April 29, 2016

CT Construction Digest April 29, 2016

Hearing brings out Towne Center at Shelter Ridge opponents

SHELTON — City residents packed the auditorium at Shelton Intermediate School on Wednesday night and urged the Planning and Zoning Commission to reject a developer’s plans to turn a section of Bridgeport Avenue into a planned community with apartments, retail, restaurants and possibly a medical building and assisted-living center.
The proposed Towne Center at Shelter Ridge encompasses 121 acres on five parcels and nearly 5 million square feet of construction. The cornerstone would be a nine-story luxury apartment building with rooftop access, an Olympic-size swimming pool and outdoor fire pits. It is believed to be one of the largest such complexes ever proposed in Fairfield County.
“We are making changes as we go along,” said Dominick Thomas, a land-use lawyer representing Shelter Ridge Associates, the developer. He said the medical building and assisted living center are no longer sure things. But he plugged the site as a future “destination spot” for the city.
For nearly two hours, a crowd of nearly 900 listened at the hearing as Thomas, landscaping engineer James Swift, architect Richard Granoff and Chris Kerin, a partner in a Fairfield real estate agency, urged the commission to change zoning from industrial light use to a planned de velopment district, which would give the developers more control over the project.
Kerin said the apartments would generate about $726,044 in new taxes while income from the retail, offices and medical complexes would reach at least $2.7 million.
But none of that impressed Board of Aldermen President John Anglace, Aldermen Lynne Farrell and Jim Capra, or residents like Gregory Tetro and Sue Mozdzer. Ninety-two people signed up to speak at the public hearing, which will continue on May 31 at 7 p.m.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Engineering study offers several options for Town Hall project

NEWINGTON — The Town Council is now considering several options for repairing Town Hall, and expects to give the building committee a new direction in a couple of weeks.
Hamden-based engineering consultant DTC presented the results of an engineering study conducted in the facility at the council’s meeting Tuesday night, along with several recommendations.
These included a $24.3 million renovation to address the building’s existing issues without many additional improvements. DTC Chief Operating Officer Graham Curtis presented the scope of this possibility in detail Tuesday.
"We took a no frills approach to repairing the building," he said.
If this project went to referendum in November, construction could begin as soon as April 2018, Curtis said, and would be estimated to last two years.
Councilors, however, seemed to favor an alternative option he briefed them on afterwards. This would be a compromise between a renovation and a $37 million new building, at a cost estimated to be between the two. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is attempting to pressure state lawmakers to reconsider a decision to cut $60 million in municipal grants as part of roughly $1 billion in previously approved bonding that could be canceled.
The Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee this month approved a bonding package that would cancel $1.06 billion in bonding in an effort to stay under the committee's own debt limit.
CCM said Wednesday, though, that the proposed package has led the state to withhold $60 million in municipal grants that towns had expected this year.
East Hartford is facing the largest hit in the state, losing just under $4.5 million in aid under the amended package, according to a list CCM provided to reporters.
Ted Fisher, spokesman for East Hartford Mayor Marcia A. LeClerc, said officials are monitoring the situation, but declined to comment further until the legislature votes on the bonding package.
"At this point we're waiting because nothing's a done deal," he said.
Stratford would lose the second highest amount at $3.5 million, while Waterbury and Bristol each would lose roughly $2.5 million.
Locally, Manchester, South Windsor, Windsor, and Windsor Locks also are expecting to each lose more than $1 million in aid.
CCM Executive Director Joseph DeLong said many of the towns were planning to use the money for construction projects scheduled to begin around this time of year.
"Much of the necessary repair and repaving of local roads will come to a halt unless these promised state funds are released right now to all towns," he said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

New Haven working to improve development of River Street area

NEW HAVEN >> One building is being partially demolished, while the city is proposing a deal that will see another part of the former Bigelow Boiler Co. stabilized and, it hopes, eventually renovated.
It all comes under the 2002 River Street Municipal Development Project where infrastructure improvements , environmental cleanup and land purchases by the city have slowly evolved over more than a decade with the most recent work dependant upon state and federal grants. The city in 2002 created nine development parcels from about 25 acres in the River Street area, long an abandoned industrial part of the city. Over time, it has purchased all but one acre.
One of the most successful businesses to locate in the area is Capasso Restoration.
It has operated its renovation business out of 34 Lloyd St. since 2008 and purchased the property in December 2015, under an affiliate, Lloyd Street Properties, LLC, after the city completed environmental remediation. The property at 34 Lloyd St. is a portion of the original parcel I, as defined in the development project.
The city now wants to transfer control of 198 River St., which is the remaining portion of parcel I, to Bigelow Square, LLC, another affiliate of Capasso Restoration. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Eminent domain shadows dispute in West Haven to reach agreement for The Haven

WEST HAVEN >> The owners of the S & S Mini Mart Citgo at Elm Street and First Avenue, among the last holdouts in the project area for The Haven high-end outlet mall, say they are ready to accept the developer’s offer. But now there seems to be some dispute about what that offer is. Citgo owners Sheik Hossain and Saed Ahmed, who concede that they previously asked for $5 million “for negotiation purposes,” say they have informed The Haven Group that they want to accept what they say was a $2 million offer. But The Haven Group Executive Vice President Matt Armstrong, who they maintain previously offered them $2 million, is telling them the offer is $1.8 million, said Ahmed.
City officials, who now also are involved, including Mayor Ed O’Brien, said $1.8 million is the only offer they’ve heard. “The developer is playing games with us,” said Ahmed in an interview earlier this week in his store. He said Armstrong made the offer in a phone call about four months ago with Hossain. Ahmed also said that Armstrong said in one meeting, “I cannot go more than $2 million.
“Now, they’re not giving us any kind of offer in writing,” Ahmed said. But Armstrong said in a series of texts Thursday evening, after initially declining to comment, that “the offer was never $2 million. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Construction Employment Increases in 244 out of 358 Metro Areas

Construction employment increased in 244 out of 358 metro areas, was unchanged in 44 and declined in 70 between March 2015 and March 2016, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said the new figures show that the construction sector, in most parts of the country, continues to recover from its years-long downturn.
"With more than two-thirds of the nation's metro areas adding construction jobs it is clear that the demand for construction is broad-based geographically and by project type," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist, adding that construction employment hit new peak levels in 31 metro areas. "The main soft patch for the construction industry remains the parts of the country most likely to be affected by declining energy prices."
Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, Calif. added the most construction jobs during the past year (11,900 jobs, 14 percent). Other metro areas adding a large number of construction jobs include New York City (9,000 jobs, 7 percent); Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Ga. (8,500 jobs, 8 percent); and Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla. (8,300 jobs, 14 percent). The largest percentage gains occurred in El Centro, Calif. (45 percent, 1,000 jobs); Monroe, Mich. (36 percent, 800 jobs) and Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury Town, Mass.-N.H. (28 percent, 1,000 jobs).
The largest job losses from March 2015 to March 2016 were in Odessa, Texas (-2,700 jobs, -14 percent), followed by Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas (-2,600 jobs, -4 percent); Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio (-2,500 jobs, -8 percent) and Midland, Texas (-2,200 jobs, -8 percent). The largest percentage declines for the past year were in Bloomington, Ill. (-15 percent, -400 jobs); Odessa; Grants Pass, Ore. (-13 percent, -100 jobs); Decatur, Ill. (-13 percent, -400 jobs) and Laredo, Texas (-13 percent, -600 jobs). CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE


