The waxed floors at Dolan Middle School gleamed Thursday morning, and the tiled walls shined.
In the classrooms, tables, desks and chairs were arranged. On Monday, students will arrive to fill them and start a new school year.
A week or so earlier, you wouldn’t have thought it possible.
Dolan then was crawling with workers.
Furniture was piled in the hallways and cafeteria. Masons were on scaffolds outside the building. Painters were at work inside. Contractors, inside and outside, were installing new windows.
It was loud with the sound of tools and equipment. Dust was everywhere.
“It looked pretty bad a week ago, but I feel good about the progress of it now,” Dolan Head Custodian Scott Johnstone said Thursday. “It was kind of like that show, ‘While You Were Out.’”
That was an HGTV cable television program that sent in a team to make over rooms while the homeowner was gone for the day.
Change the home to a school, change the day to the summer, and you get the idea.
Each summer, depending on the allocation of funds, one school building in particular gets a makeover.
This year it was the 67-year-old Dolan building at Toms Road and Hope Street. About $3.8 million of work has been done since the end of June, said Jeff Pardo, construction manager for the city Engineering Department, which oversees large school projects. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Groundbreaking for new Harding High campus
BRIDGEPORT — After years of debate and planning, the city Monday broke ground on a new Warren Harding High School.
“The Harding High School community deserves a new state-of-the-art campus, and thanks to years of hard work, we’re doing just that,” said Mayor Bill Finch.
The school, expected to open in 2018, is being built at Boston Avenue and Bond Street on General Electric property the company will give to the city upon completion.
The contaminated site is being cleaned up by GE, under the supervision of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The decision to build a school on that site was a hotly contested one and there are still some, like the school board’s Howard Gardner, who believe it to be a bad idea.
The size of the new Harding High has also changed over time, expanding to 145,000 square feet — large enough for 1,150 students. And with that, the price tag has grown from $78 million to $106 million.
The school will have baseball and football fields and an eight-lane running track.
Finch’s dream is to rename Harding after President Barack Obama, but that change would need school board approval.
Public hearing planned for Eversource substation proposal
Efforts to stop a proposed new electrical substation on Railroad Avenue could reach a critical point Tuesday when the Connecticut Siting Council conducts a public hearing on the issue.
Eversource Energy wants to build a new substation; the council will make the ultimate decision on its application. Residents and business owners have been making a push to block the project.
The utility company’s spokesmen say the new substation is needed to keep Greenwich’s demand from going over capacity.
Melanie Bachman, the siting council’s acting executive director, said the members and their staff are scheduled to gather at 1 p.m. at the Greenwich Library. They will take a bus tour of the proposed site, starting at the existing Cos Cob substation, moving to Bruce Park and finally to Railroad Avenue.
“This is an opportunity for the council and staff to step onto the site itself and observe what’s in the vicinity,” Bachman said.
Engineers from Eversource will be at the site visit to explain how the plans will impact the area. Discussion would likely include how the substation would fit into the existing environmental system and any potential wetlands impact.
“Our charge is to balance the potential adverse environmental effect with the potential need for the project,” Bachman said.
Once the visual inspection of the site is done, the council is scheduled to return to the library at 3 p.m. for two hours of testimony from the company, the project’s supporters and its critics. The council will have the opportunity to cross examine anyone who speaks.
After a dinner break, the public will be allowed to make comments beginning at 6:30 p.m.. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
New price tag $55M Middletown voters to decide on $15M more for sewer project
MIDDLETOWN >> Not for the first time, the city is asking the voters for more money to finish a crucial sewer project.
With estimates from engineering experts at Rocky Hill-based CDR Maquire proving inadequate to build a new pumping station and connect the city’s wastewater lines to the Cromwell-based Mattabassett Sewer District, the electorate will decide whether or not to authorize an extra $15 million in bond sales.
Voters first approved what would have been a $37 million project in 2012. In 2014, the city agreed to pump in an extra $3 million.
Now, the total price tag may nose up to $55 million, although $5 million of the latest round of bonding — if it passes muster in November — is a safety net
“Just because we’ve authorized it doesn’t mean we have to use it,” said Water and Sewer Director Guy Russo.
Officials stressed that the city would not necessarily borrow the entire sum at once, and that bringing a Middletown-only sewer system up to snuff would cost exponentially more than the regionalization plan. CDR Maguire originally estimated that construction on a pump station would cost $19.5 million. Russo said the city only received one bid on the project, for $28.9 million, and the consultants then updated their estimate to around $25 million.
Republican Councilwoman Sandra Russo-Driska, who is challenging Democrat incumbent Mayor Daniel Drew, sent written objections through her fellow Republican Councilman Sebastian Giuliano, who read them at last week’s special meeting of the Common Council.
“There is no excuse for a project to have a 45-percent overrun,” Russo-Driska wrote.
Contractors from New Jersey-based Northeast Remsco Construction have been laying sewer pipes along Route 9 for months already, drilling sideways through the earth to string PVC and steel segments from Middletown to Cromwell. Russo told the Press that the drillers were closing in on the project’s halfway mark.
With costs mounting, the city finds itself rather between a rock and a hard place.
“If we don’t join the Mattabassett District, it’ll cost us triple the amount to do our own,” said Majority Leader Thomas Serra, who sits on the district’s board of directors as well as the city-side Mattabassett Regionalization Building Committee. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Meriden encouraged by downtown development
MERIDEN — City officials are encouraged by a recent report that shows several new commercial and real estate developments, especially in the downtown area.
The annual report details work by the city’s Planning Department in 2014. It also represents progress in the city’s downtown transit-oriented development (TOD) zone, City Planner Dominick Caruso said.
That district roughly comprises the land within a half-mile radius of the State Street train station, and is designed to ease the application process for developers. Land within the district is subject to special zoning regulations, including parking requirements.
Caruso said the TOD is a little more than 8 percent of the entire city. According to the review, more than 16 percent of the site plans submitted to the city were within the district.
“All the work we did to get the TOD going is verified here and it continues here,” Caruso said.
Two site plan applications were submitted for areas within the TOD, whereas 10 were submitted for the rest of the city. One in the TOD was approved, and eight elsewhere in the city were approved, according to the annual review.
The one not approved in the TOD was for a commercial and residential development at 143 W. Main St. The plan stalled because it’s pending other approvals. The one approved was for a residential and commercial building at 24 Colony St., Caruso said. It is expected to have 11,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space, 63 apartment units, and an attached four-story parking garage expected to be used by rail commuters.
City Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski said that the project is “the major milestone for the city. We haven’t had any major development downtown in decades.”
While the application for 24 Colony required administrative review because of its complexity, plans submitted that meet development requirements in the TOD are subject to an expedited review process. This was the case for a new laundromat at 72 Cook Ave., Caruso said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Investment could also create or save as many as 168,000 permanent and temporary jobs, according to the New England Coalition for Affordable Energy, whose membership includes the Connecticut Business & Industry Association.
The study compares two scenarios. The first scenario is that energy infrastructure levels remain where they are today. The second assumes a 43 percent expansion in natural pipeline capacity, 1,360 megawatts of added wind energy, 920 megawatts of added nonrenewable generation, and a 500-megawatt addition of electricity imports from New York or Canada.
Adding that capacity would generate approximately $9 billion in construction activity, the study said. The study's authors noted that there are six proposed major New England infrastructure projects, including Northern Pass, that are expected to mitigate some of the financial and economic impacts. DOWNLOAD PDFs
Read the energy coalition's report
Rival developers stake out plans for EH, WL malls
EAST HARTFORD — Simon Property Group has announced plans to build an outlet mall in Windsor Locks, but the CEO of Horizon Group Properties, which is developing East Hartford’s The Shoppes at Rentschler Field, asserts that the only outlet mall in the area will be in East Hartford.
“There’s only going to be one outlet built in the Hartford market,” Gary Skoien, CEO of Horizon Group Properties, says. “Our project is the one that is going to be done first and therefore the only one, and also the one that’ll make a difference to the state of Connecticut and the greater Hartford area.”
The Shoppes at Rentschler Field are well on their way to becoming a reality for East Hartford after planning began in March 2014. With a Department of Transportation traffic study nearing completion and a final site plan undergoing review, a groundbreaking is expected in late fall.
The outlet mall is part of a plan by town officials to redevelop the area around the stadium and the Silver Lane corridor. At completion, it will boast an entertainment center and apartments, as well as the outlet center.
“The difference between these projects is that this is transformational,” Skoien said. “The other is just an outlet center. It’s really going to be a huge change for East Hartford. And the other thing is that it’ll be huge for Hartford’s conventions. It’s just one more selling point.”
East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc echoed Skoien, saying the redevelopment will signify a new chapter for the town. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Quarry Walk ready to run
OXFORD — A long-anticipated economic development project that officials say would create a defined town center is more than just a concept — it is well on its way to getting built.
On Friday, Haynes Development Co. broke ground on construction of the first building in the project — a 2,500-square-foot Newtown Savings Bank branch. It's part of the first phase of a mixed-use development project at the site of Haynes' quarry on Route 67, or Oxford Road.
"This is happening, it's the beginning of the project and it's going to be great for the town," First Selectman George R. Temple said.
The development, once dubbed Oxford Towne Center and now known as Quarry Walk at Oxford Towne Center, is described as an upscale, $70 million development at 297 Oxford Road.
Along with the bank, plans call for the town's first grocery store with a drive-thru pharmacy, a medical facility, an automotive service center, restaurants, small retailers, and 150 residential units. The homes will be one-and-two-bedroom townhouses and flats. Officials say it is possible that a proposed new municipal library and a dog park could be constructed within the project, which will be built on 32 acres. Developers are also planning for outdoor eating areas and open fields, similar to town Greens, within the development.
The bank will sit at the entrance to a boulevard leading to where the remainder of project will be constructed and will be a focal point of the development, said Kathy Ekstrom, development manager for Haynes.
The bank branch, which is slated to open in June, will look more like an Apple iPhone store than a traditional bank, she said. It will have a modern feel with several square feet of open space at the entrance, surrounded by conference rooms for the community and private rooms where customers can meet with bankers.
THE FACADE of the building will have a modern appearance that will include stone from the quarry.
Stone will be a focal point of the overall development, Ekstrom said. Even the pile-on sign will not be the stereotypical, neon signs that are seen in most developments. "Ours is going to be a mammoth rock with signs on it," Ekstrom said. "It will be beautiful stone wall that will have our logo — Quarry Walk — as well as the logos of other businesses. And Newtown Savings Bank is the first of many to come." The next groundbreaking will likely happen within a couple of months, she said. That will be for a grocery store called Market 32 by PriceChopper. The company is in the midst of a $3 million rebranding campaign to develop grocery stores that are akin to the style of Whole Foods Market, which is known for selling natural and organic foods at stores nationwide. PriceChopper, however, plans to keep its price points low, Ekstrom said.
On its website, PriceChopper describes the Market 32 concept as a place where shoppers can indulge their curiosity with product sampling and recipe demonstrations. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE