October 31, 2016

CT Construction Digest Monday October 31, 2016

New UConn Campus Combines The Past And Future Of Hartford

The front entrance to the University of Connecticut's new downtown campus now under construction is tied to the past with the fa├žade restoration of the iconic Hartford Times building standing as a reminder of the city's heyday.
But step inside and it's all about the future. An atrium soaring three stories dominates the new structure rising just east of city hall in a corner of the emerging Front Street district. The atrium, now roughed out in steel and concrete, will be lined on three sides by more than two dozen classrooms when the campus welcomes nearly 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students next fall.
During a tour of the project last Thursday, Robert Corbett, UConn's director of regional projects and development, explained that each of the three entrances to the building will open into the atrium, and there will be overlooks on the second and third floors.
"It is the centerpiece in that we wanted a space that would serve as the focal point of the whole campus," Corbett said. "We are having classes and faculty and staff in multiple locations in the neighborhood. We wanted to have at least one location which we deemed as the center of the campus."
The campus, which is being moved from West Hartford, also will include leased space for a library and classrooms in the Hartford Public Library, and classroom and office space at 38 Prospect St., both a short distance away. The nearby Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art has been mentioned as a potential location for classes.
City and state officials see the campus as adding a new vibrancy to downtown, as students move among classes in the different buildings. But they also view it as key in connecting the recently developed Front Street entertainment district and apartments to the rest of downtown.
The cost for the $140 million campus has doubled from the initial estimates in 2013. UConn said the majority of the increase in the final budget was connected with renovating the Hartford Times facade and the 30 feet of building behind it, mostly stabilizing it once the back half of the building was torn down.
The shape of the new building also has changed since 2013. UConn initially envisioned a structure with 220,000 square feet of classroom and office space. The university cut that to 160,000 square feet, plus 19,000 square feet of retail space, to reduce its height, making it fit better into the surrounding neighborhood.
The structure now under construction features a variety of building heights. The Times facade is four stories, the atrium is three and the portion near the main entrance off Front Street is five. A courtyard will be planted with grass and trees and is designed to be used as a public space.
The classroom space will include an entire floor designated for science, including laboratories for chemistry, physics and biology. Faculty offices will be on the fourth and fifth floors and in the space incorporated from the Times building.
UConn expects 1,400 undergraduates and 500 graduate students to take classes in the building. It is possible that undergraduates could pursue their first two years in Hartford before having to take courses in Storrs. The faculty and staff is expected to number about 350.
"Ideally, students at Storrs will be attracted to this downtown campus and to cross register and take courses," said Nina Heller, interim director of the campus and dean of UConn's School of Social Work. She accompanied Corbett on the tour along with Nadine Brennan, the associate director of the new campus. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Public to get update on Wakelee Avenue reconstruction during information meeting in Ansonia

ANSONIA >> Residents and business owners are invited to attend a public information meeting Wednesday to get an update on a proposed $3.5 million project to reconstruct Wakelee Avenue. The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the ARMS Building, 22 West Main St. “The mayor wanted to have this meeting, but we are also required by the state to hold a public meeting on the Wakelee Avenue project since state and federal funds are being used,” said Economic Development Director Sheila O’Malley. “The meeting will be to discuss the design, the timeline and the overall project for the reconstruction.” Mayor David Cassetti and city officials held a press conference in April 2015 to announce the “Wake Up Wakelee” initiative, geared to give the problem-plagued road a much-needed facelift.
The one-mile stretch of Wakelee Avenue due for a major upgrade is home to about 50 businesses. The heavily traveled road has been neglected over the years, with pavement in poor condition, sidewalks in disrepair and lack of adequate drainage, Cassetti has said.
O’Malley helped the city secure $3.5 million in grant funding from the state Department of Transportation, with Ansonia slated to kick in a local match of 10 percent to cover the project design and engineering fees.   O’Malley said VHB, a large engineering firm out of Wethersfield, with offices all over the country, is designing plans for the Wakelee Avenue makeover, which is about “90 percent complete.” “The design is nearly complete,” O’Malley added. “It’s a large project that has to follow state and federal regulations…and everything needs to be approved by the state (before construction can start).”  O’Malley had said the major reconstruction of the city-owned road has been a long time coming, and advertisement improvements haven’t happened there for at least two decades. She is hopeful the makeover will serve as a catalyst for more new businesses to come to town. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE 

October 28, 2016

CT Construction Digest Friday October 28, 2016

Work begins on Chick-Fil-A, Chipotle, Aldi in Southington

SOUTHINGTON — Work has begun on a Queen Street plaza that will include a Chick-fil-A, Chipotle and Aldi north of the Interstate 84 exit ramps.
Local developer John Senese bought four adjacent properties that included a former factory and a shuttered Chinese restaurant. He’s turning the property into a retail and restaurant development.
In addition to demolishing the restaurant, the developer also remediated pollution that was caused by the metal plating company.
The plaza doesn’t have a connection to the development directly to the north which contains an International House of Pancakes, Bed Bath and Beyond, TJ Maxx, and Bob’s Discount Furniture.
That development is owned by RK Centers of Needham, Mass. Kenneth Fries, the company’s acquisitions and leasing director, said connecting the plazas isn’t off the table. Fries said his company told Senese to contact them once permits were approved to discuss a connection.
Joining plazas could help both but could also hurt some tenants, according to Fries.
“There’s a lot that goes into it,” he said. “You don’t want to have high parking uses competing for spaces, especially around the holidays.”
In addition to parking, stores or restaurants wouldn’t want to provide more access to a direct competitor. Fries said the question of whether or not to provide a road would depend on the tenants Senese signs.
A deal to allow traffic could come with a fee, but not in every case, Fries said.
Overall, the addition of more stores to the area will help RK Centers.
“It’s definitely a positive from the retail perspective,” Fries said, calling the store and restaurants Senese has signed on thus far “really strong tenants.”
Senese didn’t return calls for comment Thursday.
Senese requested and received permission to rezone three Upson Place properties, allowing him to put in a driveway to connect his new development to the signal near 7-Eleven. He faced opposition from some homeowners concerned about commercial encroachment in their neighborhood but a majority of residents voted to change their restrictive covenant to allow the rezoning. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Preston — The Preston Redevelopment Agency and the Mohegan Tribe have asked for a 90-day extension, to Feb. 19, of the negotiation period that is expected to conclude with the sale of the former Norwich Hospital property in Preston to the tribe for a major development totaling some $600 million.
The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Thursday to agree to the extension after hearing from PRA Chairman Sean Nugent that this would be the only extension needed to complete the negotiations. Nugent said the parties expect to have a Property Disposition and Development Agreement, or PDDA, completed by the new deadline.
Tribal and town officials announced on May 12 that the tribe was interested in buying the entire 393-acre former Norwich Hospital property in Preston for a major nongaming development described at the time as a “high-quality” mixed use development. Tribal Chairman Kevin Brown later said the project could include business development, outdoor recreation, including a “glamour camping” facility, a synthetic ski slope and an adventure park.
The Memorandum of Understanding reached between the town and the tribe on May 19 called for a 180-day negotiation period that would end Nov. 19 without the extension.
Nugent told the selectmen that much progress has been made in recent weeks during closed-door negotiation sessions, but the two parties have exchanged questions and asked for more information that will require more time to complete.
“We've come to a joint conclusion that it's not going to happen by Nov. 19,” Nugent said. “But it is going to happen.”
After the selectmen meeting, Nugent said he could not comment on specifics of the issues in the negotiations that will need more time to iron out.
The time schedule remains tight even with the extension, town officials admitted Thursday, because all approvals are expected to be in place by the new Feb. 19 deadline — including a vote by the State Bond Commission for the pledged $10 million state contribution to finish the environmental cleanup of the property, and town meeting approval in Preston for the PDDA.
First Selectman Robert Congdon said the only approval not within the town's and tribe's control is the State Bond Commission schedule.
Prior to a town meeting seeking residents' approval of the agreement, officials also expect to hold public information meetings on the proposal, Nugent said.
“I'm kind of hoping that you're pretty far along the road,” Preston Selectman Michael Sinko said, “because this is a bad time of year to get things done — the holidays.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Malloy taps DEEP deputy as PURA commissioner

