December 23, 2014

CT Construction Digest December 23, 2014

Wallingford's panel rejects Meriden's plans for solar panels at airport

A plan to install solar panels at Meriden-Markham Airport has been held up by the Wallingford Zoning Board of Appeals.
Meriden operates the airport but approval from Wallingford is required because the airport straddles the town line. The panels could save Meriden an estimated $1.5 million over 20 years. A city official said Friday that Meriden is considering its options in light of the ZBA decision. On Monday, the ZBA denied a special exception required for the project to move forward. An exception is necessary because the solar panels would be in a residential zone in Wallingford, said Steve Montemurro, chairman of Meriden’s energy task force.
“To say I was disappointed would be an understatement,” he said of the ZBA decision. “This would really be a benefit to the citizens of Meriden and taxpayers.”
Montemurro attended the meeting with staff from San Mateo, California-based SolarCity Corp. The company would be responsible for financing, designing, installing, maintaining and monitoring the solar panels.
Montemurro said he did not understand the board’s reason for denying the exception.
“That’s something we’re still trying to figure out,” he said.
SolarCity officials couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
Montemurro said there is still hope.
“We’re looking at our options right now,” he said. “We do have the option to appeal.”
ZBA Chairman Michael Glidden said he couldn’t comment because he wasn’t able to attend the meeting. Wallingford Town Planner Kacie Costello and Assistant Town Planner Tom Hogarty could not be reached for comment Friday. Ray Rys, who voted against the exception, was the only member of the board at the meeting who could be reached Friday.
While the board voted 3-2 in favor of the exception, four affirmative votes are necessary, according to local regulations. Rys said Joe Rusczek, Alan Reed and William Birney voted in favor of the exception, while he and Jeffrey Knickerbocker voted against it.
Rys said he was concerned about how the glare from the panels might impact pilots. Rys also felt Meriden did not prove a hardship, which is required for an exception to zoning regulations.
“There wasn’t really a hardship, this was just a municipal venture to make some money,” he said.
But Rys said he was also not sure why an exception was necessary for the solar panels.
“At this point, I question why the ZBA should even be involved,” he said.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

NAUGATUCK -- The construction company that has been hired to tear down a dilapidated former restaurant downtown wants to start demolition at the beginning of the new year.Weise Construction, Inc., of Norwich, has filed an application with the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency to demolish the three-story white building at 1 South Main St., at the corner of Maple Street near the Whittemore Bridge. The building has sat vacant for more than five years after serving as a restaurant for more than 10 The company plans to begin demolition with two excavators as soon as it receives permission from the agency, which will likely be in January.
 The demolition will start at the top floor and will end at the ground level, according to documents on file at the land use office. If all goes as planned, Weise Construction anticipates having demolition wrapped up in February, said Wayne Zirolli, borough engineer.The borough is paying the company $42,900 to tear down the blighted building that officials have complained about for years.
  The building is owned by One South Main Street, LLC., whose managing member is Shellie Hertel of Rich's Car Works. Rich and Shellie Hertel bought the vacant building within the past two years with Charlie Wasoka, owner of American Vintage Furniture. They wanted land for parking spaces, and hoped to work out a deal to have it torn down. The borough was willing to work with them because they say the building makes the community look bad. A proposed demolition plan on file at the land use office states it will take two days to tear the building to the ground. Before demolition begins, the company will establish a traffic control pattern and hire two police officers to help control traffic. In October, the Board of Mayor and Burgesses agreed to settle a tax appeal filed by the owners of One South Main Street, LLC. The agreement drops the valuation of the property, therefore lowering property taxes. In exchange, the LLC allows Naugatuck to tear down the building, gives the borough land for a greenway expansion and additional land for the borough to build a small park with benches to enhance the main entrance to downtown off Route 8. The building is the first structure motorists see coming off Route 8 south at Exit 27. Borough officials have long complained about two dilapidated buildings downtown — the one at One South Main Street and Building 25, the former hub of the U.S. Rubber Co. Officials tore that building down last month. Ron Pugliese, president and chief executive officer of the quasi-public Naugatuck Economic Development Corp., says that tearing down those buildings makes downtown Naugatuck more attractive for potential commercial investors.

December 22, 2014

CT Construction Digest December 22, 2014

Firms submit proposals for downtown Meriden properties

MERIDEN — Three firms submitted proposals to redevelop five city-owned downtown properties this week. The plans call for spending more than $100 million to create hundreds of apartments and business and office space.
Proposals included building on the Hub site and a Colony Street parcel and redeveloping the Record-Journal property at 11 Crown St., the Factory H site and the former medical offices at 116 Cook Ave. No plans were submitted for the former Meriden-Wallingford Hospital.
“My first impression is very encouraging,” City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior said after receiving the proposals, Friday.
Of the three companies, only one plan was submitted for 116 Cook Ave. and Factory H, one for 11 Crown St. and two for the Hub parcel.
The firms that submitted were Philadelphia-based Pennrose Properties, New Jersey-based Michaels Organization, and New York-based POKO Partners.
POKO Partners submitted plans to develop the parcels at 116 Cook Ave. and the Factory H site. The properties were previously joined as part of the International Silver Co. The developer is proposing to combine them again into “Meriden Mews,” a 184-unit mixed-income community that “will exemplify the desirable qualities of small-city living.”
POKO plans to renovate the building at 116 Cook and build six low-rise buildings at the former Factory H site. Of the 184 units, 145 would be market rate, and 39 would be affordable housing. The plan includes 309 parking spaces.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
MIDDLETOWN — A milestone in the $40 million project to link Middletown with the Mattabassett District sewage treatment plant in Cromwell was reached Saturday when a 3,000-foot section of pipe was pulled underground along Route 9. In the damp cold with light snow falling, Mayor Daniel Drew and city officials watched as crews used a special "fuser" to join 45-foot sections of 24-inch pipe to form the half-mile-long section, pulled in the pre-dug channel running from city hall north to the Arrigoni Bridge.
Officials said the pulling of the pipe was the culmination of an effort that began in August, when crews from Texas and Louisiana, using the latest oil-drilling technology, began boring the horizontal channel for the half-mile long section of sewer pipe.
The pulling of the pipe was expected to take 18 hours. "It's a delicate operation, and one you start you can't stop," said Guy Russo, the city's water and sewer director. Russo said crews, which started at 6:30 a.m. Saturday, would be onsite until past midnight.
The $40 million sewer project also includes a pump station off East Main Street, and the decommissioning and demolition of the aging sewage treatment plant on River Road – allowing the city to unlock a swath of riverfront for redevelopment.
Voters approved $37 million for the pump station and pipeline project in 2012, and the common council added an additional $3 million in April after estimates for the pump station component came in higher than expected. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

December 18, 2014

CT Construction Digest December 18, 2014

Single family subdivision construction underway in Danbury

DANBURY -- Construction crews were paving the way this week for Danbury's first single-family subdivision under development in several years.
Scott Lavelle, the Realtor on the project, said crews Wednesday completed the road that will eventually lead to a dozen new homes in Pondview Estates on the city's west side.
While crews have been building condos along the city's border with New York, Pondview, officials said, represents a resurgence of interest in new single-family homes in Danbury.
"It's been a long wait but it's a positive sign," Lavelle said. "We just started earth work on the project, and already we're getting interest, not just from local buyers but also from people across the line in Westchester County looking to downsize. It shows that there has been a lot of pent-up demand for this kind of product. There haven't been any new single-family homes available in the area for quite a while." The custom-built homes likely will fall into the $600,000 to $750,000 range, Lavelle said. Many floor plans will be available, including colonials with first-floor master bedrooms, a feature appreciated by older couples looking to downsize.
The plans call for single-family homes on partially wooded two-acre lots. The property, a total of about 38 acres, abuts Corner Pond.
"We can provide buyers with a floor plan, we can tweak the plans to their liking, or we can price out a floor plan that they provide to us if they like," Lavelle said. "Each of the homes will be custom-built to the owners' liking."  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Downtown Meriden development proposals due Friday

MERIDEN — Proposals for the development of six city-owned downtown properties will be made public Friday afternoon.
Four firms were asked to submit plans for the former Meriden-Wallingford Hospital building on Cook Avenue, an empty parcel at 25-33 Colony St., three acres around the Hub property, the Record-Journal building at 11 Crown St., the former medical office building at 116 Cook Ave., and the Factory H property near Cooper Street.  “I’m very interested to see what kind of proposals the firms come up with and what ideas they have, and to see how that fits in with what we’ve been planning,” City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior said.Plans will be opened in City Hall at 3 p.m. Friday. City officials will inspect plans Friday, but a more comprehensive analysis will take place in the coming months.“We expect to make some choices and have discussions with interested firms by January or February,”  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
SOUTHINGTON — North Ridge Golf Club on Welch Road will remain a full 18-hole course for next year’s season despite development on unused land around it.
Local developer Mark Lovley bought the 140-acre property earlier this year and was approved by the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission to build 94 houses on the site. Those houses are being built on land that doesn’t interfere with the golf course, he said.
Lovley closed on the former Pine Valley Golf Course earlier this year. He said the former owners expected him to develop the entire 140-acre property, but Lovley wanted to maintain at least a portion of the course. It’s a feature that those looking to move into Southington appreciate, he said, and golf is a popular sport. “I looked at the way golf is going,” Lovley said.
The golf course will remain at 18 holes until 2016 when Lovley said the course will transition to nine holes to allow development on the front nine holes. He also wants to build a new clubhouse and hopes to expand back to 18 holes at some point with land he hopes to buy on Welch Road. Lovley is also planning to build a pool to expand what’s offered at the club.
About half of the approved 94 houses have been sold, Lovley said, and 14 are still under construction. Gary Mancino, a real estate agent working with Lovley Development, said the open land of the golf course is a major selling point. Many of the home buyers are from outside Connecticut and are used to living in open areas not usually found in the densely developed Northeast. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Ken Olson, the president of POKO Partners, keeps two words on his desk: "relentless pursuit."
Those words would also describe his firm's 10-year effort to renovate the Thread Mill in Pawcatuck, despite the recession and challenges involved in putting together the financing for the $25 million project. Last week, POKO held a ceremony attended by state and local officials to formally break ground on the project that will transform the dilapidated 19th-century mill into 58 one- and two- bedroom apartments, 30 percent of which will be affordable under state guidelines, as well as 9,000 square feet of commercial space. Work on the site began earlier this fall.
"This project has been a long time coming," Olson told the group gathered next to the River Road mill. "We are very, very excited about this project and what it will do for this community."
Later as they toured the third floor with its rows of 15-foot high windows and where sandblasting has revealed pristine wooden ceilings, beams and support posts along with brick walls, Olson said his firm had the "horrible timing" of trying to start work on the project as the recession hit. The town approved permits for the work in 2006.
"But we were big believers in this project. We love historic preservation and adaptive reuse," he said. "It's a complicated structure but fortunately we have great partners and we finally got everything in place." Representatives of many of those partners were on hand at the Dec.11 groundbreaking, including the state Department of Housing, state Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and state Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington.
POKO has obtained tax-exempt, low-interest bonds from CHFA, state and federal tax credits, $750,000 in state brownfields funding, as well as funding from the state's Competitive Housing Assistance for Multifamily Properties. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Buildings demolished as part of Berlin train station project

BERLIN — Five empty buildings, three owned by the town and two by the state, are being demolished along a short stretch of Farmington Avenue.Four of the five were demolished this fall and the last parcel, owned by the town, is being razed now."The two owned by the state were torn down in preparation for the new high-speed railroad train," Town Manager Denise McNair said Wednesday. "The town's parcels were vacant and dangerous, so are being cleared for public safety."
The buildings at 903-913 Farmington were removed last month. Demolition began this month at the last parcel, the former Pioneer Precision Products at 889 Farmington.
The town hopes to use the 903-913 lot for a new police station. A proposed $21 million station for that site was rejected Nov. 4 in a referendum, so it's not clear when or if a new station will be built there. The town police commission is meeting weekly to review the proposal and see how it can be revised in a way voters will approve. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Downtown Rockville redevelopment abandoned in favor of mill conversions

A specialty mortgage company has abandoned an ambitious, $120 million plan to redevelop the heart of downtown Rockville and to move its offices there — but it is now pursuing a new plan involving the renovation of two former textile mill buildings just to the east.
John DiIorio, chief executive of 1st Alliance Lending in East Hartford, said Wednesday that it became clear this summer that negotiations with the owners of a handful of properties — mostly sprawling parking lots and aging shopping plazas — that the puzzle pieces wouldn't come together, even after a year of talks.
"Basically, we got to the point that we weren't going to be able to obtain the properties we needed for this," DiIorio said. "We made some generous offers." 
DiIorio's much-heralded revitalization plan for downtown Rockville, a section of Vernon, envisioned a system of buildings with office space over street-level shops and restaurants. The parking lots would have given way to two garages. DiIorio's firm, Ist Alliance, would have become the anchor tenant, bringing with it 1,100 much-needed jobs by 2020.
Certainly, DiIorio said, he is disappointed his vision did not become reality. But, he said, he believes the renovation of the former Amerbelle Mill, now vacant, and the Daniels Mill, used for a self-storage business, will have the same economic punch for downtown.
"We are still going to be there," DiIorio said. "We're talking an eighth of a mile away. We're just up the hill a bit." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Torrington eyes repaire, walkway for Bogue Road bridge

TORRINGTON >> The city is seeking to repair a bridge on Bouge Road while adding a pedestrian walkway that could help it connect to a trail.
City Engineer Ed Fabbri briefly discussed the city’s efforts to repair the bridge during Monday’s City Council meeting after the City Council approved $40,305 in appropriated funds from the Northwest Hills Council of Governments to conduct a feasibility study for a greenway trail following the Naugatuck River from Palmer Bridge Street to Bogue Road.  Fabbri declined to comment further on Thursday. Public Works Director Jerry Rollett said the city has been attempting to repair the bridge for several years, as its last major repair took place about four years ago. Since then, the city has regularly patched up the bridge, a temporary fix for its surface area.
“The surface is deteriorating,” Rollett said. “It’s continuing to deteriorate so we need a more permanent repair of that bridge.” Rollett estimated that a full bridge repair would cost somewhere in the range of a half million dollars, though the city won’t know more precise amounts until more research is conducted. An engineer has looked at the bridge, Rollett said, and they said that the bridge’s deck needs to be replaced, with additional minor work needed for the bridge’s abutments.
“We cannot continue to go in there, patching the surfaces,” Rollett said. “It’s just not a long-term solution.” The feasibility study is being completed by Tectonic Engineering & Surveying Consultants P.C. of Rocky Hill. Rollett said the study will help the city gather more information about future costs, adding that the progress of such a repair is in the “preliminary budgeting stages.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Torrington submits design for $52M renovations to watewater plant

TORRINGTON >> The city’s wastewater management department has submitted an engineering design agreement to the state, the first step for the department’s multi-year, $52 million facilities upgrade project. Torrington’s Water Pollution Control Authority Administrator Ray Drew said  Wednesday that the agreement has been submitted for approval from the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).  “Basically, that’s the agreement between the city of Torrington and our engineers, Wright Pierce, to do the design for the facilities upgrade,” Drew said.
The agreement contains planning and design details regarding the $52 million worth of mandated facilities upgrades. “They have issued some comments in regards to the design agreements, so we are addressing those comments and we are waiting for approval of that design agreement,” Drew said. The agreement is expected to be approved within the next two months. The multimillion dollar renovations will help the 75-year-old Water Pollution Control Facility on Bogue Road in Torrington meet more stringent environmental mandates. The $52 million bonding package paying for the renovations, which is being split between an $11 million state grant and a 20-year loan paid by the city of Torrington, was approved by Torrington voters in November. The agreement’s approval would ensure the facility’s upgrades remain eligible for a clean water grant-loan funding. Once the design agreement is approved, Drew said his department will submit an application for clean water funding for the design costs. “Once that gets approved, we will proceed with the design,” Drew said. “The anticipated design is about 18 months. That’s kind of the status of where we are now.”
The projects timeline marks February 2017 as the starting date for on-site construction, while the renovated plant won’t be operational until late 2019 or early 2020. The city would begin repaying its loan once the plant is operational with its renovations. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE


December 17, 2014

CT Construction Digest December 17, 2014

Rail line revamp transforming Berlin

BERLIN — The $365 million revamp of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield, Mass., commuter rail line is underway. And as the project progresses, both state and local officials stand firm that it will indeed be money well spent.
The new service will increase the number of round trips along the 62-mile rail corridor to 17 each day by 2016 — at least 12 of which will provide continuing service to Springfield, Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said. Ultimately, service will expand to 25 trains daily with 30 minute peak and 60 minute off peak service. That, state officials, including Gov. Dannel Malloy, say will not only benefit those commuting to and from work, but communities that fall along the line as well. “The NHHS rail program will not only offer more frequent, convenient and faster passenger rail service, but it will also cultivate significant benefits to communities along the rail line, including local and transit-oriented development at and around these stations,” Malloy said.
At the center of the line is Berlin. With that, a new station is being constructed in town, with the current station also being revamped as part of the project. In anticipation of additional use by not only Berlin residents but those in New Britain and other surrounding towns, parking at the station will expand to approximately 215 total spaces. The $22.25 million station will be funded through the Federal Rail Administration and state matching funds. The bulk of the entire NHHS rail project will be paid for with federal and state monies. The area around the Berlin train station is also undergoing several transformations, most notably the completion of Depot Crossing, which falls under the umbrella of a mixed-use, transit-oriented development. It consists of 16 apartments on the second and third floors and 9,000 square feet of commercial space on the first. Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, at Depot Crossing’s grand opening celebration earlier this year, called the finished product “the kind of housing we need, and the type of retail we need in the state.” Berlin Mayor Rachel Rochette, Economic Development Director Jim Mahoney and previous administrations have touted the train station and the subsequent development of its surrounding area as a certain boost to the town and its economic development. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Demolition begins on Copper and Brass