April 28, 2016

CT Construction Digest April 28, 2016

Development rising fast on former Schlumberger property in Ridgefield

RIDGEFIELD — Aided by a light winter and pushed by robust demand, developers of an age 55-plus housing development on Sunset Lane are scrambling to finish the first phase of their project in time for residents to move in this July.
When completed, the “Coach Homes at Ridgefield” will include 54 units - nine townhomes and 45 condos
Before the first homes are even finished, soon-to-be residents are itching to move in.
Martin Handshy, a longtime Ridgefield resident and president of developer Charter Group Partners, said 51 of the units have been sold or are under nonbinding agreements with potential tenants, a rarity considering buyers have yet to see the homes.
“The response has been absolutely overwhelming,” Handshy said from his sales office just steps from where workers were busy insulating the first three townhouses. “In my experience. . . I’ve been building since 1982 . . . it’s unheard of. Most of the time, people want to see what they’re buying.”
But Christine Robertson, who chairs the town’s Commission on Aging, said that Ridgefield’s aging population needed more developments like the Coach Homes, which will allow only residents over age 55. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Rail construction scheduled for downtown Wallingford

WALLINGFORD – Construction on the New Haven-Springfield rail project is scheduled for this weekend along Hall Avenue and Quinnipiac Street near the train station.
Work will begin Friday at 10 p.m. and continue until 6 a.m. Sunday. Residents should be aware of increased construction activity in the area. Officials will be on site to guide traffic.
The work includes improvements to drainage systems and rail beds in preparation for a second track to be installed on the line next to the existing train platform. After preliminary work is completed, the concrete train platform will be removed and a temporary platform put in place by Sunday.
The rail project is expected to be complete by 2018 and will upgrade lines from New Haven to Springfield, Massachusetts.
Mohegan Tribe Chairman Kevin "Red Eagle" Brown looks on as the final piece of glass is put into place to symbolize the completion of Mohegan Sun's Earth Hotel exterior.
MOHEGAN — Leaders of the Mohegan Tribe were on hand for a special ceremony Wednesday to mark the “topping off,” or completion of the exterior of the tribe’s $130 million Earth Hotel project.
The 400-room hotel is scheduled to open in the fall, with interior work still to be completed. A large red crane still towers over the top of the building. Wednesday’s symbolic milestone included the placing of the final piece of exterior glass onto the building, followed by a short tour of the interior. Aided by two workers, the crane carefully lifted the final window into position on a top floor corner of the 13-story hotel. Tribal leaders say the hotel project is designed not only to create 1,000 jobs, but to recapture the almost 500,000 room nights turned away in 2014, as well as battle increased competition from future casino projects in Massachusetts and nationwide. The Earth Hotel room rate will be about 25 percent lower than those now offered in the Sky Hotel, casino officials said. “We’re at 98 percent occupancy at this 1,100-room hotel as it is,” Mohegan Tribal Council Chairman Kevin “Red Eagle” Brown said, referring to the nearby Sky Hotel. “We’ve always had the demand to have more rooms on the property. Now we’re beginning to meet some of that unmet demand.” The new hotel will help the tribe recapture some 125,000 of the room nights it loses each year to local hotel operators, Brown said. Groundbreaking on the Earth Hotel was in March 2015, followed by pouring of the concrete foundation in June. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE


April 27, 2016

CT Construction Digest April 27, 2016

Mohegans to mark milestone in Earth Hotel construction

Mohegan tribal leaders and Mohegan Sun executives will celebrate a milestone Wednesday in the construction of Mohegan Sun’s Earth Hotel, which is scheduled to open this fall.
The final piece of exterior glass is to be put in place, marking completion of that phase of the $130 million project.
The 400-room hotel is part of Mohegan Sun’s long-term expansion plan, and is expected to help meet the growing demand for hotel rooms in southeastern Connecticut. Mohegan Sun’s existing hotel has 1,200 rooms.
Tribal Chairman Kevin Brown and Ray Pineault, president and general manager of Mohegan Sun, will speak at Wednesday’s ceremony. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Multi-families still pace CT permits

Permits for new housing construction in Connecticut grew for the second straight month in March, and have eclipsed the first-quarter total from a year ago, new data shows.
Statewide, 104 cities and towns tracked by the U.S. Census Bureau counted 541 permits issued last month for single- and multi-family dwellings with two or more units vs. 474 handed out in March 2015, the state Department of Economic and Community Development said Tuesday.
A breakdown of the permits reveals that of the latest March total, 219 were single-family dwellings; 312 were multi-families. A year ago, the split was 178 single-family and 296 multi-families.
From January to March of this year, those same communities have tallied 1,088 permits vs. 845 in the first quarter of 2015, DECD research data shows.
Permit totals rose in February and March from a year earlier, while January's tally declined. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Work At Dunkin' Donuts Park Falls Behind Schedule; May 17 Deadline Looms

HARTFORD — The developer of Dunkin' Donuts Park has missed its final milestone toward "significant completion" of the $63 million minor league baseball stadium by May 17.
Five milestones were put in place in January to ensure completion of the ballpark after construction delays pushed the Hartford Yard Goats' home opener back to May 31. Friday's milestone was the completion of a left-field kitchen, including installation of front counters, an overhead coiling door, refrigerant piping, set refrigeration, walk-in coolers and related equipment.
Most of that work was completed, said Jason Rudnick, a principal with DoNo Hartford LLC, which, along with Centerplan Cos., is building the ballpark. But Rudnick said Tuesday that the coiling door was not installed because it had not been delivered yet. Rudnick said he expected the door be delivered and installed by this Friday.
Rudnick said that he understood the city and the team owners wanted a mechanism to mark progress and that, more or less, those markers have been achieved.
"But as with all construction projects, there are things that will creep up," he said.
Rudnick cited another still-to-be completed milestone: the exterior masonry. The brick work on Pleasant and Main streets is done, but work on the Trumbull Street side continues beyond the April 15 milestone set forth in the January agreement.
"We had to leave the wall open for delivery of sod," Rudnick said, citing snow and cold weather for delaying delivery of the sod by more than a week. He said the exterior brick will be completed shortly. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Tribes Will Wait On 'Satellite' Casino Proposal

With a week left in the legislative session, state lawmakers won't get a crack at casino expansion in the state.
The tribes operating Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos said Tuesday that they will not approach the legislature this session for any approvals on establishing a third, jointly run casino in the Hartford area. The "satellite" casino is intended to dilute the competitive impact of MGM's $950 million casino and entertainment complex now under construction in nearby Springfield.
The Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans previously said they would not pick a site for a third casino in time for this legislative session, which is scheduled to end May 4.
The tribes' joint venture — MMCT — also said Tuesday it also would wait until 2017 to raise another casino expansion issue: how a third casino might affect the state's 25 percent cut of slot revenue at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, now at about $200 million a year. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

JJ Mottes Concrete Company Leases Facilities To Farmington Firm Amid Foundation

The Joseph J. Mottes Co., whose concrete has been cited in lawsuits filed by homeowners with failing foundations, announced Tuesday that is has leased its property and equipment to a Farmington company for the 2016 building season.
Mottes, which has locations in Stafford and Somers, said bad publicity prompted it to lease its facilities to Connecticut Ready Mix LLC of Farmington.
"This measure was taken in response to the ongoing adverse publicity which we believe has been both unfair and unjustified; it no longer makes financial sense for us to continue to operate," Mottes said in a written statement announcing the agreement.
In the statement, company spokesperson John Patton said Mottes believes that the problems with failing concrete foundations can be blamed on bad installation practices, not the concrete mix that Mottes uses."We strongly believe that the current situation involving residential foundations in Eastern Connecticut is an installation issue, and we support an unbiased and comprehensive investigation of these foundation issues — including how the materials were placed and installed, in addition to remedial actions — so that homeowners can get the answers they deserve and meaningful help with solutions," Patton said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Costco withdraws Branford application; development’s future uncertain

BRANFORD >> Costco Wholesale Corp. Tuesday withdrew its pending inland wetlands permit application to build a store in town, saying there still are some important issues that remain unresolved. First Selectman James B. Cosgrove, however, said he remains committed to bringing the big box store to town.
“We have previously expressed to the Commission specific concerns about the manner in which this application has been reviewed and processed by wetlands staff,” attorney Thomas P. Cody wrote in a letter Tuesday in behalf of Costco to the Inland Wetlands Commission.
The town began to review the conduct of town officials and peer reviewers in their dealings with Costco’s inland wetlands application in March after a report by BranfordSeven.com raised questions about the way the application was handled. The letter said that although Costco continues to believe the pending application complies with all application regulations, it still has concerns about issues it believes have not been fully resolved. First Selectman James B. Cosgrove said he was disappointed to hear the news of Costco’s application withdrawal Tuesday, as he believes the majority of town residents were in support of the development. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

April 26, 2016

CT Construction Digest April 26, 2016

Pipeline developers vow to fight New York permit rejection

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Developers of a 124-mile pipeline designed to transport natural gas to the Northeast from Pennsylvania's shale fields said Monday they'll challenge New York's rejection of a critical permit.
The Constitution Pipeline Company said the denial letter from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation includes "flagrant misstatements and inaccurate allegations" and is driven by politics rather than science.
The DEC on Friday denied a water quality permit, saying the project fails to meet standards that protect hundreds of streams, wetlands and other water resources in its path. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the project in December 2014, conditioned on the state permit.
The company, a partnership formed by Cabot Oil & Gas, Williams Partners and Piedmont Natural Gas Company, can appeal the state decision to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Spokesman Christopher Stockton said the company is considering that option.
"In spite of NYSDEC's unprecedented decision, we remain absolutely committed to building this important energy infrastructure project, which will create an important connection between consumers and reliable supplies of clean, affordable natural gas," the partners said in a joint statement.
Among other things, DEC said Constitution failed to provide site-specific plans showing how deep the 30-inch pipeline would be at each of the 251 streams along its route. Constitution said Monday that it provided detailed drawings and profiles for every stream crossing, including depth of the pipe. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
PLAINVILLE — The Connecticut Fund for the Environment aims to stop Tilcon’s proposed relocation of its quarry operation onto protected land. The proposal was tabled by state legislators pending the results of an environmental study.
Rachel Gaudio, a legal fellow with the New Haven-based Connecticut Fund for the Environment said that if Tilcon’s plan is approved, it would create a precedent for eroding protected sites.
“We believe that it would set a precedent where everybody will say that they will do some great thing like building a reservoir and then ask to make use of this land,” said Gaudio. “Meanwhile, there have been no studies that show we have any need for a reservoir or what the environmental impact of its construction would be.”
Tilcon plans to move its operation onto Class 1 and Class 2 protected aquifer land owned by the New Britain Water Department. This would extend the 100-year operation by another 40 years. Tilcon, the second-largest taxpayer in Plainville, would create a forested buffer around the new site, providing 157 acres of open space to Plainville, 95 to New Britain and 75 to Southington. Once operations are concluded, Tilcon has proposed transforming the quarry site into a reservoir.
Additionally, blasting operations would be moved 1,000 feet away from Plainville homes. Tilcon is currently authorized to blast within 300 feet of homes. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

East Hampton High School construction reaches midway point

EAST HAMPTON >> The contractor handling the high school renovation is gearing up for a major effort this summer.
With luck, when students return to the school in the fall, the project will be 75 percent complete, the project construction manager told the School Building Committee. “This is probably the busiest summer we are going to have,” Charles E. “Chuck” Warrington Jr. told the committee during its regular monthly meeting Thursday. “In general, overall, the project is proceeding very well and is right on track.” Warrington is the project manager for Colliers International. We’re probably 50 percent done now,” committee member Cynthia Abraham said. The six classrooms adjoining the existing library/media center are substantially complete. All that remains to be done in those classrooms “are punch-list items,” Warrington said. Downes Construction, the general contractor, is “preparing to do the whole entire front wing” once the school closes for the summer, Warrington said. That will mean moving the administration offices out of the high school and relocating them to the Memorial School over the summer, Warrington said.  “There’s going to be a lot intensive work,” he said. “This is ‘crunch time’ for Downes.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

East Haddam Swing Bridge emergency repair work begins
The Swing Bridge spans the Connecticut River between Haddam and East Haddam.
EAST HADDAM >> Emergency undercarriage construction will be taking place through the end of June on the East Haddam Swing Bridge.
The Coast Guard, which is in control of the operation of the Route 82 bridge across the Connecticut River, has issued a temporary schedule change, according to a press release. It will allow the state Department of Transportation, which owns the bridge, to perform emergency repairs to electrical systems that have the plagued the historic structure, the statement continues. Repairs will include complicated mechanical and electrical work, which will correct failures of the bridge emergency drive system, which will cause periodic lane closures. The DOT will be supplying message boards to warn motorists in advance.
During this time, the bridge will only open on demand until June 30, weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and there will be a two-hour notice from the boater requesting its opening. The bridge will only be opening at the request of the boater, not on the hour and half-hour and will allow marine traffic as normal. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Planned Windsor Locks mall appears dead

One of two proposed outlet malls for the Hartford region appears dead.
According to Windsor Locks First Selectman Chris Kervick's Facebook page, Indiana retail developer Simon Property Group has told the town that it is suspending efforts to recruit tenants to its proposed Hartford Premium Outlets on a 76-acre former tobacco parcel on Old Country Road, at the junction of I-91 and Route 20.
Simon Property's option to buy the land expired Monday and the developer was unwilling to extend it, Kervick said in the posting.
Meantime, Chicago-based Horizon Properties Group confirmed at that time that it too was proceeding with plans to erect its 410,000-square-foot Outlet Shoppes at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
The announcement is a sharp reversal from late March, when Kervick boasted in a Facebook posting at the time that Simon's Windsor Locks mall project was still a 'go.'
"The level of retailer commitment was robust early on," Kervick said, "but they told me that a weak holiday season seemed to take the wind out of their sails. They just couldn't get the number of commitments needed to make a go of it."
Deal Watch Today could not immediately reach Simon officials for comment. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Esty brownfields legislation passes Senate

The U.S. Senate has passed the Brownfields Reauthorization Act, a bipartisan bill sponsored in the House by U.S. Reps. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) and Chris Gibson (R-NY), as part of a larger legislative package. Now it needs House approval.
The Brownfields Reauthorization Act will help communities revitalize and remediate "brownfields" – abandoned, often contaminated former industrial properties. The bill was included in the Energy Policy Modernization Act, which passed the Senate today by an 85-12 vote.
Esty said on average, every redeveloped acre of brownfields yields about 10 jobs for local economies. "Cities and towns in central and northwest Connecticut like Meriden, New Milford, Torrington and Waterbury have miles of abandoned industrial sites that are just waiting to be restored into economic assets," she said.
The bill expands eligibility for EPA Brownfields grants to certain nonprofit and community development groups, including governments that acquired brownfields prior to the program's creation in 2002. It also authorizes new multi-purpose grants to streamline the process and create greater certainty of long-term financing for multifaceted projects. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

April 25, 2016

CT Construction Digest April 25, 2016

Portland officials contend state should pay $75,000 paving cost

PORTLAND >> A defiant Board of Selectmen has refused to allocate $75,000 to pave parking cutouts along a portion of Main Street.
Instead, the board has challenged the state to do the work as part of the repaving of Main Street which is scheduled to begin on May 9. The state Department of Transportation contends the town assumed responsibility for the parking cutouts along the west side of the street tin 1981, when the town used a grant to pave them. Minutes found in the town’s archives appear to bear that out, town officials said. But during a regular board meeting on Wednesday, Deputy First Selectman Brian M. Flood rejected that assertion. “I don’t think the taxpayers of Portland should be responsible for taking care of property that belongs to the state of Connecticut,” Flood said. He was also “troubled” that the town is assuming responsibility for paving cutouts that serve businesses like Liberty Bank and the Portland Memorial Funeral Home. “I struggle with this. Why are we elevating a business over an individual taxpayer,” Flood said. “It doesn’t make sense to elevate one property owner over another one.” Flood and Selectman Benjamin Srb had taken the lead in saying no to the state over the issue. “I do not believe we should get involved in paving this area,” Srb said. At their meeting on April 18, the selectmen reduced the proposed 2016-17 budget by $200,000 because of a projected loss of state aid in the coming year. The cuts came equally from the Board of Education and general government.
Selectmen, including Kathleen G. Richards in particular, said they were troubled by the idea of cutting aid to education and town services on the one hand and then paying $75,000 to pave the cutouts on the other. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

More than 100 Section 8 units planned for new downtown Meriden

MERIDEN — Out of 700 proposed living units to be built downtown, between 100 to 140 of them will be subsidized rents, or Section 8 housing, according to the Meriden Housing Authority.
The only project to contain all subsidized housing is the nine-unit Hanover Street Veterans Housing project.
The housing authority last week approved 20 Section 8 units in the planned 81-unit development at 11 Crown St., the former Record-Journal building.
About 20 units will be market rate. Developer Michael Development has not submitted final plans so the numbers could change, said MHA Executive Director Robert Cappelletti.  The housing authority’s challenge is to replace the Section 8 housing lost when it demolishes 140 units at the Mills Memorial Apartments. Federal law dictates a one-to-one replacement.
The authority has approved 20 percent or 12 Section 8 units at 143 W. Main Street, but the final tally is unknown because plans are not finalized.
At 24 Colony St., developer Westmount Development Group partnered with the MHA and the city to build 63 apartments on the second, third and fourth floors. Final plans call for 51 one-bedroom units that are 700 square feet each, and 12 two-bedroom units between 900 and 1,100 square feet. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

HARTFORD — Replacing the I-84 viaduct with a highway built below ground level would bring many benefits, state engineers say, but at the cost of demolishing the Capitol View apartment tower as well as the Capitol Archives & Record Storage center.As state and federal officials draw closer to choosing how they will replace the outdated viaduct, engineers caution that each option has advantages and costs.
"There are tradeoffs in every one we've looked at," said Rich Armstrong, project manager with the state Department of Transportation.
"There's very little public support for the elevated [highway] alternative. The tunnel would cost $10 billion to $12 billion," Armstrong said. "The lowered [highway] alternative does a lot of good things, but there would be impacts on some buildings."
The DOT and federal planners are only months — or perhaps just weeks — from deciding on an overall concept for how to replace nearly 2 miles of the busiest highway in the state. After examining more than a dozen options, DOT engineers are leaning heavily toward building partly at ground level and partly in a slightly lowered trench.
To make that work, though, the state would have to relocate the Amtrak line, redesign exit and entrance ramps, and modify some surrounding municipal streets.
Engineers said they would need to acquire and demolish several buildings, most notably the roughly 270-unit Capitol View apartment tower on Asylum Avenue. City records indicate the 10-story building last sold for $16.5 million in 2008. Depending on the precise configuration of the highway, ramps and railroad tracks, several smaller residential buildings also might have to be razed. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Parking review question still unanswered for new Yale science facility

NEW HAVEN >> There was no push-back to Yale University’s proposal Wednesday to build a new science facility to replace the Gibbs Laboratory, but the issue of aldermanic review of the parking needs of the project is still unanswered. The Board of Alders recently adopted a new ordinance clarifying its role in approving parking for Yale projects, but whether it is applicable in this particular case — where the number of workers will stay the same — is under review by an attorney hired by the board. The City Plan Commission Wednesday asked for more information on stormwater management and feedback from the Department of Transportation, Traffic and Parking on the proposal. It was tabled until the May 18 commission meeting. The university plans to build a 280,300-square-foot, six-story building after the current Gibbs Laboratory that faces Whitney Avenue is demolished. The proposal would be part of the 24.4-acre campus that contains numerous buildings on what is generally known as Yale’s Science Hill. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Airport Authority Must End Silence On Casino

Last October, the Connecticut Airport Authority's directors met in secret to discuss their negotiating strategy to obtain a satellite casino for Bradley International Airport. They met in secret again in December — and then again in January and February.
Last week, they did it again. Another executive session, with the public and media barred from entry, to discuss what would be a major policy shift for Connecticut — the state's first commercial casino.
Behind closed doors, a plan that would have a profound impact on Windsor Locks and surrounding communities was proposed, or revised, or finalized. Or all three. They won't say, so we don't know.
The airport authority, established just a few years ago, oversees the state's major airports, including Bradley. Members are appointed by elected state officials and legislators, with state commissioners among the members. None of them lives in Windsor Locks. But surely they understand and respect the public's right to know. Surely they can appreciate Connecticut's long-standing legal tradition — going back to Windsor Locks native Gov. Ella Grasso's commitment in the 1970s — of public access to government decision-making. Yet, month after month, the closed meetings continue and the public remains shut out. It's time some light was shed on what's happening. Our community and our state deserve to know.
As a public official, I understand there are legitimate occasions when an executive session — from which the public is excluded — is appropriate, but only when used sparingly. Meeting in executive sessions for half a year on a significant public policy issue is, at the very least, excessive, inappropriate and potentially perilous. From October through April, not one word of public explanation has appeared in the authority's minutes. Not one word offering an explanation of the benefits, costs or factors being weighed or evaluated. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Special walls under construction for I-84 project 

WATERBURY — Walls built of pre-cast concrete panels that will be reinforced by the highway itself are being constructed south of the future path of Interstate 84 eastbound. As part of the $330 million I-84 reconstruction project, two mechanically stabilized earth walls are going up in the large construction area between Hamilton Avenue and Harpers Ferry Road. The walls are on both sides of the future Exit 24 eastbound off-ramp, before the approach to Harpers Ferry Road and a bridge over the Mad River. The off-ramp is located several hundred feet south of its current footprint, as the highway is being straightened to eliminate an S-curve. Two additional MSE walls will be built along the Exit 24 eastbound on-ramp. The MSE walls are made of interlocked panels that look like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Eventually, they will hold Jersey barriers along the parapet. The walls will be supported by vertically oriented steel "straps," which sit underneath the roadway and are held down by stone aggregate fill that's crushed on site. The steel straps support the wall, and become increasingly strong as the weight of fill, along with vehicles traveling over the roadway, causes them to become more compacted. The wall actually becomes stronger over time, said Project Engineer Christopher Zukowski, of the state Department of Transportation, which is overseeing the work.
Precast, interlocked panels give the wall a more textured appearance — and stronger support — than a simple concrete pour. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE


April 22, 2016

CT Construction Digest April 22, 2016

Kinder Morgan pipeline shelved, but Constitution ready to go

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — While one company has shelved plans for a natural gas pipeline from New York into New England, another project following a similar route is hoping to proceed.
The 124-mile Constitution Pipeline from Pennsylvania's shale gas fields to eastern New York is supported by firm customer commitments and was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2014, Constitution spokesman Christopher Stockton said Thursday. Construction was scheduled to begin this summer but has been delayed pending action on a water quality permit that has been before the Department of Environmental Conservation for nearly a year.
On Wednesday, Houston-based Kinder Morgan Inc. cited low gas prices and a lack of contracts with gas distribution companies as it announced it was mothballing its Northeast Energy Direct project. That project was still under review by FERC and was planned to go online in 2018.
Constitution Pipeline Company, a partnership formed by Cabot Oil & Gas, Williams Partners and Piedmont Natural Gas Company, plans to begin construction in the fall and go online in the second half of 2017.
Both pipelines faced opposition from environmental groups and landowners along their routes, while local pipeline supporters cite construction jobs, tax revenues and access to cheap natural gas.
Pipeline opponents held a rally at the state Capitol on April 5 to urge Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to deny the water quality permit. Under federal Clean Water Act rules, the DEC has until next Tuesday to act on the permit, which is intended to protect streams, wetlands and other water resources from damage. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
BETHEL — A long-delayed project to fix one of the town’s busiest intersections is finally underway.
Contractors began working last week on replacing the Plumtrees Road bridge, which is plagued by heavy traffic during rush hour and is frequently the site of accidents.
The bridge, built in 1975, crosses East Swamp Brook between Walnut Hill Road and Whittlesey Drive, near the school complex.
The plan is to replace the bridge, reconfigure the intersections and replace the traffic lights at the two corners with a single signal, and then to add a sidewalk along Plumtrees.
The state Department of Transportation is managing the $2.44 million project, which will be paid for mostly with federal funds. The contractor is Monroe-based Nagy Brothers Construction.

Materials stockpiled in Meriden, Wallingford reflect commuter rail project’s scope

MERIDEN — The 21,000 concrete railroad ties stockpiled in the Amtrak rail yard on State Street make it easier to grasp the scope of construction along the CTrail Hartford Line corridor.
The $639 million project is updating the rail corridor to include double tracking and facilitate more frequent commuter trains between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield. The corridor crosses through many cities and towns, including Wallingford, Berlin and North Haven, as well as Meriden.
The concrete ties being stored at the rail yard in Meriden will be used to build a second track in the central Connecticut area, said John Bernick, assistant rail administrator for the state Department of Transportation.
New wood ties on the existing track were installed in 2010, Bernick said. 
“So those are in good shape and have a lot of life left in them,” he said.
Concrete ties are a less expensive alternative to the wooden ties and have a longer life, according to Bernick.
People traveling the area have also likely noticed another stockpile of material along Route 5 in Wallingford. Large piles of gravel and other material are stored on the property. The area is used to process material that was excavated out of the existing railroad bed where the second track will be installed, Bernick said.
“The material consists of the old ballast (stone material that supports the ties) and finer material that has accumulated over the years,” he said. While the finer sand can’t be reused, the stone can. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
GLASTONBURY — The town is getting closer to starting construction on a $1.5 million roundabout at the intersection of Hebron Avenue and New London Turnpike and wants to make sure all concerns about the project are addressed.
An informational hearing will be held Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Riverfront Community Center. Town Manager Richard J. Johnson said the goal of the meeting is to reach out to business and property owners near the roundabout as well as residents who will use it.
"Our intent is to establish an open line of communication," Johnson said, adding there will be another meeting before construction starts in June.
Daniel A. Pennington, director of physical services/town engineer, said final design work on the 110-foot-wide roundabout will be completed by the end of May. The plan is expected to ease traffic congestion and reduce the accident rate along the stretch of Hebron Avenue from the Route 2 off-ramp west into the town center. Another $1.2 million roundabout will be constructed farther east along Hebron Avenue at the intersection with House Street in 2017. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Groundbreaking set for medical center 

WATERTOWN — After years of delays, partners Vincent Giannetto and John McHugh are ready to break ground on a 25,000-square-foot medical and professional complex.
The Planning and Zoning Commission approved a site plan for the Echo Lake Commons project a year ago. Before that, the project was held up in court for two years when neighbor Nick Perugini appealed the commission's 2010 decision to create a medical and general business zone along Buckingham Street from Route 262 to Calendar Road. The court upheld the commission's approval in 2012, but by then the developers had lost verbal commitments from medical groups to fill 30,000-square-feet of the planned 50,000-square-foot space, Giannetto said.
Now the partners are close to commitments on 8,000-square-feet of space, but are hoping to fill the remaining space with other types of medical practices, professional offices and a restaurant. "Once we break ground now people can see it and we can market it that way," said Brian Godin of Godin Property Brokers, which is representing the partners to lease the building. "Financially, it's easier if you have tenants in place when you break ground." Godin said he hopes to lease out suites ranging from 1,250-square-feet to 12,500-square-feet in the two level building. McHugh, a podiatrist, plans to move his practice from Depot Square to a 3,500-square-foot space within the building. McHugh sees 40 to 50 patients a day and has three other doctors working for him in an undersized space, Giannetto said. A financial group has committed to take some of the space and the partners are in talks with a radiology group, Giannetto said. "There's very little medical here for our population," Giannetto said.
If the first phase of the project is successful, the partners plan to build a 50,000-square-foot facility at the top of the hill. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE


April 21, 2016

CT Construction Digest April 21, 2016

Stamford Hospital electrical work sparks complaints

STAMFORD — More than 50 unionized electricians gathered outside Stamford Hospital Wednesday to complain about what they say are unlicensed laborers performing some of the work on the $450 million project for the new hospital complex.
“Our shop steward came out here and tried to find someone with a license and couldn’t find anyone,” said Thomas Hegarty, an apprentice with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3.“They avoided the question,” added Joe Onolfo, another apprentice.
Stamford Hospital officials declined to comment, instead referring questions to the hospital project’s general contractor, Skanska.
A spokesman for the contractor said the piping work performed by the non-union laborers did not require a specialized license since it did not involve actual electrical wiring, just the installation of underground conduits for communication.
“As one of the largest union employers in the tri-state region, Skanska has a long and proud history of employing local labor on our construction projects," the company said in a statement. "In the past year alone, we have hired more than 400 union workers at the new Stamford Hospital facility. We always use licensed and certified union labor when required and our work for the project is no exception.”
But one union electrician said the new workers on the site installed the couplings, or pipe joints, backward. Skanska officials said that was not possible.
"The couplings in the trenches are impossible to put on backwards," the company said. "Skanska can confirm they were installed correctly and have been inspected and approved by the local building authorities." As required in Connecticut, 80 percent of the project has involved union jobs. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Foes cheer Kinder Morgan decision to suspend pipeline plans

In a decision cheered by local opponents, Kinder Morgan suspended plans for a 419-mile natural gas pipeline connecting Pennsylvania's fracking fields to Boston by winding through local counties.
Kinder Morgan's Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline had planned to traverse Schoharie County and Albany County before passing through southern Rensselaer County en route to Massachusetts.
The Texas-based firm — using the word "suspended" to define its move — said New England customers couldn't commit to buying the gas. A news release said innovations in production resulted in a low-price environment that, "while good for consumers, has made it difficult for producers to make new long term commitments."
The $3.3 billion pipeline was meant to ease New England's high natural gas and electricity costs, said the company, which had also touted job-creation potential.
The decision follows months of public hearings and group meetings where environmental activists and area residents expressed deep anxieties about the project.
"The apparent demise of the unneeded and unsafe NED project is another nail in the coffin for fossil fuel usage in the USA and beyond," said a statement from Robert Connors and Becky Meier of Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline.
The anti-pipeline activists said the suspension confirms their belief that current market forces made gas prices and the company's stock price plummet, but they also credit their "fierce, cumulative and cohesive public efforts."
During the course of the fight, concerns were raised about water quality and air and water pollution risks. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Solar farm proposal well-received on walk-through

GRISWOLD - Residents, town officials and representatives from Ecos Energy LLC traipsed through the woods by Route 138 Wednesday afternoon to get an idea of where and how a proposed $20 million solar farm would be built. Ecos Energy LLC, a renewable energy development and services company, wants to build a 30-acre solar farm on the vacant land at 1219 and 1240 Voluntown Road, also known as Route 138. The proposed 7-megawatt solar farm project would provide enough energy to power about 1,200 to 1,400 homes and would consist of 25,000 solar panels. Residents like Lauren Churchill, who lives on Roger Road, said the project has more benefits than drawbacks. m“Something like this would help take us off fossil fuels. There’s no smoke stacks going up. There are worst things that could be going there,” Churchill said. “I’m just here to make sure that as much of the character of the forest is kept as much as possible." Ecos submitted an application with the state’s Siting Council, which regulates public utility services, on March 21 and the board has 60 days to act on the application. Ecos only needs the state’s approval and does not have to go through the town, but both the Siting Council and Ecos are factoring in town and resident concerns for the project. Ecos representative Steve Broyer said much of the trees and shrubs would need to be removed from the area, but said it was likely Ecos will keep about 30 feet of treeline as a buffer between neighbors and Route 138. The topography of the land would be kept the same and there would be no need for land excavation, he said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

UConn To Sign $4 Million Agreement With Hartford Public Library
 Uconn Library
HARTFORD — The University of Connecticut will sign a $4 million agreement Thursday to renovate and lease space at the Hartford Public Library for its new downtown Hartford campus.
The center of the $140 million campus will be at the former Hartford Times property on Prospect Street, where construction is well underway. The nearby library will provide space for classrooms, a library collection and study areas.
In addition, UConn purchased 38 Prospect St. last year for $4 million for classrooms and offices. UConn hopes to negotiate an agreement to use the auditorium at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.
UConn says it is aiming to create an urban neighborhood campus so students will need to go outside of the main Times building. The university aims to increase foot traffic downtown and boost patrons at local businesses, especially neighboring Front Street. The university's lease at the library will run 15 years and include annual payments to cover maintenance, security and other operating expenses. In the first year, the payment would be $172,000. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Controversial Natural Gas Pipeline Plan Withdrawn

The corporation backing a massive new natural gas pipeline proposal for New England and Connecticut pulled the plug on the project Wednesday, citing a lack of assurances that ratepayers would help pay for the $3.3 billion system.
One part of the now-suspended project included a controversial 14.8 mile "Connecticut Loop" that would have crossed legally protected watershed land in West Hartford near several drinking water reservoirs. Kinder Morgan, the nation's biggest energy infrastructure company and the primary sponsor of the project, announced that its "Northeast Energy Direct" proposal hasn't gotten the commitments it needed from New England utilities seeking more natural gas to generate electricity.
The West Hartford portion of the Northeast Energy Direct project drew strong opposition from environmentalists and the West Hartford Town Council, and questions from state health officials and the Metropolitan District, which owns the watershed land.
Environmentalists all over New England questioned the need for, and the adverse impact of, the proposed pipeline system. The plan was intended to dramatically increase natural gas supplies to the region from "fracking" fields in the Marcellus Shale areas of Pennsylvania and New York.CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

  I-84 Viaduct Update and Information

Open Planning Studios are occurring on 04/20/2016 and 04/21/2016 at the Parker Memorial Community Center, 2621 Main Street in Hartford.    The purpose is show the potential options for the rebuilding of I-84 in Hartford, and to get feedback from residents and others on which option they prefer.   People will get to see images of what the various changes might look like, and then provide their comments, which can impact the planning process.

Below is the schedule of events and the text of the press release. Please forward, as we would like the input of people who may be impacted.

Schedule of Events

Day 1 - Wednesday, April 20, 2016          12 PM – 8 PM: Open to the Public

Working Sessions

·        12:00 PM – 1:30 PM: Public Advisory Committee Meeting

·          1:30 PM – 3:00 PM: Capped Highway and East Coast Greenway Update

·          3:00 PM – 6:00 PM: Youth Open House (attendees of all ages are welcome)

·          6:00 PM – 7:30 PM: Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Transit

Day 2 - Thursday, April 21, 2016                      9 AM – 5 PM: Open to the Public

Working Sessions

·          9:00 AM – 10:30 AM: Urban Design

·        10:30 AM – 12:00 PM: Traffic and Parking

·          3:00 PM –   5:00 PM: Youth Open House (attendees of all ages are welcome)

Press release information:

Members of the public are encouraged to drop in at any time to talk with planners and engineers as well as observe and/or participate in design sessions and discussions related to the I-84 Hartford Project. A detailed schedule of events for each day is listed below.

Over the last year, the CTDOT has developed three primary alternatives for replacing the aging I-84 Viaduct in Hartford. Whether I-84 will be rebuilt as an elevated, at-grade, or tunneled highway will greatly affect Hartford and its residents. The project team will present its evaluation of each alternative and associated opportunities for economic development, public health, safety, and much more. Public input has already influenced the development of many design ideas. Continued involvement is vital to ensuring that the rebuilt highway corridor benefits all users.

Open Planning Studios are a way for local residents, commuters, business owners, and any other interested parties to learn about and receive updates on the I-84 Hartford Project. They are an opportunity to interact with the project team’s engineers and planners, as well as to give input on possible solutions for I-84. Visit i84hartford.com/get-involved for event details.

The purpose of the I-84 Hartford Project is to address structural deficiencies, improve traffic operations and safety, and reduce congestion on the I-84 mainline and its interchanges between Flatbush Avenue and I-91 in Hartford. The I-84 Hartford Project strives to reduce the highway’s negative impact on the city, while creating efficient connections to other modes of transportation.

CTDOT is evaluating the I-84 Hartford Project corridor in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, the Capitol Region Council of Governments, the City of Hartford, the Town of East Hartford, the Town of West Hartford, as well as other local agencies and stakeholder groups. A Public Advisory Committee, comprised of a wide range of stakeholders has been, and will continue to be instrumental in guiding each of the alternatives.
The meeting facilities are ADA accessible. Language assistance may be requested by contacting the Department of Transportation’s Office of Communications (voice only) at

April 19, 2016

CT Construction Digest April 19, 2016

Public hearing set for two large solar arrays in Ledyard

Ledyard — The public hearing for two large solar arrays on town property has been set for April 27, though construction of the arrays will be a few years down the road, according to developer Greenskies Renewable Energy.
The Middletown-based company came to the town in December of last year with a proposal to develop roughly 8,000 6-foot solar panels on town-owned property along power lines at 1087 Colonel Ledyard Highway, as well as another 8,000 at the town's capped former landfill at 889R Colonel Ledyard Highway.
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection was authorized in 2015 to solicit bids for clean energy infrastructure, and direct electric distribution companies to enter into contracts for selected proposals.
A request for proposals was recently issued for small scale renewable energy projects between two to 20 megawatts. Greenskies intends to submit the pair of projects by the May 4 deadline. James DeSantos, vice president of business development at Greenskies, said his firm probably won't know the project is approved until December.
The company has worked on a mix of commercial and utility-scale solar projects, the largest of which is a five-megawatt facility in East Lyme.
The lease is for 15 acres of the landfill property and for 27 acres near the high tension wires, though Greenskies estimates that the actual footprint will occupy between 8-10 acres apiece. The town would receive roughly $1,000 an acre each year, with escalation over the 20-year term of the lease. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Solar farm project proposed in Griswold

GRISWOLD - A Minnesota-based renewable energy company's plan for a $20 million solar farm project won't bring jobs to Griswold but it could generate some revenue for the town.  Ecos Energy LLC, a renewable energy development and services company, wants to build a 30-acre solar farm on vacant land at 1219 and 1240 Voluntown Road, also known as Route 138. Tom Giard, the town's Economic Development Commission chairman, said the project is an exciting opportunity for the town because it could generate upwards of $250,000 for Griswold each year through the projected tax collection on the property. “It could be a major revenue generator for the tax base,” he said.  Representatives from the state's Siting Council, Ecos and the town will take part in a field inspection of the property at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Residents interested in learning more about the project are encouraged to attend. Giard said news of the project comes at a time when the town and borough are seeing more businesses setting up shop. In the past four months, three businesses have opened storefronts in downtown Jewett City."We’re really excited about this (development)," he said.Calls to Ecos  Energy representatives went unanswered.According to its website, Ecos Energy owns or is developing solar projects in Minnesota, Georgia, Indiana, California, Vermont and Massachusetts. Solar farms generate electricity that is then sold to energy companies. In this case, Ecos would generate energy to be sold to Eversource, which provides electricity and natural gas to residents throughout the state. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

NTE opening Killingly generating facility

A new natural gas-fired electric generating facility will be opening in Killingly. It is one of three in the Eastern U.S. announced by NTE Energy.
The Killingly Energy Center is slated to be approximately 500 megawatts when fully online. It will be capable of powering approximately 450,000 homes and represents an investment of over $500 million.
It is expected to provide approximately 300 construction jobs. Once open there will be 25 full-time positions during operation. It is scheduled to begin construction between 2017 and 2018, and reach full commercial operation between 2020 and 2021.
Including two other locations in Ohio and North Carolina, these facilities represent a total investment of approximately $2 billion. The company said they will be three of the most reliable, efficient and clean sources of capacity and energy in the eastern United States, employing advanced turbine technology in combined cycle configurations.

Could CT see another wave of sprawl?

A decade ago the state's Council on Environmental Quality announced that the worst environmental problem facing the state was “sprawl" — low-density, auto-centric, poorly planned development —  because it increased air and water pollution and turned forests and farmland into strip malls and subdivisions.
The CEQ statement was part of a broader, if belated, realization that the suburban development that spread over the Connecticut countryside in the decades after World War II — progress, it was thought at the time — came at a cost.
In addition to the environmental challenges, sprawl demanded new infrastructure and increased the cost of services. It isolated poor and senior citizens, limited housing variety and even, by increasing car dependence, added to the obesity problem.
Growing awareness of these issues led to efforts to better manage growth. There was a blue-ribbon commission, public forums, a new citizen’s group called 1000 Friends of Connecticut and some new laws.
Shortly after this burst of activity came the Great Recession, which slowed sprawl to a crawl.
But now the downturn has grudgingly turned around, and development is ramping up.
Does this mean the state’s remaining undeveloped areas will be hit with another wave of sprawl?
They could, though most probably not at the postwar level. Though some of the measures taken a decade ago have encouraged so-called “smart growth” — the concentration of  development in town centers and transit corridors to protect open land — factors such as weak planning and heavy dependence on property taxes still encourage sprawl. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Leading construction industry organizations are calling on Congress to make career technical education (CTE) a top policy priority. In a letter to lawmakers coordinated by Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) and delivered on April 18, 23 national associations urged members of the House and Senate to swiftly reauthorize and improve programs designed to help train technical workers.
The groups praised Congress for recently passing transportation and tax bills but said the difficulty recruiting workers threatened to undermine the economic benefits. “By restoring near-term certainty to federal transportation programs and tax policy through passage of the FAST and PATH Acts in late 2015, Congress has set the stage for growth in construction, manufacturing, and business purchasing,” the letter said. “However, as companies prepare to take advantage of new opportunities, they are confronted with a new challenge: a shortage of skilled technical workers.”
The letter from construction, contractor, supplier and labor organizations highlighted the stark findings of a recently-released study sponsored by the AED Foundation. That report, prepared by researchers at the College of William and Mary, found the equipment technician shortage is costing dealers approximately $2.4 billion per year in lost revenue and economic activity. Citing a lack of “hard skills” as the top reason technician positions are going unfilled, the study noted that vacancies at construction equipment dealerships remain open for longer than three times the national average. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE


April 18, 2016

CT Construction Digest April 18, 2016

Mall construction bucks trends

The mall era is supposed to be over. Rather than build massive enclosed shopping centers amid a sea of parking lots, developers across the region have looked increasingly toward walkable mixed-use districts, with homes, businesses and shopping on top of one another.
To some extent, the numbers bear this out. From 2000 to 2009, an average of about 18.2 million square feet of mall space came online nationally, according to CoStar Group. Last year, it was down to 3.4 million.
In the midst of those trends, Trumbull in recent years has completed more than $35 million in renovations to the Westfield Trumbull mall, with successful businesses like the Apple store and Cheesecake Factory continuing to count on the shopping center’s success.
Even more dramatically, Norwalk will soon see construction of a 700,000-plus-square-foot enclosed shopping center on one of its most highly visible tracts. While malls elsewhere may be dying, Norwalk is staking much of its future growth on one.
And despite troubles elsewhere in the sector, there are indications this project, with its choice anchor stores, favorable demographics and desirable location, is on solid footing.
“There’s a broad perception that malls are dying, and that is the case in some places,” said Ryan McCullough, senior real estate economist with CoStar Group. “But the productivity is quite good on about 80 percent of malls, and the leasing is solid on many new properties.”
The malls with the best outlook have attributes that will be found in bulk at The SoNo Collection, as the mall planned by General Growth Properties (NYSE: GGP) will be known.
“The most important factor, beyond location, is who your tenants are,” McCullough said. “Who the tenants are can go a long way in predicting how a mall is going to do. The second factor beyond that is demographics.”
According to GGP, Norwalk is in the middle of one of the most desirable markets in the country, and “1 out of 5 households in the trade area are among the top 1 percent of Americans in terms of wealth.”  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

$40 million New London housing project to go to residents on Wednesday

New London — Tenants of a troubled high-rise apartment complex off Crystal Avenue next week are expected to get their first glimpse of conceptual plans of what may someday be their new homes.
In what came as a surprise move to some, the Massachusetts-based nonprofit Affordable Housing and Service Collaborative Inc. purchased the former Edgerton School property on Monday.
The nonprofit has announced its intention of building an estimated $40 million development to house all of the more than 300 tenants of the Thames River Apartments.
Rehabilitation or demolition of the 50-year-old apartment complex, located in the shadow of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge, became inevitable when a class-action lawsuit led to a 2014 settlement between tenants and the New London Housing Authority, which manages the 124-unit low-income apartment complex.
New London attorney Robert Reardon, who led the decade-long legal battle to address the unsafe and unsanitary conditions secured a stipulated agreement with the New London Housing Authority’s board of directors and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The agreement called for a three-year timeline leading to the rehabilitation or relocation of the complex.
Affordable Housing and Services Collaborative was enlisted by the housing authority to find a suitable site for new construction.
The agency had uncovered few options until it looked as though the city’s plans to purchase the former Edgerton School for development of a community center might fall through. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Connecticut, New Haven-area officials urge drivers to watch for work zones

NEW HAVEN >> As the weather warms up and summer draws closer, more drivers will take to the highways around New Haven and across Connecticut but state officials and construction crews want them to remember one thing before hitting the road: Watch out for the work zones.
Connecticut just wrapped up its Work Zone Safety Awareness week, a state Department of Transportation campaign that was part of a national effort aimed at helping workers and drivers stay safe in construction areas.
The statewide effort has featured messages on DOT’s electronic signboards, rush-hour radio commercials, billboards, a social-media campaign, a poster contest and reminders from several top state officials as well as the Connecticut State Police.
But advocates say drivers need to be thinking about work zones all year long. “Sadly, it’s only a weeklong (official) effort,” said Ralph Inorio, the business manager and secretary/treasurer of East Haven-based Local Union 455. “I wish it could be a yearlong effort.”
Local 455 represents construction workers and laborers across the New Haven area from Milford to Madison and as far north as Meriden. Its members are on highway and road work sites across the region, including many who are working on the Q Bridge project.
Paying attention to work zones is especially important for drivers in and around the Elm City. DOT statistics from 2014 — the most recent year available — show that 246 of the state’s 900 work zone crashes happened in New Haven County. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

New Super-Strong Concrete Could Fix Nation's Bridge Problems

NPR is reporting that students at the University of Connecticut have begun testing a new "super" concrete - a mixture of chemicals and fiber that's two to three times stronger than traditional concrete.
Standing in a laboratory packed with various scientific instruments, University of Connecticut engineering professor Arash Zaghi gestured to three steel beams, modest in appearance where they sit under the large and brightly-painted hydraulic-powered machine capable of applying weights of up to 275 tons.
Engineers refer to these beams as girders, a key component in bridge support. These three girders, modeled after a bridge in the Hartford area, were pressed under the lab's hydraulic load machine until their point of failure.
But the beams themselves aren't the most important piece in the experiment. What's notable is the cast of concrete around one of the beams, which increased the steel's load capacity when the machine was pushing over hundreds of tons of weight into it. Zaghi said this super-strong and durable concrete could transform the way engineers across the nation approach bridge repair.
Many of Connecticut's bridges are nearing the end of their useful lives: about a quarter of the bridges in the state have been rated as functionally obsolete, and ten percent are deemed structurally deficient. Officials say these bridges are still safe to drive on, but there's high demand for a quick and cost-effective bridge preservation method. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE