BRISTOL - Centre Square officially has shovels in the pavement after city leaders broke ground on the new access road Tuesday.
City officials, employees and community members attended a ceremony for what will be known as “Centre Square Access Road.”
“The city doesn’t do this every day,” said Justin Malley, executive director of the Bristol Development Authority. “Especially a road that’s so important to the city and sort of unique, and really kick-starts the downtown development.”
The road will begin at the intersection of North Main and Laurel streets, and cut across Centre Square to Riverside Avenue. The work includes streetscape components that match the aesthetics of downtown, full underground utilities and updated traffic signals.
The roughly 1,000-foot road will cost $2.7 million and provide access to the soon-to-be constructed Bristol Hospital Ambulatory Care Center, and future development and commercial properties on Centre Square.
Mayor Ken Cockayne said, “Today is an exciting day.” He thanked Kurt Barwis, president and CEO of Bristol Hospital “for stepping up and doing what Bristol needed” and providing a “vibrant downtown” with the hospital project.
“It’s because of your project that I am negotiating with another developer who is looking to build on the other corner, and he is going to have multi-story buildings that are commercial on the bottom and apartment and/or office space on the top,” Cockayne said. “After the land sitting vacant for 12 years, we have shovels going in the ground and construction starting. This is just the beginning of a vibrant downtown.”
Barwis said, “The ambulatory project wouldn’t be possible without the infrastructure, and this roadway marks the start of that project. Honestly, I don’t know that we could have afforded it without the city stepping forward.”
“Hopefully soon, you will see the making of a building going on this ground. We are progressing very, very well,” he added. “We have had an extensive recruitment cycle with a lot of new physicians - a lot of new physicians that need a place to work.”
John Lodovico, chair of the downtown committee for Bristol Hospital, said there has been an effort to “kick-start something” on the property for “quite a long time,” and that “we have it now, with a roadway, a new hospital, but more importantly we are going to be changing the landscape” of downtown.
Development authority member and longtime Bristol resident, Howard Schmelder, explained that he has seen every stage of Centre Square. “After all these years,” he said, “we’re going to see a road and a building, and we’re going to revitalize downtown.”
The city’s Department of Public Works and Engineering Division is supervising the project, though it is part of the Centre Square master plan designed by Milone & MacBroom Inc., an engineer and architectural consultant firm. The plan is a guide to developing a pedestrian-oriented downtown that supports new retail, housing, offices and recreation.
Jason Williams, of Milone & MacBroom, said the firm “was really involved with this entire project really from the beginning as a planning project, and as a public outreach project - going out into the community, getting feedback in the survey and understanding what the people of Bristol really wanted for this site.”
“What’s really important,” Williams added, “is having the city kick in first” and “not relying on a developer to come in and create roadways.”
Last month, the contract for the access road was awarded to Schultz Corporation of Terryville, a concrete contractor. Bill Schultz of the company said, “We plan to start softening the pavement today around 12 o’clock and we plan to start excavating from that point on.”
The project is expected to be completed by May 2018.
Lorenzo Burgio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 860-973-5088.