ANSONIA -- The gigantic teeth of the red and gray monster chomped down on the rusted metallic structure and tore away a piece of the city's economic past.
Sitting at the control of the Link-Belt crane was Mayor David Cassetti, who still carries his heavy equipment operator's license. Nearby, the operator of a yellow crane waited for his crack at the dilapidated building. "For 15 years I've been looking out from my business (Birm1 Construction) and watching that place just crumble," said the mayor, who while controlling the crane tore off the first I-beam. "It felt great to be part of bringing Ansonia a new beginning for the Copper and Brass site."
The structures being torn apart are just some of those on the 37-acre complex, which throughout the 1970s employed thousands of Valley residents working three shifts, six days a week, manufacturing copper, brass and steel items. Back then it was known as Anaconda American Brass, and later ARCO. But international trade agreements and cheaper imports from China, India, Japan and Mexico heavily cut into contracts and slowly reduced the workforce to nothing this spring.
Now Cassetti and Sheila O'Malley, Ansonia's economic development director, are hopeful that a clean, flat site will bring new businesses, expand the tax rolls and reduce the burden on homeowners.
"Every action sends a message to developers," said John P. Marini, the city's corporation counsel, who authored a series of blight laws that require property owners to maintain their structures or face fines and city-ordered cleanup costs. For the next week or so, workers from Denovo Constructors in New Jersey will be tearing away the rest of the warehouse where lumber and packaging was stored. Another nearby structure, as well as the former headquarters and office building, also will fall. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Malloy tours busaway, says developers eager to build nearby

Cruising from one end of the CTfastrak busway to the other aboard bus 4401 Tuesday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy predicted that central Connecticut commuters will embrace the new transit system after it opens March 28.
Malloy, who has a fair amount of his reputation riding on the busway's success, said everything he saw on an hourlong tour confirmed his original belief that the high-frequency buses on the route will ease traffic jams on I-84, generate economic development and make commuters' lives better.
The governor took political heat when he OK'd the project just months after he first took office, but said Tuesday there's no reason to regret the decision.
"Here we are, just four years later, and it's ready to open," Malloy told reporters after stepping off the bus outside the state Capitol. "This would have been an easy thing for me to kill. As I got to understand it, I became firmly convinced that this would be a winner." The busway idea arose when John Rowland was governor, and his successor, fellow Republican M. Jodi Rell, advanced it for several years. But it was Malloy who gave the crucial go-ahead in early 2011, choosing to build the state's first bus rapid transit system in the New Britain to Hartford corridor rather than a commuter rail line. Since then, teams of contractors have turned 9.4 miles of long-unused freight rail line into a two-lane highway exclusively for buses. Once service starts, shuttle buses will link stations in New Britain, Newington and West Hartford with downtown Hartford. Hartford express coaches will use the busway for part of their trips to Southington, Cheshire, Waterbury and Bristol, and feeder routes will serve the UConn Health Center, Westfarms mall and other high-traffic locations. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Rocky Hill officials discuss plans for road improvements

ROCKY HILL – A new bridge over Goff Brook on Old Main Street and total re-pavement of heavily traveled Brook Street highlighted the first year of the town's five-year plan to upgrade local roads and streets. About $3 million of the proceeds from a $10 million referendum approved in 2013 for infrastructure improvements was spent this year. That figure included $1.65 million for street repaving and drainage work, and $1.33 million to replace the Old Main Street bridge. The bridge was replaced over the fall and the project is now 95 percent completed, with loaming, reseeding and staining the new rock wall scheduled for the spring, Director of Community Services Jim Sollmi said.
The town anticipates receiving $508,000 in state reimbursement for the project, which will used to replenish the referendum dollars. Sollmi and Town Engineer Stephen Sopelak outlined for town council members Monday night projects that were completed, or postponed until 2015 because of more pressing projects or scheduled gas line work. For example, the major connectors in Corporate Ridge – Capital Boulevard, Henkel Way and Enterprise Drive, all originally scheduled for 2017 – were re-milled and repaved in September because of the badly deteriorated condition of the pavement. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Once a talk-show punchline, busway ready to roll

It was a topic to avoid on the campaign trail, a $567 million punch line for much of his first term — “the busway to nowhere.” But now that he is re-elected and it’s nearing completion, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is embracing the rebranded “CT fastrak.” On a tour by bus Tuesday over the 9.4-mile off-road “guideway” from Hartford to New Britain, a relaxed Malloy said he thinks he and others associated with bringing bus rapid transit to Connecticut will have the last laugh.
“This would have been an easy thing for me to kill,” Malloy said of the long-gestating project, which he green-lighted five months after taking office. “But as I understood the project, I became firmly convinced that this was the way to go and the project to build – and that on a long-term basis, this would be a winner.” Planning for the project originated under Gov. John G. Rowland, who as a radio talk-show host would ridicule it as “the magic bus,” a $60-million-a-mile ribbon of asphalt and concrete. Now, Rowland is off the air and facing a certain return to prison next month after a political corruption conviction. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

December 16, 2014

CT Construction Digest December 16, 2014

Bass Pro Shops promises often fall short

Prefabricated concrete walls are lifted into position during the start of vertical construction on the new Bass Pro Shops on Steel Point in Bridgeport, Conn. on Thursday, December 11, 2014. Photo: Brian A. Pounds / Connecticut Post
Despite appearances, the Great American Pyramid in Memphis has a lot in common with Bridgeport's Steel Point. In Tennessee's largest city, what came to be known as the Pyramid Arena occupies prime waterfront property. But a development that began with so much promise, a landmark meant to advertise the city's arrival, has sat empty for a decade.
Steel Point, also on prime land, has been empty even longer, though its vacancy took the form of an abandoned lot. Now they're each counting on a rescue from the same source.
The city of Memphis announced earlier this year it will spend more than $30 million in taxpayer money to turn the 32-story Pyramid, once home to the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies, into an enormous Bass Pro Shops store.
This follows Connecticut's issuance of $31 million in bonds to go toward building a Bass Pro Shops store at Steel Point. Vertical construction began Thursday with a 2015 opening planned.
Memphis and Bridgeport are depending on the stores to provide a much-needed economic boost. But when it comes to making the most of development opportunities, few are as successful as Bass Pro Shops itself, which according to reports has been the beneficiary of at least $500 million in public money from development incentives across the country since the 1990s.
That money is based on promises of benefits that don't always come to pass, according to a report from the Public Accountability Initiative, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational organization. "Bass Pro often fails to deliver on its promises as an economic development anchor and major tourist destination -- promises which were used to reel in government subsidies," the report reads. "Its stores successfully attract shoppers, but often do not produce sought-after economic benefits associated with major tourist destinations." Destination retail Bridgeport has long counted on the kind of benefits the report describes and which various boosters have promised. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Upcoming school work gets East Lyme go-ahead

East Lyme — The Board of Education voted 7-2 Monday to endorse a plan to renovate Niantic Center School, build a new Flanders Elementary School and close the Lillie B. Haynes School.
As a solution to the district's aging elementary schools, the Elementary Schools Design Steering Committee had recommended last month a proposal to demolish and build a new Flanders Elementary School, as well as completely renovate and expand Niantic Center School with a new gymnasium and two-story addition. The total estimated cost to the town would be $66,919,531, after state reimbursement. Under the plan, the Lillie B. Haynes building would be returned to the town, but the district would propose continuing to use space within the building for LEARN offices, Creative Playschool and Coastal Connections, a high-school program. In its vote, the board gave the Elementary Design Steering Committee the go-ahead to plan the project. The planning will include preparing for a town referendum vote, likely this spring, by developing specific plans with an architect, submitting documents for reimbursement to the state and working with the town's boards of selectmen and finance. In their discussion Monday, several school board members acknowledged the difficulty of closing one of the town's three elementary schools. But they said the declining enrollment projections from a board-commissioned demographic study, as well as the higher costs of renovating three schools, led them to choose the two-school option. "It's been tough data to break down, and a hard decision to make," said board member Robert Kupis. "We'd love to keep all the schools, but when you look at all the data, it was hard for us to support that." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Busway seen as ticket to realty development spurt

In barely four more months, thousands of daily commuters will start riding the 9.4-mile CTfastrak busway linking the downtowns of Hartford and New Britain, with eight stops in between.
With seven-day-a-week runs set to start March 28, landowners and developers already are lining up to have their tickets punched for what is shaping up as the biggest spurt of transit-oriented property development ever witnessed in Connecticut, authorities say.
In talks with area commercial realty brokers, landlords and state-transit and municipal land-planning officials, The Hartford Business Journal has identified at least a half dozen actual or planned residential-and commercial developments situated within a mile or closer to the 10 stations on the $570 million busway. Another half dozen, including acreage along Flatbush Avenue, opposite the Charter Oak Marketplace shopping center, are also said to be under consideration for development, brokers say. Projects range from the conversion of upper-story office space in a downtown New Britain building to a convenience store/gas station at the junction of Flatbush and New Park avenues in West Hartford. In West Hartford, a defunct Pontiac dealership on New Park Avenue, in the shadow of CTfastrak's New Britain Avenue station, recently went under contract to the West Hartford Housing Authority, for a housing-retail development, the town manager says.
Cumberland Farms confirms that it chose the Hartford/West Hartford gateway for its proposed retail/gas station because CTfastrak's Flatbush station is directly across the street.
Although not exactly a land rush, it's the kind of development activity that is precisely what state transportation authorities and others say they expect the busway to spur, although some say it will take time. "The areas around the 10 CTfastrak stations are already seeing increased interest and investment,'' said Randal P. Davis, special assistant to the state transportation commissioner and the busway project liaison with communities and their leaders. "There have been brownfield remediation grants awarded, and improvements to potential investment properties."
The state has about $4 million available to provide technical assistance to communities eager for transit-oriented development. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Becker expects 777Main St. apartment conversion done by spring

Fairfield developer Bruce Becker said he expects to have tenants moving into his 777 Main St. high-rise apartment complex in downtown Hartford sometime in the spring.
Becker is undertaking one of Hartford's highest profile office-to-residential conversions by renovating the former Bank of America building into a 285-unit apartment complex. The redevelopment is part of the strategy by the city and Capital Region Development Authority to add more than 700 residential units downtown. At the start of the year, Becker planned to have tenants move into his building by Labor Day, with the goal of finishing the entire project sometime in early 2015. The move-in day has been delayed by about six months, but Becker said the entire apartment conversion will be completed in the summer. "We are almost done," Becker said. "The first apartments are complete, and we are moving furniture in."
The 777 Main St. leasing office opened in December, and the apartments already have more than 100 people on a rent waitlist, Becker said. Once the apartment construction is complete, Becker said he expects to move onto phase two: installing retail tenants in the first floor of the building, including possibly opening up a grocery store. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Contractors in place to work on Weaver High School

ARTFORD — Designs for the renovation of Weaver High School are being developed now that two architectural firms have been selected for the massive project in the city's North End. The S/L/A/M Collaborative in Glastonbury and Amenta Emma Architects in Hartford will draw up renovation plans for the 40-year-old building. School administrators have said they want an emphasis on natural light. Once expected to cost up to $100 million, the Weaver overhaul is being downsized after the projected enrollment dropped from 1,350 to 900 students, said Jack Butkus of the firm ARCADIS/O&G, Hartford's school construction program manager. The new scope is being determined in the design phase. "Our shared goal is to provide Weaver with a learning environment that aligns them with the highest performing Connecticut schools, transforming the existing facility into a desired destination for faculty and students," said Glenn Gollenberg, a S/L/A/M principal and a member of Achieve Hartford!'s community engagement committee.
Both S/L/A/M and Amenta Emma have design portfolios across all commercial building categories. In education, S/L/A/M designed Capital Preparatory Magnet School and the Journalism and Media Academy Magnet School, both in Hartford. Amenta Emma designed Annie Fisher Montessori STEM and Magnet School in Hartford and the Pathways Academy of Technology and Design at Goodwin College in East Hartford. Hartford's Newfield Construction and New Britain-based Downes Construction were selected this fall to be the project's construction manager, Butkus said Monday. The competitors formed a joint venture, Newfield+Downes, for their bid. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

December 15, 2014

CT Construction Digest December 15, 2014

BLT shows off new apartments in Stamford

STAMFORD--When the first resident of The Lofts moved in four years ago, it wasn't the lackluster surroundings of the South End apartment building -- converted from a shell of the former Yale & Towne factory -- that sealed the lease deal. Quite a different view awaits the first inhabitant of the new Vault Apartments -- one block over -- scheduled for Tuesday. In a figurative sense, developer Building and Land Technology comes full circle this week, opening the last of four apartment residences planned for the 20-acre site of Yale & Towne, once the city's largest employer.
In the literal sense, the job is only half done, with the original master plan hammered out by BLT, its predecessor developer and the city of Stamford envisioning 4,000 residential units in all.
The Vault represents the tipping point toward that figure, with BLT now boasting 2,100 units of housing at Harbor Point and more on the way in the form of The Beacon, slated to open in the first quarter of next year. If "development" was long the best term to describe Harbor Point, as cranes dominated the sky of the South End while construction trucks rumbled below, today BLT can swap in the homier tagline "neighborhood" for its signature project, which it has kept humming throughout the recession and lopsided recovery.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Natural gas supply lacking in region

Cheap natural gas on Connecticut's doorstep may be plentiful, but supplying it where it's needed most is posing a challenge. While several projects on the books, including one that would add pipeline in Danbury, are aimed at increasing natural gas capacity, most of that new supply is earmarked for homes and businesses. That leaves little left to address growing concerns about the availability of the fuel for the generation of electrical power in Connecticut and throughout New England.
The lack of capacity to fuel power plants, and the resulting increase in the cost of electricity, were chief concerns raised last week by state energy and environmental officials. "We need to focus on a New England-wide approach to address the lack of energy infrastructure in our region," Robert Klee, commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, told the League of Conservation Voters on Wednesday. "That's what it will take to combat the rising electricity prices that have been all over the news lately." Klee and other industry experts explained that while local distribution companies like Yankee Gas and Southern Connecticut Gas have long-term leases with pipeline companies for new capacity that's coming online, power generation companies haven't taken that step. "Due to market failures, gas-fired generators -- who now produce more than half of the region's electricity -- are not contracting directly for the gas capacity they need to run," stated a report, the draft 2014 Integrated Resource Plan, issued by the DEEP on Thursday. Instead, those in the industry prefer to purchase natural gas on the spot market, Klee said. When spot prices spike during high-demand periods in the winter, power generation companies tend to switch to more expensive forms of fuel, such as oil. Besides increasing electric rates, Klee said, the practice is bad for the environment.
Tom Kiley, executive director of the Northeast Gas Association, said when Spectra Energy began soliciting interest for an expansion of the Algonquin pipeline system that runs through Danbury and Oxford, the company had hoped to gain a subscription rate of about 650 million cubic feet of natural gas per day from end users, including gas distribution companies and power-generation firms.

Boughton announces $40M initiative for Danbury High

DANBURY -- Mayor Mark Boughton isn't a stand-up comedian, but he earned chuckles from some 400 business and civic leaders Friday at his annual state of the city address by poking fun at his failed runs for governor and his own obsession with Twitter. The 13-year chief executive, a Danbury High School graduate and former social studies teacher, announced an ambitious, $40 million educational initiative that will revamp the high school, as well as some other educational enhancements linked to an expansion of the Naugatuck Valley Community College's presence in the city. Called "DHS 2020,'' Boughton said he hopes to begin this spring revamping the Danbury High School complex on Clapboard Ridge Road, beginning with construction of a 110,000-square-foot freshman academy at the rear of the school. A new gymnasium and locker rooms are proposed for the bottom floors, and the cafeteria would be enclosed to accommodate separate dining areas for freshmen.
The proposal that will require approval from city and school leaders, as well as taxpayers, also envisions a new front lobby and school store space for both aesthetic and security purposes, as well as a new visual and performing arts center in the current automobile shop that is located outside the main building. The school also needs a new roof at a cost of about $6 million.
"DHS 2020 will encompass programming, athletics, the arts and state-of-the-art energy efficiency,'' Boughton said. "It will be an investment in our public school system that will result in higher property values, and most importantly, better educated children.''
Boughton was also enthusiastic about a new partnership with Naugatuck Valley Community College to build on the successful manufacturing certificate program now offered at Henry Abbott Tech that will be available through Danbury High School. The idea would be to match 100 students with employers and the college so the high schoolers gain real-world experience through internships at local companies, while earning a high school diploma and an associate's degree at the same time CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Budget for new Wallingford firehouse back in line

WALLINGFORD — Plans to build a new firehouse on North Farms Road appear to be moving forward after new bids came in much lower.
“It went much better this time,” said Fire Chief Richard Heidgerd. “This time, the construction came in around $3.9 million, as opposed to last time, which was $6.4 million.”
A low bid of $3.9 million was submitted by Rocky Hill-based Milliennium Builders Inc. But Heidgerd said the final cost could increase to $6 million.
“There’s additional costs past that $3.9 million. It doesn’t include any contingency money and other furnishings and fixtures,” he said.
The cost of the new station at 884 N. Farms Road was originally estimated at about $4.9 million. A round of bids opened in August ranged from $6.4 to $8 million.
After that, the town reduced the size of the station by 20 percent and made other changes and went back out to bid. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Stonington - Last week's heavy rain caused the roof at Deans Mill School to leak again, just a few months after the town spent about $800,000 to replace it. But school board chairman Frank Todisco said Sunday that the contractor for the project, Allied Restoration Corp., will be at the school early this week to make repairs. He said that Allied Restoration also fixed other small leaks that have occurred since the project was completed in September. "We've had challenges with it but the good thing is the contractor has been very good and responsive about coming back and taking care of the issues," at no extra cost, he said. The town negotiated a 30-year warranty for the roof project so repairs are covered. Last week's storm caused water to flow into an area between the gym and library. No classrooms were affected. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

New Haven school rebuild winding down, but not all costs

NEW HAVEN >> City school board members were told recently there is a “light at the end of the tunnel” of the 20-year citywide school-construction program, but with that light comes a host of other responsibilities and price tags. Will Clark, the district’s chief operating officer, told the board of the winding down of the rebuilding of nearly all of the city’s schools, which began in 1995. While the end is nigh, “we also see continued opportunity and responsibility with respect to maintaining these facilities and what we call stewardship,” Clark told the board.
Clark presented a 15-item list of capital improvement projects proposed by the district for the city’s budget, totaling $18 million. Among those are maintenance items and other projects included in the master plan of the city’s school construction program. Other financing is for materials and equipment that are routinely replaced or maintained. On the list of remaining projects is Strong School, a proposed kindergarten-through-fourth grade lab school on Southern Connecticut State University’s campus that has a $45 million price tag. The district has already secured state money for that project, and would need to put up about $9.5 million of city financing to get it done. Clark stressed to the board the importance of keeping up with the schools that have been reconstructed and remodeled to get the most and best use of each, and to do so methodically to avoid costly flare-ups or spikes in costs. While the state gave the city about $1 billion for its extensive reconstruction program, there’s no help after the buildings are built — a problem facing all districts that build new facilities, he said.
“There’s no money on the back end,” Clark said. “We want these schools to live to their full use and life and beyond, and to do that we want to make sure we have the appropriate amount of investments and stewardship and responsibility to maintain the systems and avoid the unnecessary spikes that would come if you don’t do those things,” he said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Road &Transit investments has benefits outside the industry

 Two-thirds of the economic benefits and jobs created by federal highway and transit investment occur in non-construction sectors, according to a new analysis from IHS Inc., a leading global source of critical information and insight. The study also finds that every dollar invested through the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) in state highway, bridge and public transit infrastructure programs returns 74 cents in tax revenue.
The report, “Transportation Infrastructure Investment: Macroeconomic and Industry Contribution of Federal Highway and Mass Transit Program,” reveals that 70 percent of the economic benefits, or value-added, of federal HTF investments in transportation improvements occur in non-construction sectors of the economy. Among the sectors that benefit the most are service industries such as business, education, health and leisure, and hospitality.
The study also finds that 62 percent of the jobs created from federal highway and mass transit investments are outside the construction industry. Over one-third of all jobs created also are in service industries like business, education, health and leisure, and hospitality.
“The study shows that investment in transportation infrastructure has a positive impact on every major sector of the U.S. economy. These far reaching economic benefits contribute to economic growth by improving the nation's capital stock, which enables increased economic activity,” said Karen Campbell, a senior consultant at IHS, who produced the report with Bob Brodesky, a transportation expert and senior manager in the IHS Industry Consulting Group.
Current federal highway and public transit investment, which is about $50 billion annually, generates an average $31 billion in personal income tax receipts per year and $6 billion in federal corporate tax receipts per year due to increased economic activity, according to the analysis. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

December 12, 2014

CT Construction Digest December 12, 2014

Wynn's Boston area casion project faces new legal hurdles

Boston - New hurdles are emerging for Wynn Resorts as it prepares to build a $1.6 billion resort casino on the Everett waterfront after winning the lucrative casino license for the Boston area.
Somerville filed a lawsuit last week against the state Gaming Commission asking a state court judge to void the Wynn license. The city argues regulators should have disqualified the company or at least required it to abandon its proposed site after it became public that a convicted felon had a financial interest in the land deal, a violation of state law. Meanwhile, the gambling commission's staff last week disclosed it is conducting an inquiry after the Wall Street Journal reported that the IRS's criminal investigation division requested information on Wynn's clients, domestic and overseas marketing offices and internal controls. The newspaper said federal authorities are probing whether the Las Vegas-based gambling giant violated money laundering laws. Those developments come as the casino is focused on plans to clean up the polluted former Monsanto chemical plant site ahead of breaking ground on the project. And Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said this week that his administration is still in talks with the casino on a possible compensation agreement since the resort is expected to impact traffic in and around Sullivan Square. Anti-casino activists say the Somerville lawsuit, which follows one filed in October by the city of Revere, is unsurprising.
"Somerville has been pretty open about its intention to try to slow down if not stop the project," said John Ribeiro, head of Repeal the Casino Deal. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Southington plans $5M water system upgrade

SOUTHINGTON — Water service, both its volume and pressure, will be improved on the town's east side by a million-gallon water storage tank off Andrews Road and a new booster pump station on high school property. The Eastside Pressure Zone project will cost $5.7 million. A loan from a state drinking water fund will provide short-term financing for the work. Long- term financing will come from the sale of bonds. The town council has set a Jan 13 public hearing on the bonding ordinance.
The project, several years in the planning by the water department, resulted from a hydraulic study of the town and its water system. The study was done to determine the best site for more storage for the gravity-fed system, which is used by 12,000 customers.
"It will greatly increase fire flows and volume and will allow us to extend water service to residents now using wells if they decide to use the system," Water Department Superintendent Fred Rogers said Thursday. "This is a win-win situation. It will improve water pressure to Chesterwood Terrace and Windemere Ridge Drive, sections where pressure is low."
The water tank will be built on a 460-foot-high parcel off Smith Street. A 2,500-foot main pipe will connect the tank to the proposed pumping station. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Construction has begun on Guilford Commons, a 26-acre site at 1919 Boston Post Road that has sat vacant for years, earning the moniker “the Rock pile.” After several false starts, Developers Diversified Realty Corp. is moving forward with its plans for a shopping plaza that will have 139,000 square feet of retail space, according to Matt Schuler, DDR director of communications.
“Construction at the future site of the Guilford Commons shopping center started in late August,.” Schuler said. “We anticipate stores will begin opening in late 2015.”
The property is prime commercial land located near exit 57 off I-95. But it has been a long road to get the site developed, mostly due to the recession that began in 2007 and the effects of which still linger today, as well as opposition from residents who didn’t want to see any “big box” stores included.
The development goes back six years to when it was first approved in 2008. But as the recession wore on, tenants who had committed to the project began to pull out, and an attempt to bring a Costco to the development failed amid public opposition. It became known as the “rockpile” after DDR stopped construction in 2009 when it was only in the beginning stages of land preparation.
wo years ago, DDR put the site up for sale but eventually decided to move forward with development plans as the economy continued to improve. The plans that were approved in July are about 10,000 square feet smaller than those approved in 2008. It’s not likely that potential tenants will be announced until the plaza’s opening nears next year, Schuler said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Towantic protestors rally against plant

NEW BRITAIN — Public hearings for the proposed power plant in Oxford will begin next month.
While dozens of protestors railed against the project outside its headquarters, the Connecticut Siting Council on Thursday scheduled the first hearing for Jan. 15 in Oxford to hear evidence on the proposed CPV Towantic Energy Center. In case of inclement weather, the hearing will be postponed to Jan. 29. Melanie Bachman, executive director of the council, said the January hearing will be the first of several dealing with the proposed 805-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant.
The council last month agreed to consider an application for the facility that would be built off Woodruff Hill Road in Oxford. The project was approved based on permits from 1999 allowing for a smaller 512-megawatt plant on 26 acres in an industrial zone, a half-mile east of Waterbury-Oxford Airport. Massachusetts-based Competitive Power Ventures wants to build the larger plant at the same location. The Jan. 15 hearing will begin at 1:30 p.m. with a tour of the proposed site, which is just over the Middlebury town line. At 3 p.m. at Oxford High School, council members will begin hearing evidence from CPV, as well as those granted party and intervener status in the application.
Public comments will be heard starting at 6 p.m.
About 75 protestors from Oxford, Middlebury, Southbury, Naugatuck and other nearby towns descended on the council's headquarters for Thursday's meeting. There was no public comment permitted during the meeting, so people gathered outside with signs bearing phrases like, "Just say no," and "Stop Towantic power." They chanted, "No power plant," in unison. Some wore surgical masks, saying they would need them if the plant is built. Wayne McCormack, leader of an Oxford-based advocacy group called Stop Towantic Power, said, "Our goal is to get the press' attention and the public's attention. We need to influence the council members that this is not in the best interest of the state of Connecticut." McCormack said most of the protesters are concerned about health risks they say could be caused by the plant's pollution. "The town is trading lives for money," he said.
Oxford resident Amy Sarris said she was excited this summer after she received a flyer advertising a new energy source coming to Oxford, but was disappointed when she found out it was a natural gas facility. She said the town should consider alternative green energy sources, such as wind or solar power, in exchange for the plant. "It's the wrong decision for Oxford," Sarris said. "We need to be green and mindful so we don't destroy our natural resources."

December 11, 2014

CT Construction Digest December 11, 2014

Dick's Sporting Goods prepared to move to North Haven

NORTH HAVEN >> The town is busy beefing up its business community with several projects scheduled to be launched early next year along the Universal Drive-State Street corridor.
The start of 2015 will see a major renovation of the Home Depot Plaza in North Haven as Pittsburgh-based retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods prepares to move into 33,000 square feet of space left vacant by the closing of XPect Discount in July 2013, said Michael Freda, the town’s first selectman. Once the renovation of the shopping plaza is complete, Dick’s Sporting Goods is expected to open next summer, Freda said. “It’s good to fill a space that has been vacant for awhile now,” he said. “Dick’s Sporting Goods sells a lot of merchandized that Sport Authority (which is located further south on Universal Drive) doesn’t.” Officials with Dick’s Sporting Goods were not immediately available for comment on Wednesday. The chain has eight Connecticut stores, including one in Milford. Construction is already underway a little further north on Universal Drive on a new upscale movie theater. Texas-based Cinemark Holdings is building a new 14-screen theater at the rear of the existing theater at 550 Universal Drive, which will be torn down once the new facility opens sometime this spring. Freda said plans also call for two restaurants and two retailers to occupy the movie theater property. Also scheduled to open on Universal Drive in the Target shopping plaza is The SmartLiving Center, a joint effort between UI and CL&P as part of the Energize Connecticut initiative, according to Freda. The SmartLiving Center, a retail outlet designed to promote energy efficiency, had been located on the Boston Post Road <URL destination="">before it was announced in July that the store would move to North Haven. </URL>There is also some commercial real estate activity along the State Street in town, Freda said. Cable television provider Comcast is opening a 9,000 square foot facility at 283 State St, that will house repair technicians and their vehicles. The company has already opened a customer service facility on Universal Drive, Freda said. Further north on State Street, package shipping giant FedEx is expanding into 100,000 square feet of the 372,000 square foot former Northeast Graphix complex at 297 State St., he said. The plant has been empty since Quebecor moved out of the plant in June 2008. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

New Haven housing project underway in East Rock

NEW HAVEN >> A neighborhood eyesore will be converted to 235 apartments in the Goatville section of East Rock with portions preserved as a tribute to the city’s industrial past.
Andy Montelli of Post Road Residential in Fairfield is redeveloping the 3.1 acre industrial site in the Upper State Street Historic District in two distinct parts. City and development officials Wednesday were at the ground-breaking for the project that was defined by neighborhood input around design and parking needs under leadership of Alder Jessica Holmes, D-9. Mayor Toni Harp said it is important for cities such as New Haven, with a relatively small land mass, to blend new buildings with historic structures and residences with retail. She said this totally private development is an example of the city’s “red hot real estate market,” that is attracting outside investors. The building along Lawrence Street will be kept with a restaurant likely on the first floor and three apartments upstairs. John Herzan, preservation services officer for the New Haven Preservation Trust, said it was important that this section remain as it complements the small square across the street at the intersections of Mechanic, Lawrence and State streets.
He said Montelli attended several meetings of the commission because of its concerns on saving as much as possible. “We feel everyone has come up with a wonderfully realistic compromise where there is a remnant of the past preserved,” Herzan said. The developer will save cast-concrete relief panels that have images related to the 1943 MB Manufacturing company located on the State Street portion where airplane parts were made during World War II. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Scott Road project opens repair bids

PROSPECT — Scott Road is one step closer to receiving long-anticipated paving and drainage repairs. Bids for the project were opened Wednesday afternoon at the state Department of Transportation's Newington headquarters. Eleven companies bid for the job, and Mystic-based B&W Paving and Landscaping came in with the lowest estimate of $1.91 million. Dayton Construction Co., Inc. of Watertown; Richards Corp. of Terryville and Guerrera Construction Co., Inc. of Oxford also bid. Scott A. Roberts, DOT senior project manager, said the improvements will be funded 20 percent by the state and 80 percent by the Federal Highway Administration. The town will foot the bill for all engineering and design expenses. The work is part of a three-phase reconstruction. Phase one was completed about seven years ago and extended from the Waterbury city line to Nicholas Court.
Phase two will regrade, curb and repave about 3,000 feet of road from Nicholas Court to Maria Hotchkiss Road. Mayor Robert J. Chatfield said crews will dig down 18 inches on the road, lay down new gravel and put in catch basins every 300 feet. He said once completed, the road will be 28 feet wide to discourage parking on the streets. Roberts said work will likely start in April. Chatfield said before construction begins, all nearby residents will receive a letter to explain the project. He said work will be done in daylight during the week, and not on weekends. "It will be inconvenient," he said. "This thing has been in the planning stages since 1976. It was on the books when I came in. This isn't something that just happened overnight." He said phase three, from where phase two leaves off to Route 69, is "a few more light years down the road."

December 10, 2014

CT Construction Digest December 10, 2014

Bethel narrowly votes down police station

BETHEL -- By 69 votes, taxpayers on Tuesday night rejected a proposal to spend $14.1 million to build a new police station, dealing a blow to those who believe the existing 8,500-square-foot facility is inadequate. Taxpayers did agree to foot the initial $2.4 million bill to construct a water tank in the Long Ridge neighborhood, a health and fire safety project that ultimately will be paid through state grants, loans and water-rate increases for 10,000 users over the course of several decades. The vote for that project was 1,283-480. Residents voted to spend $4.3 million for a new energy-services contract expected to save the town as much as $30,000 in annual energy costs. That vote was 977-785. First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker said he was disheartened by the 926-857 vote to defeat the proposed police station, and by the low voter turnout for a two-year effort to, in his view, do right by the town's law-enforcement personnel. But more than 2,000 fliers opposing the new police station were distributed to residents over the weekend. "That is really disappointing," Knickerbocker said as he headed to the Municipal Center to hear the unofficial results. "I think the disinformation campaign may have had an impact. This is a real shame for our police department, a real shame. They did not deserve this last-minute ambush that confused just enough voters to tip the balance." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Streetscape project one step closer to completion

BERLIN — The town’s plan to improve the look of the section of Main Street that connects to New Britain Road and Farmington Avenue has taken a step forward.
The town recently received $204,000 in grants to supplement an earlier grant of $259,300 to pay for the direct costs of improving the streetscape in the area that surrounds the train station. The additional money will allow the town to expand on its original project design. The new grant, according to Economic Development Director Jim Mahoney, “will fund improvements in the balance of the triangle” that is Main Street, New Britain Road and Farmington Avenue. The Town Council has agreed to have Luchs Consulting Engineers, LLC, look into the project and design the additional improvements. Last year, Luchs Consulting was hired to design the first phase of the plan.
“It would be most efficient to use the same engineering consultant for additional work,” Mahoney noted. The additional design work will cost approximately $23,000. It will include, according to documents provided by the firm, the east sidewalk between Main Street and Farmington Avenue, the south sidewalk between New Britain Avenue and Main Street, the south sidewalk between Main Street and Farmington Avenue, and the north corner sidewalk by Deming Park. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Salem considers moving up renovations to school roof

Salem - The Board of Education and the Board of Selectmen are considering a recommendation by the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) to renovate the roof of the 1994 addition to Salem School a year earlier than scheduled in the school board's 10-year capital plan.
CREC made the recommendations in a presentation to the Board of Education at its meeting last week. CREC's recommendation also includes installing solar panels and an upgrade of the interior lighting system to LED technology. Solar panels have been installed on other town buildings, including the Town Hall, Salem Free Public Library, Gardner Lake Fire Company and the Public Works building, which have saved the town about $8,000 a year according to First Selectman Kevin Lyden. At the selectmen's meeting a few days after the presentation, school board member George Jackson, liaison to the selectmen, relayed the recommendations. Lyden said he did not support the proposal, and asked the school board to consider, and ask CREC for, a proposal for installing solar panels on the two-thirds of the roof that was renovated as part of the recent $6.2 million school renovation, leaving the upgrades for the 1994 addition for the 2016-17 fiscal year, as scheduled.
"Even at that time, it would be assessed to see if it needs to be done at that time or if it could last a couple of years," said Lyden. "Rarely do you see things funded ahead of time, unless it's an emergency-type thing, especially something this expensive." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

CL&P finishes Stamford transmission line

Berlin electric utility Connecticut Light & Power finished its nine-month construction of a new underground transmission line in Stamford, a project that included tunneling under the Metro-North Railroad.
The 1.5-mile project is part of a long-term plan to improve electric reliability as Stamford and the surrounding area grow and increases its need for power.
In addition to tunneling under Metro-North, the Stamford Reliability Cable Project also had to route around the Stamford Urban Transitway, which was the city's roadway improvement project between East Main and Atlantic streets.
The 115-kilovolt underground transmission line links two existing substations in the Glenbrook and South End neighborhoods of Stamford, ensuring power will flow freer and easier in the city.

NU inks natural gas pipeline access deal

Northeast Utilities has signed a deal with a Shelton natural gas transmission company to increase natural gas access for NU's planned $3 billion pipeline expansion.
NU and its partner in the pipeline expansion, Spectra Energy of Houston, formed the alliance with Iroquois Gas Transmission System of Shelton to make sure the pipeline would have enough access to natural gas to meet the growing demand in New England.
NU announced the $3 billion pipeline expansion in September, in order to meet the natural gas demand in the region for both home heating and power generation. The commodity cost of natural gas is significantly lower than other heating/generation fuels, but limited pipeline access to New England constricts the amount of natural gas that can be brought into the region, especially in winter.
The deal with Iroquois gives NU and Spectra access to the 416 miles of Iroquois pipeline that reach natural gas deposits and storage in the U.S. and Canada.

Developer Mews Apartment -Townhouse Proposal Brought to Officials

Developers have brought the Glastonbury Mews, a 150-unit housing project at the corner of House Street and Hebron Avenue, to town officials. The proposal calls for 84 apartment units within three buildings and 66 townhomes within 11 buildings.
 GLASTONBURY — Developers have begun informal discussions with town officials on a proposed 150-unit housing complex within the town center. Continental Properties Inc. brought the Glastonbury Mews project before the town plan and zoning commission on Tuesday to get feedback.
The proposal calls for 84 apartment units within three buildings and 66 townhouse within 11 buildings. It would include a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and townhouses on a vacant lot at the corner of House Street and Hebron Avenue.
Developers said the larger apartment buildings would be closest to the Route 2 highway ramp in order to buffer them from the rest of the site. A number of mature trees stand between the exit ramp and the proposed development area. The development would use "green" building methods, including solar panels to provide electrical service to the clubhouse; a water collection system for landscape irrigation; bike racks; electric car charging stations; and use of recycled pavers and brick, the developer said. The proposal also calls for a pool and clubhouse along with garages and parking.
Peter J. Alter, the developer's attorney, called the site "the most difficult intersection in Glastonbury."CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail upgrades on track

A U.S. Congressman bound for a train to Springfield paused to behold the golden view above his head inside the grand main waiting room at New Haven’s Union Station.
“I’m just blown away looking at that ceiling,” he said. The Congressman, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, was speaking at a stopover press conference held Monday as he prepared to board the Amtrak train to Hartford, then Springfield. The reason for the press conference: to highlight the improvements coming to rail service thanks in part to federal dollars he helped secure along with New Haven U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro; and to look at what else can happen to boost the commuter rail.
A $365 million project is underway  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

December 9, 2014

CT Construction Digest December 9, 2014

Ex-National Grid exec to lead NU gas operations in CT, Mass

HARTFORD >> Northeast Utilities has selected a former National Grid executive to serve as president of the energy company’s natural gas operations in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
William Akley had served as senior vice president for U.S. operations for London-based National Grid. In that job, he was responsible for field operations including construction, maintenance and meter services throughout the company’s service territory in New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Akley replaces Rodney Powell, who has taken on a new role at Northeast Utilities as the company’s president of corporate citizenship. Powell had been president of Yankee Gas since 2008 and added leadership duties with NSTAR Gas after Northeast Utilities merged with the Boston-based energy company in April 2012. “Bill is a seasoned veteran of the utility industry with more than 30 years of experience in all facets of the natural gas sector,” Werner Schweiger, executive vice president and chief operating officer at NU, said in a statement. “His solid track record for exceptional operational and safety performance along with his extensive knowledge and foresight will be invaluable for our customers as we continue to expand access to natural gas in Connecticut and Massachusetts.” Akley’s new role has him in charge of delivering natural gas to approximately 214,000 customers in 71 cities and towns in Connecticut with Yankee Gas and 300,000 customers in 51 cities and towns in Massachusetts with NSTAR Gas. Yankee Gas is in the midst of a decade along expansion of its natural gas distribution lines.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Asbestos, parking among school priorities

Groton - Removing asbestos, fixing the parking problem at Mary Morrisson Elementary School and planning school construction should be top priorities for capital spending in the coming fiscal year, a Board of Education subcommittee decided Monday. The spending recommendation - a little more than  $1 million - will now go to the Board of Education for a vote and then the town. School officials had initially suggested about $3.4 million in capital projects - all as top priorities - including money for schools expected to be torn down later. Then last week, Town Manager Mark Oefinger urged the school board to review its list. If every project is a priority, the Representative Town Meeting may conclude that none are really priorities and reject them all, Oefinger said. Superintendent Michael Graner presented the revised list Monday. The request includes $785,000 to remove asbestos from Fitch High School and Claude Chester Elementary School. It would also spend $100,000 to develop plans to remove asbestos at S.B. Butler Elementary School, Carl C. Cutler and West Side middle schools, and the district administration building. Groton is working on a long-term plan for its schools that would build one middle school, convert its two middle schools to elementary schools, and close three older elementary schools. Even though Claude Chester and S. B. Butler schools are slated for closure under that plan, the state will help pay to remove asbestos, Graner said.CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Route 6 sidewalk project to begin in spring 

BROOKLYN — A second holiday season with Wal-Mart on Route 6 has arrived and First Selectman Rick Ives is hoping it will be a safe one.
A 900-foot stretch between Wal-Mart and the rest of the Route 6 commercial area is void of sidewalks. In the two months between the Nov. 1, 2013, opening of the retail giant’s 24-hour store in Brooklyn and the start of 2014, three pedestrians were hit by cars in the area. None were seriously hurt. “I wanted sidewalks in by this winter,” Ives said. “We just have to get through another winter and hope nothing happens."
Ives signed an agreement with the state this week to move ahead with a sidewalk construction project. He said the sidewalks are expected to be built in the spring.
Brooklyn has the money for the sidewalks thanks to a $500,000 grant the Northeast Connecticut Council of Governments received on behalf of Brooklyn in early 2014. Ives has spent most of 2014, however, trying to sort out the plan for the sidewalks with the state, which has final say on all projects related to state highways.
In 2013, Ives had estimated the sidewalk would cost about $370,000. However, he said the state has allowed design changes that should bring the project under $300,000. The leftover money can be used for another NECCOG approved project, he said.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Now that the scheduled start of New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail service is just two years away, Massachusetts and Connecticut leaders stepping up their campaign to encourage new development around stations on the route.
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., led a delegation of Springfield officials and business executives Monday morning on a tour of the train stations in Hartford and New Haven to view improvements that their city might want as it extensively renovates its own station. Massachusetts wants to complete a roughly $80 million makeover of the 88-year-old station that currently serves Amtrak customers. The plan is to redesign it as a regional transportation hub with a terminal that can also handle 26 buses and substantially more rail passengers. The city also wants about 60,000 square feet of retail space on the second floor, and officials examined the New Haven and Hartford stations to see what kind of development they'd generated. At Union Station in Hartford, they toured and watched construction crews rebuilding the approach area from Spruce Street that's intended to lead to a new indoor waiting area for CT Transit bus riders. The center will have new heating, lighting and security systems, and will include a bus layover area and bike parking racks. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE


December 8, 2014

CT Construction Digest December 8, 2014

Development proponents hope for state cash

BRIDGEPORT -- A transformative South End redevelopment is in the hands of the state.
Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust and POKO Partners LLC want Connecticut's housing officials to fund almost half of their $12 million venture to replace rundown or vacant properties on Ridge Avenue, Gregory, Walnut, Johnson and Columbia streets and Columbia Court with 52 affordable, multifamily units. "The South End is a tipping-point neighborhood," Elizabeth Torres, the nonprofit Neighborhood Trust's executive director, told the city's Zoning Board of Appeals last week.
That section of town has plenty of amenities -- Seaside Park, the University of Bridgeport and proximity to downtown. But it is also home to the aged Marina Village public housing complex, with the crime and other societal problems that have accompanied it. "The ripple effects of that have been devastating," Torres said, referring to nearby blocks of blighted or foreclosed homes.
Her plans with Port Chester-based POKO and a third team member -- the Bridgeport Housing Authority -- are intended to revitalize the neighborhood ahead of the BHA's eventual replacement of Marina Village. But to break ground, Torres and POKO need $5 million from the Connecticut Department of Housing.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

New bridge will keep Pearl Harbor memory alive

Construction continues on the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in New Haven, Conn., on Thursday Dec. 4, 2014. Photo: Christian Abraham / Connecticut Post

Connecticut residents have an impressive reminder of the "day that will live in infamy,'' the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that happened 73 years ago Sunday. Even as the men and women who were there that day are passing from the scene, construction crews are racing to complete the new Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge, which carries Interstate 95 over the Quinnipiac River in New Haven.
The northbound span was completed in 2012 and the southbound bridge is scheduled for completion on June 30, 2015. The bridge, designed to look like a battleship, is the centerpiece of a $2 billion highway improvement project that replaces what returning World War II veterans built in the late 1950s. The anchor piers, at the ends of the new spans, have the wording "Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge" and "December 7, 1941" in gold leaf formed onto the concrete as a memorial designation.
"The bridge is meant to remind people of the Pearl Harbor attack," said Jim Platosh, project manager for the URS Corp., at the dedication of the northbound span. "The shape of the columns recall the smokestacks of a battleship." On some holidays, including Memorial Day and Veterans Day, light cannons on the center tower legs will be illuminated, shining a shaft of light to the heavens.
But will all that be enough to remind younger state residents of the Japanese attack and the 17 Connecticut residents who died there that day? There have been other infamous days in U.S. history since then, including 9/11 that inspire the same feelings as Pearl Harbor.
There has been a concerted marketing effort to get residents to call the new bridge by its formal name. The old span was also named the Pearl Harbor Memorial, but nearly as soon as it was opened in 1958, it became "the Q'' for the motorists using it.
Traffic reporters are doing their best to get the official name into wider use. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Repairs statr today on damaged sewer line in Norwich

Norwich Norwich Public Utilities will repair a damaged section of the city sewer system this week that could potentially cause a section of Broadway to collapse. Work will begin today and last through Friday between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. Approximately 90 feet of 18-inch diameter sewer line between 120 and 177 Broadway, just north of City Hall, will be replaced and will close the street. For the duration of this project, traffic headed north on Broadway will be diverted onto Willow Street (right turn), left onto Chestnut Street, and a left onto Franklin Street, then onto McKinley Avenue.
The sewer line is located nearly 15 feet below street level and will require contractors from RW White Construction to use heavy equipment, including a 30-ton excavator. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Hackett on Politics: Transportation will be the new priority

Brace yourself for sticker shock next month, and I’m not referring to the credit card bill that will arrive in January with all those Christmas purchases. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will be sworn in for a second term on Jan. 7 and in his inaugural address he is expected to begin a “frank and honest,” not to mention long overdue, discussion with the citizens of Connecticut and their elected representatives in Hartford about transportation. As the keynote speaker at a transportation forum last week, Malloy said addressing the state’s transportation needs will be a priority for him over the next four years. He did not elaborate or provide many specifics to what he will propose other than to say there are only two options: We can continue to talk about it, or we can act.
 Long neglected It has long been established that Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure has been grossly neglected for decades because the funds that should have been earmarked for those projects has been consistently redirected to other, non-transportation, projects. And the price tag to make up for that neglect will be hefty. For example, completing Route 11, which involves construction of a mere eight miles of highway, would cost $1 billion in today’s dollars. Every year it gets delayed, the meter keeps running. In fact, not a single Department of Transportation designated “priority” transportation project in Eastern Connecticut is scheduled to begin anytime soon because there is no money to get them started, never mind finished — and the meter keeps running. Talk of adding a third lane to Interstate 95 from Branford to the Rhode Island border is just that – talk.
 Worse, the Department of Transportation’s “priority projects” that are on the schedule are being dropped because there is not enough money. Plans to add a third lane to Interstate 84 from Danbury to Waterbury — estimated at between $3 billion and $4 billion — were taken off the schedule last week. Transportation is an economic issue. The efficient moving of goods and people is critical in maintaining a vibrant economy. How many eight-mile stretches of roadway, not including the bridges that connect them, need to be upgraded across the state? And how many billions will that take? CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Shale Gas Line to the Northeast gets Federal Nod

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Federal energy regulators have approved a $700 million pipeline project designed to bring cheap Marcellus Shale natural gas from Pennsylvania into high-priced markets in New England and New York. The project's backers said Wednesday that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's approval means the 124-mile Constitution Pipeline could be built and operational by next winter, if it gets the remaining regulatory approvals from Pennsylvania, New York and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a timely fashion.
The project is the first to be approved out of a slew of proposals designed to bring Marcellus Shale gas to New York and New England. The lead partners are Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Williams Partners LP and Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. Williams will operate the pipeline, while Cabot and Southwestern Energy have long-term agreements to supply the gas. Other partners include Piedmont Natural Gas Company Inc. and WGL Holdings Inc. Lindsay Schneider, an analyst at Wood Mackenzie, said the pipeline could bring up prices for producers like Cabot in northern Pennsylvania, while potentially bring down home heating prices in New York and New England. But calculating the effect on home heating prices would be difficult to do, she said. Meanwhile, solving the larger problem of winter energy price spikes in New England will require an additional expansion of pipeline capacity into that area for those coldest days of the year, she said.
The Marcellus Shale is the largest-known underground natural gas reservoir in Pennsylvania. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Waterbury on map for of federal rail options

WATERBURY — The Federal Railroad Administration is developing its long-term investment plan for the Northeast Corridor, its busiest passenger rail line.
One of three options under review is construction of new high-speed tracks between New York and Boston that would stop in Danbury, Waterbury, Hartford and Storrs. The agency is still in the early stages of planning, with no cost estimates, environmental assessments, or pathways for any of its proposals. Those won't come until next year. "We still have a long way to go, still deciding what will be studied further," spokesman Michael England said. "Nothing is written in stone." Waterbury is "excited to be on the map," even though the future being discussed in Washington is a long way off, said Kevin DelGobbo, top adviser to Mayor Neil M. O'Leary. The city is focusing on its immediate goals, like physical track and sign improvements to Metro-North's Waterbury line and train station renovations in the spring, he said. "But any discussion of expanding rail service is good for us," DelGobbo said. "We take it as a good sign that there is serious consideration of investment in the rail system." The 457-mile Northeast Corridor line linking Washington, New York, and Boston is one of the most heavily traveled rail corridors in the world, according to FRA. It is also congested, struggling to keep pace with current ridership demands. It will only get worse as the population of the region grows an expected 13 percent through 2040. The agency is considering three options:
Modest improvements, mostly to repair and to replace aging infrastructure, that wouldn't expand service but would likely lead to a slight increase in ridership. Expanding service by building the existing rail line out to maximum size within existing right-of-way, which would mean four or even six tracks in some spots. Significantly expanding rail service by building two new tracks the length of the corridor, which would increase speeds, decrease travel times and open up new markets. The agency is giving serious consideration to adding the Storrs campus of the University of Connecticut to the passenger rail system, including it in both rail expansion options. In the second option, the agency calls for a supplemental route between New Haven, Hartford and Providence running through Meriden and Storrs. It doesn't say why. The second option, which focuses most of its funding on expanding its existing two-track to a four- or six-track system, also calls for new Hudson River and East River tunnels. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE