing a lot of listening,” said Cich, noting how Rendina studied the results of various public surveys.
The design of the building will further enhance collaboration among physicians and staff—an environment Barwis said the hospital has been preparing for.
“We brought some of the best minds to the table, some national folks who have designed these office spaces. Then we engaged the physicians and the staff into the actual design process,” said Barwis.
For John Lodovico, the vice chairman of the hospital’s Board of Directors, seeing the drawings up close has made downtown redevelopment a reality. A former member of the now-dissolved Bristol Downtown Development Corporation (BDDC), Lodovico has been involved with the city’s downtown redevelopment efforts over the past 10 years.
“It’s history being made for the community,” said Lodovico.
Hospital officials said the project will not only improve community access to hospital services, but will also jump start even more downtown development.
Cockayne said the city is currently in contact with another developer who has expressed interest in acquiring five acres of the Centre Square parcel to build four to five two-story buildings that will include retail on the first floor and a combination of apartments and office space on the second floor.
The city also has met with a couple of other developers who have sights on a parcel across from City Hall, added Cockayne.
“This is the spark that we needed downtown,” said Cockayne, adding how excited he felt to see activity already happening on the site. “It’s going to show other investors that we have someone investing serious dollars in our downtown, and we have people who are flooding downtown.”
While Bristol Hospital works on its project, the city is continuing to work on a variety of infrastructure improvements downtown, including the placement of a new roadway this summer, along a new streetscape and more angled parking.