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Thursday said he has nominated Katie Dykes, deputy commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, to serve as a commissioner of the state's Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.
Dykes, who has been in her current position since March 2012, would replace Art House, who Malloy appointed earlier this month as the state's Chief Cyber Security Risk Officer -- a newly created position within the Department of Administrative Services.
Dykes graduated from Yale Law School and is the current chair of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a carbon-trading program for Northeastern states. She previously worked as deputy general counsel for the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
"Katie has dedicated years toward providing strategic direction to Connecticut's energy policy, and in particular her knowledge of the needs of Connecticut's energy consumers and utility companies made her a natural fit for this position," Malloy said in a statement. "Over the last several years, my staff and I have had the pleasure of working closely with her on these topics, and I am confident that her passion and expertise will benefit PURA and seamlessly continue its mission."
PURA is based in New Britain and regulates the rates and services of utility and telecom companies operating in the state. Its other commissioners are John W. Betkoski III and Michael Caron.
"In this new role, I look forward to working with other PURA commissioners and staff to advance Connecticut's nationally-recognized energy agenda to bring cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable power to the families and businesses of our state," Dykes said.
PURA has been a part of DEEP since 2011. It used to be a separate agency called the Department of Public Utility Control.
In early 2015, House and his fellow commissioners asked Malloy for more independence from DEEP, which controls its budget and hiring.

Connecticut Cancels Plans For Major Natural Gas Projects

Connecticut energy officials Thursday canceled plans for major natural gas pipelines and other regional gas projects, citing recent court and administrative rulings in other New England states that raised doubts about regional cooperation to pay for such big projects.
The decision appears to be a significant setback for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's push to expand the use of natural gas by Connecticut power generating facilities. Malloy's administration has been touting natural gas as a cleaner, less expensive alternative to other fossil fuels, and a way to insure reliability in New England's energy system.
Connecticut officials say this state's efforts to encourage more natural gas use by homeowners and businesses are continuing, and the state this week gave approval for several new solar and wind energy projects to move ahead and negotiate deals with electricity distribution companies, including Eversource and United Illuminating.
But there has been growing environmental and consumer opposition in the region to massive and costly gas pipeline and major natural gas power generating projects.
Plans calling for electricity ratepayers to carry the major part of the cost of such big natural gas projects triggered a storm of protests. Recent rulings in Massachusetts and New Hampshire effectively prohibit ratepayers in those states from being charged for pipeline projects.
"We don't believe Connecticut ratepayers should take on these costs [of major pipelines and other regional natural gas projects]... when other states are not going to take on their share," said Katie Dykes, deputy commissioner of Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Asked if the cancellation of these natural gas pipeline proposals in Connecticut would result in higher energy costs for state consumers, Dykes replied: "I don't have a crystal ball." She said ratepayer costs depend a lot on what's happening with winter weather, energy markets, and developments in other states.
Officials at Eversource, a major partner in one big pipeline proposal called Access Northeast, issued a statement saying they were disappointed with the state's decision to cancel consideration of that and other major natural gas projects. But the utility officials added that, "We remain committed to the Access Northeast project and finding solutions for New England's energy crisis," said Eversource spokesperson Tricia Taskey Modifica. "The significant need for natural gas in our region cannot be understated." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

October 27, 2016

CT Construction Digest October Thursday 27, 2016

New Bethel police station still over budget, but moves forward

BETHEL - Although the cost estimate for a new police station is still more than $700,000 over budget, architects will move forward with design development as they continue to look for expense cuts.
The project was originally estimated at $14.9 million, about $1.5 million over budget, so the Public Site and Building Committee changed several aspects of the design to reduce costs by more than $700,000.
Among the cuts are eliminating parking spaces, removing a cupola, changing the siding to thin brick and clapboard, raising the building by one foot, and reducing the square footage by 1,000 feet. The building will be approximately 25,000 square feet, which is still within the size the town voted for in a referendum late last year.
Architect Brian Humes will work with engineers in the next design phase to find other ways to save money and report back to the committee for approval. If money allows, the committee will be able to bring back some features it wanted, such as the carport that would keep emergency vehicles dry in the rain and snow.
Voters approved $13.5 million for the police station in December after rejecting a $14.1 million proposal in 2014.
Selectman Paul Szatkowski, who spoke during public comment at the site committee’s Tuesday meeting, said he supports the station, but the $1.5 million overrun is making him and the public nervous. He said he received too many calls over the last couple weeks with questions about the police station that he could not answer.
“People are saying to me, ‘Paul we’re not getting what we voted for,’” he said. “And personally, I think I have to agree with them.”
Selectman Richard Straiton will sit in on the committee’s meetings for the next few months as an ex-officio member.
But committee members emphasized the town will get the project it approved within budget and that there are no plans to ask voters for more money.
“It’s going to be a long process,” Humes said. “But I think you’ll see how the process will play out, and ultimately the Bethel Police Department will get a facility that will be the facility for the next 50-plus years. So we’re confident that we can continue down this path.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Amtrak’s high-speed upgrades could affect Connecticut, 7 other states

Proposals by the Federal Railroad Administration to upgrade the high-speed rail corridor through the Northeast have raised concerns , and some enthusiasm, from residents in the eight states containing the route of Amtrak’s Acela Express from Boston to Washington. After reviewing three major alternatives and a fourth option of doing nothing, the agency plans to release its recommendations later this year. The proposals attracting the most attention.
CONNECTICUT The most vehement opposition has come from southeastern Connecticut, where residents in Old Lyme and neighboring shoreline towns fear construction of a 50-mile bypass to avoid the current curvy route that hugs the coast would ruin their communities. Less attention has gone to a proposal for a “second spine” that would create a new inland route stopping at Hartford and possibly the University of Connecticut. One proposal would route that spine beneath Long Island Sound through a nearly 25-mile tunnel connecting the New Haven station to New York’s Long Island.
DELAWARE Some residents are concerned about a new high-speed route option that could bypass Wilmington, a banking hub and the state’s largest city.MARYLAND The biggest proposed change would replace the Baltimore and Potomac tunnels underneath Baltimore. The greatest concern voiced by residents and environmental groups has been over a proposed parallel track that could cut into the edge of the Patuxent Research Refuge, a national wildlife refuge. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

‘Residual radioactive contamination’ found at former New Haven Clock Company site

NEW HAVEN >> Those radium painted dials on millions of wristwatches produced in the city at the New Haven Clock Company are once again a “hot” item. An environmental review of the long-closed factory, which at one point employed as many as 1,500 people, found radium-226 in parts of what is left of the sprawling campus on Hamilton, St. John and Wallace streets in the Wooster Square neighborhood. Helen Rosenberg, an economic development officer, said the report by the environmental engineering firm Fuss and O’Neill found “residual radioactive contamination present throughout portions of the building.”
Rosenberg said the cost of removing the radium is an estimated $1 million. Developers have always shown interest in finding reuses for the city’s diminishing examples of its 19th century manufacturing past.
Rosenberg said the buildings at 133 Hamilton St. will have to be cleaned up before they can be brought back to life. She said the next move is the look for funding to reclaim what essentially is a brownfield site. She said the radium is not present in all the buildings and she does not believe it is dangerous. The NRC said most of the windows have been covered, but there do not appear to be any signs or restrictions on use. That portion of the factory connected by a bridge across Hamilton has been taken down, but multiple other buildings remain. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission earlier in the month wrote to the current owners of the site, Rosanne Yagovane and Paula Yagovane of Milford, who are principals in T.S.J. Inc.  The family, which bought the buildings in 1987, has been working with Bill Kraus, who specializes in preservation and redevelopment of historic buildings. He could not be reached for comment.The NRC wanted to get onto the site to determine whether there was any radium contamination and to start planning a scoping survey. The agency is responsible for making sure these sites are not a public health problem. It was unaware of the study being undertaken with the state grant, but Rosenberg said David Misenhimer, project manager at the NRC, contacted her Tuesday and wants a copy of Fuss and O’Neill’s report. When a previous study was done on the factory in 1998, there were three occupants at that time: Club International, Goodies Small Engine Repair and St. John’s Restaurant. Most of the total building space then and now remains unoccupied. The only business still there is Primo Gentleman’s Club, formerly the Key Club Cabaret — which was the site of a shooting in October 2013 in which a young woman was killed and five others wounded. No radiological contamination was found in the club or the restaurant, but a small area in Goodies had a positive reading. Converting the factory to loft spaces where renters could work and live would fit into the city’s Mill River District plan. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Eversource installing natural gas pipeline in Charles Street area of Torrington

 TORRINGTON >> Eversource announced plans Tuesday to install roughly 2.5 miles of pipeline in the area of Charles Street, allowing residents the chance to choose natural gas as a heating fuel. “The Torrington expansion project involves installing nearly 2.5 miles, approximately 14,000 feet, of underground pipeline in the area of Charles, Putnam, Lindberg and Revere Streets, as well as Knollwood, Meadowview and Ticonderoga Drives,” wrote Eversource officials in a release posted to the company website. “Eversource will regularly update community leaders and customers where work is being done to minimize the impact to traffic and coordinate with other roadwork happening in the area. Drivers may experience delays due to alternating, one-way traffic.”
The project is expected to cost approximately $1.6 million, and is planned to be completed in September, officials said. Crews are expected to be working on the project from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., as long as weather permits.“This is exciting news for this area of Torrington as we continue to make natural gas available to more communities across Connecticut,” said William Akley, President of Gas Operations for Eversource, in a written statement. “We’re thrilled to be able to provide more people access to this efficient and environmentally-friendly fuel to heat their homes or businesses.” Eversource choose to undertake the project after determining there was customer interest in such a move, according to Mitch Gross, a spokesman for Eversource. Input, he said, was received by phone calls and taking stock of word-of-mouth communication.
Construction has already begun, Gross said Wednesday. Those interested in switching to natural gas, he said, are asked to call 855-645-2427 while the work is ongoing, he said, since this is the easiest time to enact such a change.Incentives are available for those interested, Gross said. Eversource announced plans in March to spend $50 million on its natural gas distribution network statewide over the course of the year, according to past reporting. At the time, Eversource had completed an initial phase of work “near the area of Pearl, Barber and Prospect streets” in Torrington, replacing 1,200 feet of pipeline.

October 26, 2016

CT Construction Digest Wednesday October 26, 2016

State needs access to repair overpass

NEW BRITAIN — The Common Council tonight will consider granting the state Department of Transportation a first-ever easement to perform maintenance work next spring on the Harry Truman Overpass. The project comes as the city looks to relocate the police department impound lot located directly below the bridge at Herald Square.
The NBPD maintains the area to store a number of seized vehicles, many as part of police investigations. While the department relocated to Chestnut Street in 2012, the impound lot stayed where it had been since the former headquarters building was constructed in the late 1960s.
Mayor Erin Stewart said on Tuesday that the city has been considering sites for a new impound lot, with less high-traffic areas being a priority. The city has been aware of the pending DOT overpass project for months, adding frustration to finding a new spot for impounds.
“They have never needed access to the overpass before and it’s added a level of difficultly compromising the situation,” Stewart said. “But we wanted to be a good partner with the state so it’s another problem we are trying to solve and we’re hoping to figure out a financing situation.”
Stewart said without grants or other funding support, the city would be on the hook for a construction project that could carry a price tag of over $500,000. Per state statutes, the new impound lot would have to accommodate indoor storage of vehicles, according to Stewart. She said options at city-owned land are limited, whether considering new construction or repurposing existing buildings.
Stewart said the city was unsuccessful in obtaining a brownfields grant to remediate the old Public Works incinerator site on Christian Lane. Demolition would have made way for a modest aluminum structure to hold impounded vehicles.
Meanwhile, city officials continue to consider other options.
Stewart said with the former police station now gone and the neighboring Herald Square Dialysis having spent millions to upgrade its property, the impound lot becomes increasingly unattractive.
“It’s definitely an eyesore,” she said. “Getting it out of downtown is something we have to do and we continue to work on it.”
The council will hold its regular meeting at 7 p.m. tonight at City Hall, 27 West Main St.

‘Beehive Bridge’ construction to begin in spring

NEW BRITAIN — With next year’s winter thaw will come three downtown roadwork projects that have the potential to disrupt traffic for up to one year, officials confirmed on Tuesday.
Developers of the so-called Beehive Bridge that carries Main Street over Route 72 said that work on the overpass will begin around the same time as the redesign of a portion of Columbus Boulevard and the state’s maintenance work on the Harry Truman Overpass.
Derek Hug, a project manager at the civil and environmental engineering firm of Fuss & O’Neill, said drivers will experience traffic pattern disruptions and lane restrictions during the work.
The company expects bridge construction to begin by April 2017, the same time as the Columbus Boulevard project, where plans include the relocation of the downtown bus hub and the installation of a roundabout near the entrance to the Red Roof Inn. Both are projected to be completed by late spring 2018.
Maintenance and repairs on the Truman Overpass should take about six months, according to Mayor Erin Stewart. The work is being overseen by the state Department of Transportation.
Hug said while the simultaneous projects may at times be a headache, the city and construction crews will make “an ongoing and constant effort” to make it as easy as possible for motorists and pedestrians.
Mark Moriarty, the city’s director public works agreed. “We’re going to work as hard as we can to minimize (disruptions),” he said.
Hug and others detailed the Beehive Bridge project in a public information session at police headquarters attended by city officials and residents. The presentation was complete with sketches and 3-D artist’s renderings of the tri-color honeycomb design bridge walls and large bee and beehive sculptures.
The project will include widened sidewalks, new traffic signals, crosswalks, pedestrian ramps, revised lane arrangements and two pocket parks on the north side of the bridge.
Landscape designs will incorporate brick pavers, tree planters, benches, grass, retaining walls and lighting.
Developers and city officials spoke of its significance in connecting downtown to the gateway to Little Poland, a link that disappeared with the construction of Route 72 in the 1970s.
Moriarty said the bridge project is the fifth phase — and the most ambitious — of the city’s Complete Streets Master Plan begun six years ago.
Funding sources for the project include $2.1 million in state bonding, $1.6 million in Federal Transit Administration Bus Livability Funds, $1.4 million from the city and $700,000 that the DOT has committed to perform repairs and upgrades to the overpass.

Smalley renovation project moves forward

NEW BRITAIN — The Smalley Academy school renovation project will move forward now that the local contractor who filed a lawsuit against the city has not appealed the superior court judge’s earlier ruling.
Kaestle Boos Inc. made an unsuccessful bid to do the consulting and architectural services for the project and sued the city to temporarily halt the start of the work. In filing the lawsuit, Kaestle Boos cited a local ordinance that states as a New Britain bidder it should have been considered the “lowest responsible bidder” because its bid was not more than 2 percent higher than the lowest bid on the project. Kaestle Boos bid $1,710,000 to perform the consulting and architectural services. The Bridgeport-based Fletcher Thompson bid $1,610,000. Its total bid was $1,695,000 when taking into account retrofitting the now vacant St. John Paul II School, which would serve as “swing space” for displaced students from Smalley while construction was occurring at the school. Kaestle Boos had 20 days from the Oct. 4 decision by Judge Robert Young to dismiss the lawsuit to appeal. Monday was the last day the firm could have appealed and Kaestle Boos never made that motion. In his ruling, Young wrote, in part, that Kaestle Boos “is not presently claiming fraud or corruption and has not demonstrated evidence of favoritism… Kaestle Boos has no standing to seek injunctive relief.” The school project, which was on hold pending a possible appeal, can now start up again, city educators said.
The school district’s School Building Committee was scheduled to meet this afternoon to “wrap up any questions anyone might have regarding the litigation,” said Paul Salina, chief operations officer for the school district. “It was unfortunate the project was delayed and we want to move along as quickly as possible.”
The legal tangling, Salina said, has forced the project to be delayed somewhat.
“We were looking at a possible move into the new Smalley school in January or February 2018. But, now with this (temporary) delay, we do not anticipate moving in until the school year starts in September 2018,” Salina noted.
The $53 million renovation project, Salina has said, is still dependent on the State Bonding Commission approving the project in the spring. Local educators have expressed optimism there will be approval.
The renovation and expansion of the school, located on West Street, is supposed to include 12 new classrooms, additional space and traffic flow improvements.
New Britain state Rep. Bobby Sanchez represents the district that covers Smalley Academy, which is located in the poorest neighborhood in the city.
“This (renovation) is something I’ve been advocating for ever since parents reached out to me about what they felt was some of the conditions in the building. They had concerns about tiles lifting up, about leaks, issues with the roof and possible mold in the building,” Sanchez said Tuesday. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Meriden developers reveal plans for a downtown that comes to life

MERIDEN — The Mills and former Hub redevelopment team presented the Meriden Housing Authority Board of Commissioners a vision of a Meriden downtown that can come to life after 5 p.m.
Tim Henkel of Pennrose Properties and Charlie Adams outlined the details of the Meriden Commons Phase I and II projects, in addition to a commercial/retail/residential development on State Street and a restaurant and retail hub with market rate housing on Pratt Street near the Silver City Bridge.  “That corner is set up to be a good restaurant or sports bar,” Henkle said about 50 Pratt St. across from the Engine 3 firehouse on the Meriden Green.
Pennrose Properties, Hartford developer Sanford Cloud and the MHA recently received $5.7 million to begin Phase I of Meriden Commons, a mixed-use, mixed income development at the corner of State and Mill streets. It also won approval for 9 percent low-income housing tax credits on the project.
An application for Meriden Commons Phase II is due Nov. 9. Both projects will feature varying designs and colored buildings, including town houses facing Park Street. Both phases will yield 150 housing units and 6,000 square feet of commercial development.
Of the 432 total units planned in the city’s transit-oriented district owned by the city and the Meriden Housing Authority, about 307 units will be market rate and 105 units will be affordable.Projects underway or in the pipeline will yield 100,000 square feet of commercial space. Officials estimate that the construction in the transit-oriented development district will cost $110.4 million and lead to $159.7 million in total direct and indirect economic output. 
Several factors enticed Pennrose’s interest in the city, including the transit hub, increased train service and the housing authority involved in undergoing very important redevelopment projects, according to officials.
“We understand the opportunity here,” Henkel said. “The things we thought were good signs, were all the agencies that have doubled down in Meriden.”
Henkel was also impressed with the city’s partnership with the authority on a Choice Neighborhood Grant, which despite the city not winning, was a “major undertaking” that would overwhelm the majority of housing authorities in the U.S., he said.
“24 Colony Street is the first building to test things. We’re going to double down,” he said.
MHA board members questioned whether the city could support the added downtown retail space. Henkel responded the increased population will drive opportunities. The city is working on a marketing survey for the anticipated available space in the transit-oriented district.
Executive Director Robert Cappelletti reminded commissioners that 432 new units are going to translate into 700 to 800 more people downtown. Work on the Meriden Commons and the former Hub project on State Street can be done simultaneously to draw on momentum and keep pressure on the city to move ahead on plans to repair Cedar Street bridge and uncovering Harbor Brook to continue the park through the former Mills Memorial Apartments after demolition, the developers said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Windham — A Central New England freight train rolled slowly forward on a track behind Main Street on Tuesday morning until it crashed through a banner stretched across the tracks that read “Bringing Modern Freight Rail Service to Connecticut.”
A crowd of more than 60 people cheered and waved to the conductor as he motored past the white VIP tent at the rear of the Windham Chamber of Commerce office.
What was called the “most unique” and the “awesomest” ribbon-cutting ceremony in the region marked the start of construction for a much-touted $12.8 million freight rail upgrade project for the Central New England line that runs from New London through Montville, Norwich, Franklin, Willimantic and on to the Massachusetts border. There, the line ties into other Central New England tracks that run north into Canada.
The upgrades, with construction expected to start in spring, will allow the tracks to carry 286,000 pounds of freight, up from the current limit of 263,000 pounds. The improvement is expected to invigorate freight traffic on the tracks, allowing numerous manufacturing plants along its rails — including some of Norwich's biggest taxpayers — to expand operations and bring more traffic to the Port of New London.
The tracks end, or begin, at State Pier, now part of the Port of New London.
“This corridor is eastern Connecticut's opening to the world,” said Scott Bates, chairman of the Connecticut Port Authority, which runs the New London port.
New London Mayor Michael Passero said the rail upgrade project could be the most significant economic development advancement for New London “in decades.”
With much lobbying from local, state and federal lawmakers, the region was successful in 2014 in its third attempt to obtain highly competitive federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery — TIGER — for the project. The $8 million grant will be added to the $4.8 million contributed by Genessee & Wyoming Inc., owner of the Central New England line.
Dave Brown, CEO of Genessee & Wyoming, said company officials realized immediately upon purchasing the historical line that it needed a major upgrade. Bolted rails will be replaced with welded lines. New ties will be installed, bridges upgraded and street crossings improved, officials said Tuesday. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Stonington residents learn latest details of elementary school project

Stonington — Representatives of the firms working on the $67 million renovation and expansion of 48-year-old Deans Mill and West Vine Street schools presented updated floor and site plans and phasing details during a community meeting hosted by the K-12 Building Committee on Tuesday night.
The design of the project, which was approved overwhelmingly by voters last year, will be completed by the end of the year, with construction manager Gilbane Building Co. bidding the various aspects of the project in February. The groundbreaking is slated for April and the 18-month construction period at each school will end in the fall of 2018 in time for the start of school.
In addition, the replacement of the Pawcatuck Middle School roof, which is part of the project, is almost complete.
Peter Manning of Gilbane, who also oversaw the renovation of the high school a decade ago, said plans are for the work to have a minimal disruption on the school day.
Site and preparation work will occur this spring and, once school is out for the summer, the grounds of both schools will close with new construction occurring.
Once that work is completed, students will transition into the new space while renovations are made to existing sections of the school. Near the end of the project, a section of Deans Mill School will be demolished.
Residents learned Tuesday night that the two schools will have new gyms of 6,000 square feet, bigger than the gym at Mystic Middle School. Kindergarten and prekindergarten classrooms at each school will have their own bathrooms, and each school will receive new playground equipment. The tracks at each school will be relocated. The sensory garden at West Vine Street School will be relocated to an area under two mature oak trees to provide some shade.
In the spring of 2018, the cafeterias and kitchens at each school will have to close for renovations so students likely will have to bring bag lunches.
“This small sacrifice that we’re asking teachers and students to make during the construction phase is to get a long-term gain of a new school that will last the next 30 to 50 years,” said building committee Chairman Rob Marseglia.
He added the budget does include money for portable classrooms if there are problems with the phasing plans.
He said the good news is that preliminary cost estimates show that the project will be within budget and include all of the space and program needs outlined in the educational specifications.
“We want to get the shovels in the ground and what we really want to see is Gilbane moving off the property and getting ready for the ribbon cutting,” he said.

New London considers alterations to school construction plan

New London — The school district is considering the creation of one of the state’s largest public school campuses at the current site of New London High School.
The idea is just one of several options the district is mulling over as it absorbs the impact of losing a partnership with the Garde Arts Center and, along with it, a downtown campus for a performing and visual arts program. The result is the potential loss of $31 million in state funds associated with the Garde project and skyrocketing cost estimates for one of the two campuses where the district intended to build two schools for grades 6 through 12.
The centerpiece for the future all-magnet school district always has been two schools with magnet pathways fed with students from the magnet elementary schools. One grades 6-12 school, the north campus, would be located at New London High School, while the south campus would be built at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School.
Splitting the four pathways equally between the two schools now seems unlikely as new projected cost estimates from the Capitol Region Education Council show the south campus price tag jumping from $49 million to $96 million.
The district has until Nov. 1 to submit a plan to the state Department of Administrative Services for the south campus or risk losing a spot on the school construction priority list with the General Assembly. The previously submitted plan was dropped from the state legislature’s priority list last year because it was not “shovel-ready,” legislators said.
“We have to be in a position to tell the state about what our position is on Bennie Dover,” Superintendent Manuel Rivera said.
Rivera, who inherited the overall plan when he was hired as superintendent in 2015, said the major hurdle remains the costs.
“The issue is being able to complete the project within the existing dollars. The only possible way to do that is to pursue a single campus,” he said.
In 2014, under a plan developed by state-appointed Special Master Steven J. Adamowski, city residents approved a school construction bond authorization for up to $165 million for a $98 million north campus and a $48 million south campus. At an 80 percent reimbursement rate, the city’s cost was expected to be about $33 million.
At the time, Adamowski conceived of a partnership not only with the Garde Arts Center but with the Interdistrict School for Arts and Communication (ISAAC) for the middle and high school levels of its planned visual and performing arts magnet pathway. About 600 students were associated with that program.
The partnerships never materialized and the result is a reshuffling of the locations of the four magnet pathways — science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), language and culture, visual and performing arts and leadership. Associated with the placement of the pathways is the state requirements on the percentages of out-of-district students that trigger an increased amount of state funding. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Amid uncertainty, DEEP cans gas RFP

Hamstrung by court and regulatory rulings in key New England states, the state's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said it's canceling an RFP meant to increase natural gas capacity in the state.
The developers of seven projects, including a $3 billion expansion of the Algonquin pipeline called Access Northeast, had submitted bids in late June, vying to provide as much as an extra 300 million cubic feet per day of capacity for the region's gas-fired power plants.
But the mechanism by which developers and utilities wanted to finance the projects by building the cost of expanding gas capacity into electricity rates was controversial.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court dealt the first blow with a ruling in August forbidding the financing scheme, saying it would undermine the objectives of utility restructuring in the late 1990s and expose ratepayers to risks. With New England's largest population, the Bay State was seen as crucial to the Access Northeast project.
In New Hampshire, utility regulators issued a ruling earlier this month containing similar language.
DEEP said this week that those decisions "have materially reduced the ability for the costs of projects to be shared among a substantial portion of the region's ratepayers."
"DEEP has consistently asserted that the problem of inadequate gas infrastructure is greater than one state can solve alone," the agency said in a statement. "Regional investment is necessary to ensure that no one state disproportionately bears the costs of addressing what is a problem endemic to our regional electric system. As a result, DEEP moved to cancel this RFP."
DEEP said it could restart the RFP process in the future. Two separate RFPs for clean energy procurement remain ongoing, with major development also announced Tuesday.

Beacon Falls fuel-cell park loses major potential customer

A proposed Beacon Falls fuel-cell park that would be the world's largest was dealt a blow Tuesday when it lost a large potential customer — utilities in Connecticut and two neighboring states.
Danbury's FuelCell Energy disclosed in a U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission filing that the 63.3-megawatt project's developer — a subsidiary of O&G Industries — had informed FuelCell on Monday that it had learned its bid into a major clean energy RFP had not been selected by a consortium of officials in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
The developer had tapped FuelCell to provide manufacture, operate and service the fuel cells for the park.
Jeffrey Osborne, a financial analyst who covers the publicly traded FuelCell, had previously estimated that the deal could be worth as much as $500 million in revenue to the company.
"Company management has consulted with the project developer as well as the land owner, O&G Industries, and all parties expect to pursue alternate paths to continue to develop and construct the project, based on its merits and favorable economics," FuelCell said in its SEC filing Tuesday. The company will provide updates on the Project's development in the future."
A spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on what alternate paths exist for the project, which had received approval from the Connecticut Siting Council and inked a property tax deal with Beacon Falls early this year.
As of mid-afternoon Tuesday, the news had driven FuelCell's stock price down nearly 30 percent, to $3.68.
Earlier this year, FuelCell submitted one of two dozen bids to the tri-state RFP, which had a minimum project size of 20 megawatts. Its bid was one of a handful that, when combined, proposed generating approximately 240 megawatts of clean energy from Connecticut projects. The bids also included wind, solar, hydropower and transmission projects in multiple states.
FuelCell submitted 50 megawatts worth of bids to a separate RFP intended for smaller projects of 20 megawatts or less.
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said Tuesday that those bid selections could happen as early as this week. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

East Haven PZC slated to move forward on 200 Tyler St. renovation

EAST HAVEN >> After Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. signed an agreement between WinnDevelopment and the town for a proposal to renovate 200 Tyler St., the Planning and Zoning Commission is slated to move forward with plans to construct a mixed-use, senior housing complex.
During a PZC public hearing Monday night, WinnDevelopment, a housing development and property management company out of Boston, presented its proposal to build 70 housing units — 20 market rate and 50 affordable — for seniors to independently live in the former East Haven High School. The housing units will be age and income restricted — $30,650 for a one-person household and $35,000 for a two-person household. A one-bedroom unit is slated to cost $820, while a two-bedroom comes with a $985 price tag, according to the company’s presentation. While 26 percent of East Haven’s population earns $35,000 or less per year, resident Salvatore Maltese questioned the affordability of the units for those living on a fixed income. “I don’t know how people pay rent or car insurance on $30,000,” Maltese said. But the seniors who seek to make the former East Haven High School their new home will not solely be living off of their restricted incomes, Town Attorney Joseph Zullo said.
“Those income restrictions do not pertain to the income you make off of retiring. The income you make off of your 401(k) does not count in the $30,000,” Zullo said.The exact age restriction has not yet been decided. In addition, the proposal calls for demolition of the property’s east wing to build a parking lot. WinnDevelopment is expected to construct an additional 85 parking spaces at the site. While many of the former school’s classrooms will be renovated into bedroom units, the facility’s pool and gymnasium will remain under municipal ownership. East Haven originally considered including the renovation of the facility’s pool and gymnasium in an acquisition price to WinnDevelopment, but Zullo said the town believed it would be financially advantageous to turn that portion of the project over to another developer or bond it out.  “We did not want to get pigeonholed into one developer,” Zullo said. “We said, ‘Hey, look, maybe there is a local developer who can do a better job or somebody that we might want to bid it out to.’ The fact of the matter is that we didn’t want to pigeonhole ourselves into one person or one company.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

October 25, 2016

CT Construction Digest Tuesday October 25, 2016

Old Greenwich train station works producing frustration, not collisions

GREENWICH — While aggravation and traffic delays have accompanied the large-scale renovation project around the Old Greenwich train station, traffic accidents have not increased.
That was the finding of a Greenwich Police Department review of the busy Sound Beach Avenue corridor since construction began in the summer.
The $14.87 million project is replacing the aged railroad bridges at Tomac and Sound View avenues, and making other improvements at the Old Greenwich station. Lane closures on Sound Beach Avenue, and the closing of some pedestrian routes, have been necessitated by the work.
“It’s caused a lot of grief to the residents and the merchants, but it hasn’t caused a spike in accidents,” said Sgt. John Slusarz of the Greenwich Police Department, who heads the Traffic Division.
Roughly the same number of accidents were logged during the relevant stretch of time last year, 37, as this year, 35. Those numbers include any type of accident that generated a police report.
The new traffic pattern caused by the renovation project has led to more conflicts between motorists and pedestrians, especially around rush-hour. Police have also been dispatched to the area at certain times to direct the flow of drivers and pedestrians. Back-ups heading into the business district on Sound Beach Avenue sometimes run for blocks.
The work is still causing concern. Sidewalks in the area are in a poor state of repair.
An Old Greenwich community leader, Meg Nolan Van Reesema, said local residents would like to see a greater sense of urgency and determination toward getting the work done.
“While I’m thrilled to learn accidents are not increasing, I do see the broken sidewalk as a legitimate hazard and am perplexed by the slow progress being currently made to both bridges,” observed Van Reesema, president of the Old Greenwich Association.
“Despite the warm temps, winter is coming, and I'd like to think there will be significant headway made before weather becomes a deterrent to further progress,” she added.
The Old Greenwich Association is having its annual meeting Nov. 9, and the organization is hoping to get representatives from Town Hall and the Connecticut Department of Transportation to attend and answer questions. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

New Britain public to get update on Beehive Bridge

NEW BRITAIN – The city will host a public information session tonight as its plans for the Beehive Bridge progress.
Planning officials, along with representatives from Fuss and O’Neill and Svigals & Partners, will provide an overview and answer questions related to the forthcoming streetscape improvement project.
Aesthetic and physical upgrades to the Main Street bridge over Route 72, including designs featuring the city’s iconic bee theme, serve as the fifth phase of the city’s Complete Streets Masterplan. The state bond commission in May approved $2.1 million in support of the $5.4 million project, being funded additionally through a Federal Transit Authority Bus Livability grant. Phases one through four have included upgrades and new streetscapes in much of the central business district.
The Manchester engineering firm of Fuss & O’Neill is nearing completion of a preliminary design of the project based on state Department of Transportation standards. The initial design work includes widened sidewalks, new traffic signals, crosswalks, pedestrian ramps, revised lane arrangements and two pocket parks on the north side of the bridge.
The company is also creating preliminary landscape designs that will incorporate brick pavers, tree planters, benches, grass, retaining walls and lighting.
The project has a tentative start date of next spring.
Plans for the Beehive Bridge were among Mayor Erin Stewart’s first initiatives when elected in 2013. She said the effort will reconnect downtown to Little Poland, a tie severed when Route 72 was constructed in the 1970s.
The Common Council and Mayor William McNamara in 1978 designated the span “The Lions Club Memorial Bridge” in honor of the local civic club. A bronze plaque noting the honor is located on the south end of the bridge.
The session will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Timothy Stewart Community Room at the New Britain Police Department, 10 Chestnut St. Parking on city streets and in the Szczesny Garage is free after 5 p.m.

Councilors concerned downtown developments will burden Meriden schools

MERIDEN — Some city councilors are questioning whether a potential influx of new families into proposed developments in downtown Meriden could be a drain on the school system. While city officials insisted the schools could handle increases in enrollment, Superintendent Mark Benigni said that although he does not foresee a huge impact on the school system, it will be hard to predict until the apartments begin to be occupied.
“Until we see the actual enrollment numbers from downtown redevelopment we won’t actually know how it will impact our schools, class sizes and teachers needed,” Benigni said.
 Councilors at a special joint meeting of the economic development, housing and zoning committee and the finance committee last week approved tax abatement programs for proposed developments at 11 Crown St., 177 State St. and 62 Cedar St. which will give the developers 80 percent abatements for annual taxes for a 17-year period. Those programs still need approval from the full City Council.
During the meeting, several councilors expressed concern that the new developments, estimated to comprise up to 600 units of housing built in the next decade, would be a burden on the school system. The city’s economic development director, Juliet Burdelski, told councilors that would not be the case.
“We have looked at the numbers for school enrollment with the Board of Education and we looked at capacity of the schools and the ability of the schools to absorb additional students from these developments,” Burdelski said. “The Mills (Memorial Apartments) students right now will go to Sherman, Washington and Maloney, so those schools in 2015 had capacity to absorb additional students so the Board of Education is telling us there will be no added cost to the school system.”
Republican Councilor Lenny Rich disagreed. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
A developer has an extra year to build a $60 million, 268-unit apartment complex next to Union School, the town plan and zoning commission ruled Monday.
The commission granted Middletown developer Centerplan Cos. a one-year extension for the Old Mill Commons project at 19 Perry St.
The commission unanimously approved a zoning regulation amendment for the property last November.
Crews were originally slated to break ground in June, but were delayed during the developer's permitting process with state agencies, including the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Christian Hoheb, the attorney representing Centerplan, reiterated those delays to the commission Monday, and added that it's not unusual for commercial developments to hit delays.
He emphasized that the setbacks are in no way related to Centerplan's involvement with Dunkin' Donuts Park in Hartford.
"It's a detailed application that requires a lot of permits," Hoheb said. "We're still very excited about this project."
The complex's approval came with a slew of conditions set by the commission, including construction and cleanup regulations, environmental preservation stipulations and requirements that developers provide both town and school staff with biweekly progress reports and maintain a website, updated weekly, where people can learn about the project.
Commission members said before the vote that they struggled to weigh the benefits of the development against concerns raised by residents, who said the development would increase traffic in the area, disrupt the character of the town and create a safety hazard for students at Union School.
The commission ultimately agreed that the project, as presented, has more positives than negatives.
Earlier this year, Town Planner William Warner said there are several benefits to the project, including the remediation of a contaminated property. Warner said the plan is consistent with the Unionville Center Zone's purpose to "facilitate the development of a compact village center." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

October 24, 2016

CT Construction Digest Monday October 24, 2016

Power plant may be boon to New Milford economy

NEW MILFORD — The Century Brass mill used to be an important part of New Milford’s economy.
Its workers patronized restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores and other local businesses, and the mill owners contributed to the town’s tax revenues.
Since the mill closed in 1986, the 70-acre site has remained vacant and has been a non-contributor to the local economy.
“Getting it back in service would be significant,” New Milford Mayor David Gronbach said. “It would have a significant social and economic impact.”
A Dallas-based private-equity fund is hoping to put the site back in service and would immediately become one of the town’s highest taxpayers. Panda Power Funds outlined last week its plans to build a 550-megawatt electricity-generating power plant that would be fueled by natural gas. The project, Panda officials said, would bring in 300 to 500 jobs for about 30 months during construction and 25 to 30 full-time jobs going forward.
“Every service business will benefit from the infusion of a couple hundred workers,” Gronbach said. “It’s something New Milford sorely needs.”
About 20 miles down Route 67, construction had begun on an 800-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant in Oxford. The project has faced significant opposition from local residents, but passed a number of approval processes with town officials promising a boost for the local economy.
New Milford’s Economic Development Director Kevin Bielmeier said the multiplier effect of construction workers spending money locally is very much needed in New Milford. He added that Panda would become the biggest contributor to the town’s tax roll, bypassing Kimberly-Clark as New Milford’s highest taxpayer.
“I think it’s unequivocally an economic driver,” Bielmeier said. “I wouldn’t have spent the amount of time I have on this project if I didn’t think it was right for New Milford or a detriment in any way.”
Back on the tax rolls
According to a study done by Impact Data Source, the direct and indirect economic output of the power facility would be $2.3 billion over the first 10 years and $4.8 billion over 30 years. It estimates $100 million in property tax revenue over 30 years.
Panda Power Fund initially presented its plan at last week’s council meeting. It repeated its presentation the following night to the Economic Development Commission. That meeting was open to the public and residents peppered Panda officials for several hours with questions. Most of the concerns were about environmental impacts.
New Milford took over ownership of the property in 1999 after years of the previous owners not paying taxes. Years of remediation followed and last week demolition of the buildings started. Panda would pay $2.8 million for the site, which is $400,000 over the appraised value, Bielmeier said.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Plans to extend Route 11 pass into history

It is with deep regret that we note the passing of the long-debated, but ultimately unrealized plan to finish Route 11 and provide a better transportation link between this region and the Greater Hartford area.
News of its demise passed almost without notice. On Sept. 28, the Federal Highway Administration issued a statement that it was “rescinding its Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement” for the project. On Oct. 4, the FHA published the notice in the Federal Register, “The Daily Journal of the United States Government.”
The Day picked up the story Oct. 19.
It was a fitting bureaucratic ending. The common sense of completing a highway and improving transportation in the region could never overcome the regulatory impediments that confronted it.
Federal environmental officials were never keen on this project, which had kicked around for a couple of decades. There were concerns about protecting the New England cottontail rabbits. And philosophical objections that new highway construction only encourages more suburban sprawl.
There were efforts to construct a large “greenway” around the planned 9 miles of new highway to serve as a bulkhead against adjoining development and to protect wildlife. Multiple bridges were planned to protect wildlife and sensitive wetlands. The state Department of Transportation expended $12.7 million on studies and preliminary design work.
With each new requirement the price tag rose, to north of $1.5 billion, or about $167 million per mile. Even with the state legislature giving the nod to assessing a toll on the new stretch of highway to help pay for it, the cost became impracticable, crowded out by more pressing and affordable needs.
Perhaps if state and federal officials were willing to push the project forward years ago, when the costs were less, it could have become a reality. Alas, it was not meant to be.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation, with no clear indication the project would ever be funded, stopped working on it. Faced with that, the FHA officially terminated the plans for the environmental impact statement, a necessary step before any such project can proceed.
Route 11, which connects to Route 2 and from there to Hartford, abruptly ends in Salem, Exit 4. Originally intended to run to the shoreline, it stopped there in 1979 for lack of funding.
This newspaper long advocated for completing Route 11 because it would have taken traffic off Route 85 through Waterford, Montville and Salem. That now serves, and will continue to serve, as the primary route for traffic traveling between southeastern Connecticut and the Hartford region. Yet it is poorly suited for the purpose. The undivided roadway has a single lane in both directions and numerous cut-ins for residents and businesses. It has many accidents, often serious. The FHA once estimated extending Route 11 would cut accident rates on Route 85 by more than half. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

O&G Industries

Headquarters: Torrington
Industry: Construction services and products
Year founded: 1923
Founder: Andrew Oneglia
Generation currently running the company: Third, with fourth actively participating
No. of full-time employees: 700-plus
No. of part-time employees: Under 15
Family members currently employed at company: Cousins, third generation: David Oneglia, President; Gregory Oneglia, Vice Chairman of the Board; Raymond Oneglia, Vice Chairman of the Board.
Cousins, fourth generation: Brad Oneglia, Assistant Vice President, Asphalt Division; Christina Rossi, New Business Development; Kara Oneglia, Assistant Vice President, Masonry Division; Matt Oneglia, Business Analyst; Ryan Oneglia, Assistant Vice President, Heavy Civil Division; T.J. Oneglia, Assistant Vice President, Materials Division
Company website: ogind.com
How do you instill your family values in your employees?
The lines between family and company have never been distinct at O&G. Now in our third and fourth generations of ownership, each generation has grown up around the business, seeing employees as a very natural extension of our family. Our family and corporate values – hard work, ethical behavior, caring for those around you – come from the top down and are caught rather than taught.
We believe that they can only be passed down to our employees by demonstrating them ourselves. When employees see this, we hope it gives them the desire to want to be part of building more than just a project but the company's history as well as its future.
How do you plan to keep your business going even after your current top executive retires?
Following in the footsteps of the great men who have come before us will always be a challenge. But those same footsteps have shown each succeeding generation the path to success and what must be done to continue this journey we've each started on.
We have taken the foundations they have laid and are continuing to build upon them, maintaining our company's unchangeable core values while adding our own perspective that is informed by the ever-changing world in which we operate. Staying ahead of the curve, innovating and pursuing opportunities that fit our business will be critical in the modern economy. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Report: 3 of 4 local roads in ‘poor’ or ‘mediocre’ condition

A statewide group of Connecticut cities and towns has found that 73 percent of local roads are in poor-to-mediocre condition, and that 25 percent of bridges and culverts are structurally deficient or obsolete.
The findings, released Friday by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, are in a report called “Investing in Connecticut’s Infrastructure: Public Safety and Economic Development Implications for Communities and the State.”
“[L]imited state and local funding for roads and bridges, in combination with a slow recovery from a historic recession, has created a perfect storm for the deterioration of Connecticut local roads and bridges, the CCM said in a prepared statement.
The CCM report is the latest in a series of election season research that highlights key issues for candidates.
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton is the president of CCM.
Read the report here.

October 21, 2016

CT Construction Digest Friday October 21, 2016

DOT won’t say why Stamford deal died, but reveals garage site

STAMFORD — State officials remained mum Thursday on why the deal to replace Stamford’s crumbling train station garage with a $500 million office, housing, retail and hotel complex went sour.
Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redecker did not respond to a request for details about why negotiations with private partner Stamford Manhattan Development Ventures fell apart after languishing for three years.
One of the SMDV partners, L.P. Ciminelli Construction of Buffalo, N.Y., was named recently in a federal indictment in New York involving state contracts, kickbacks and extortion. Connecticut officials did not cite the Ciminelli indictment as a reason for the breakdown in negotiations. One of the original partners, Gilbane Development, backed out in 2013.
During an event in Bloomfield Thursday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Redeker and others did their due diligence with the developers, but could not finalize a deal.
“I think that people are acting in accordance with the best interests of the state,” Malloy said.
SMDV was headed by longtime Malloy contributer John McClutchy, a Darien millionaire and head of JHM Group developers. McClutchy’s other partners were Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. of Buffalo and ECCO III Enterprises of Yonkers.
Passenger criticisms
Train riders in Stamford have long chastised the project, saying it was designed to earn revenue for the state, not to improve parking at the train station, which is the livelihood lifeline for workers coming into Stamford or headed to jobs in New York City.
“The train station is one of the most critical assets in our community,” Stamford Mayor David Martin said Thursday. “So I applaud the state for making the decision to rethink the project.”
When the DOT announced Wednesday that the deal was dead, Martin said he had been given no details about the agency’s plans.
The DOT has said it could not disclose details about the SMDV project because the partners are private developers and their plans are considered proprietary. So commuters were left out of most of the planning.
On Thursday, though, a DOT spokesman revealed the site of the 1,000-space garage it plans to construct in place of the old garage, which has been falling down for years.
The new $53 million garage is to be built on South State Street, near the intersection with Washington Boulevard, now the site of a small surface lot, DOT spokesman Judd Everhart said. A pedestrian bridge is planned to go over Washington Boulevard and connect the garage to the train platforms.
The old garage is on Station Place, right across the street from the platforms. It will remain open until the new one is finished in 2021, according to the DOT.
As with the original project — a Transit-Oriented Development designed to tie new construction to transportation hubs — the DOT so far has not been forthcoming about its latest plans.
The state will retain control of the Station Place site once the old garage is torn down, Everhart said, and right now the DOT has no plans for another Transit-Oriented Development there. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

City Council designates preferred developer for former Meriden-Wallingford Hospital

MERIDEN — The City Council voted this week to designate 1 King LLC, previously identified as Diversified Financial Resources, as the preferred developer for the former Meriden-Wallingford Hospital.
Representatives from the development group say they are up for the challenge of converting the abandoned building off Cook Avenue into a mixed-use housing and commercial development.
“We’re looking forward to working with the city and having this facility operating as soon as possible,” said Thomas P. Brown, Diversified’s director and chief operating officer. “We don’t want to waste any time.”  The 285,000-square-foot building has been vacant since the mid-1990s and city officials said despite clean up efforts in recent years, the condition inside has worsened as people continue to break in to steal pipes and vandalize the building. 
A recent tour of the former foyer revealed floors covered with bits of carpet, glass and other debris, graffiti coating the decaying walls and items such as a child’s Barbie Jeep and beer cans brought in from the outside.
The city acquired the building in 2014 through tax foreclosure with the goal of repurposing the property for economic development in the downtown transit-oriented district. Since then, the city has utilized grant money to conduct environmental and structural assessments
The city issued a request for qualified applicants to redevelop the site in August, with 1 King LLC being the sole bidder.
The Norwalk-based development company has previous experience rehabilitating hospitals and military bases, including the McClellan Air Force Base Hospital in Sacramento, California, the State of Michigan Asylum in Traverse City, Michigan and the Noble Army Medical Center in Fort McClellan, Alabama.
Brown has toured the building and said he can see its potential for redevelopment.
“It’s a neat building and it’s pretty interesting the way they added onto it over the years,” Brown said. “We liked the old corner building, the old Bradley nursing building (facing Cook Avenue). It has great architecture, beautiful points to it and we’re looking to keep that and just build around that so we feel it has good potential.”
The group will be exploring multiple uses for the building.
“At this point we’re working with our architects and our engineers and we’re looking at it as a mixed-use facility,” Brown said. “You really can’t put one tenant in there, the facility is just too large. We have a number of different uses in mind, but we want to make sure as we work with our architect and engineer that we’re using the space properly.”
Aside from the environmental clean up and gutting of the building necessary for redevelopment, other challenges include the many aging and broken windows that will need to replaced and securing the building from further break ins. On Tuesday, a local man was arrested after attempting to steal 60 pounds of scrap metal from the building, at least the second person caught trespassing on the property this month.
“It’s at a tough time with people living in there and tearing out pipes and everything else, so we need to get a good grasp on it so we can really have a game plan in front of us,” Brown said.
As per the resolution adopted by the City Council on Monday, the developer will have 180 days to come back to the council with a plan to develop the site. The City Council will also have the option of granting the developer an extension at the end of that period. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Stonington — The K-12 Building Committee will hold a one-hour community meeting on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Stonington High School Commons to provide residents with updated details about the $67 million renovation and expansion of Deans Mill and West Vine Street schools.
The committee, along with its architectural firm, construction manager and school officials, will discuss detailed floor plan designs and site layouts, including playground areas and parking lots, the construction timeline and phasing plans. There also will be an opportunity for residents to ask questions about the project.
The Deans Mill project was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission this week. Plans for the school call for demolishing a large section of the school and building an addition for a total of 62,000 square feet.
The preliminary design for West Vine Street School calls for constructing an addition to create a 56,400-square-foot school that will accommodate students in prekindergarten through fifth grade, compared with the current kindergarten through second-grade configuration. PZC approval of the West Vine project is pending.
The project overwhelmingly was approved by voters in 2015. The 15-month construction period is projected to commence in April 2017 and be completed in July 2018. Last week, the town learned it had been successful in its effort to obtain waivers that will increase state reimbursement for the project from 25 to 32 percent, or about $20 million.
The project is designed to get another 50 years of life out of the two 48-year-old buildings. Neither school has received an update since they were built in 1967.

Trade workers supportive of proposed Dayville power plant

KILLINGLY – For the first time since the prospect of constructing a new power plant was raised in Killingly several months ago, supporters and opponents of the project on Thursday got to make their cases directly to the group of people who will decide if the proposal will move forward.
More than 400 people attended the first public hearing, held at Killingly High School, by the Connecticut Siting Council on NTE Connecticut LLC’s plan to build a 550-megawatt, dual-fuel, combined cycle power plant on Lake Road in Dayville.
As of press time, public comments were still being heard.
And unlike every local meeting on the issue so far, opponents of the plan were matched — or even slightly outnumbered — by supporters, namely the roughly 250 members of the Norwich-New London Building Trade group, whose roster includes carpenters, metal workers, plumbers and other workers who might be called on to construct the facility.
“Most of our group have worked on energy projects before,” Kevin Cwikla said. “There’s a demand for this kind of power and people need to work.”
While many members of the trade group were from other parts of the state, a few local workers attended to show their support.
“I’m really excited,” said Alicia Brunnett, a Killingly resident and iron worker. “This is going to do a lot of good for a lot of people. There are things about this project that worry me a little, but if they do it right, it’ll be good for everyone.”
The nine-member Siting Council, which conducted a site walk of the proposed plant location at 180-189 Lake Road earlier on Thursday, is charged with reviewing applications for, and placement of, power plants in the state. The body reviews evidence – including the kind of public comments made Thursday – before deciding whether to approve. The council will hold an evidentiary hearing on NTE’s application next month and is expected to decide the matter by February.
For months, opponents of the proposal have sounded warnings about possible environmental and health issues related to the project, while others have questioned the need for such a plant.
“There is already a cluster of eight of these kinds of plants within a 31-mile radius here,” Thompson resident Renee King said. “And there’s been no local air quality assessments conducted. This kind of project warrants such a study. Until then, we don’t know what effect this proposed project will have.”
Project developers said the air-cooled plant has the potential to develop and sell enough electricity to the grid to power 550,000 homes, will require hundreds of construction workers, lead to the creation of several permanent jobs and have the potential to bring in millions in tax revenue. The company hopes the three-year build will begin in 2017. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE