June 28, 2018

CT Construction Digest Thursday June 28, 2018

Bridgeport streets to undergo milling, paving

BRIDGEPORT — The city will be preparing roads for paving beginning Thursday, the mayor’s office announced Wednesday.
The milling process will begin Thursday and run through Friday, July 6. It will remove the current surface area of the road to level and smooth roadways for pavement.
After the milling process wraps up in early July, paving will being the week of July 16
Milling will start in Black Rock and on the West Side before moving east across the city. Paving will begin on the east side of the city and move west.
As the city works to mill and pave roads, there will be posted no parking signs that must be followed during roadwork. The no parking signs will be posted 24 hours before milling or paving begins. Anyone who does not adhere to the signs could have their cars towedDetour signs will be posted during the construction work. These detours made add extra time to travel routes so plan accordingly.

WALLINGFORD — Mayor William Dickinson Jr. is balking at a plan to spend $86 million to upgrade the town’s wastewater treatment system in order to comply with more strict state and federal mandates regarding the discharge of phosphorus into the Quinnipiac River.
“The fiscal impact of this is a vital question here because we can’t ignore who is going to be paying for this,” Dickinson said. “There has to be some common sense applied here. Can we afford it or not?”

Dickinson made his comments during a workshop Tuesday night attended by members of the town’s Public Utilities Commission, Town Councilor John LeTourneau, state Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, and a few members of the public.
Officials with the Public Utilities Commission have not yet calculated what the financial impact of the project would be to ratepayers. Chairman Robert Beaumont said Public Utilities Director Richard Hendershot will likely develop estimates of cost to ratepayers over the next several months.

“It’s not going to be chump change, I can tell you that,” Beaumont said during the meeting.
The town is under a July 1, 2019, deadline to have a contractor selected to do the work, he said later. If the PUC misses that deadline, the amount of state reimbursement for the project would drop 20 percent from nearly half of the price tag for the work, according to Beaumont.
Construction must get started by April 1 2020, Beaumont said. The work must be completed by April 1, 2022, at which time ratepayers would begin to see the financial impact of the project impact their bills, he said.

Dickinson said that while some upgrades are need at the nearly 30 year old treatment plant, the vast majority of the work being proposed as part of the upgrade is to comply with state and federal standards regarding the discharge of phosphorous into the river.
“This is not a public health issue,” he said. “We need to make it known that this (the cost associated with the upgrade project) is just plain unreasonable.”
The mayor stopped just short of saying whether he would support the town engaging in a legal fight against the strict phosphors discharge mandates.
Having too much phosphorus and nitrates introduced into a body of water can speed up the growth of algae, according to information put out by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. That hurts the ecosystem of the body of water and makes it more difficult for aquatic insects and fish to survive, according to EPA.
Wallingford has battled with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for much of the current decade over phosphorus level discharge. At one time, the town was not alone in this fight, with officials from Cheshire, Southington, Meriden and Danbury also battling with DEEP over the issue, Beaumont said.
“One by one, each of the other towns got picked off,” he said. “Now, it’s just us.”
Wallingford’s protracted fight with state environmental officials make its highly unlikely that the town will be granted a waiver from having to comply with the more strict phosphorus levels, Mushinsky said.
“They’re not going to make Cheshire do it (comply), make Southington do it and make Meriden do it, then turn around and grant us a waiver,” Mushinsky said.

First phase of upgrades at Bradley International Airport slated for fall completion

WINDSOR LOCKS — It’s hard to imagine during a busy Wednesday in late June, but the first phase of a construction project that will ultimately result in a new ground transportation center at Bradley International Airport will be completed this fall.

The first phase of the project involves reworking the Route 20 entrance to the airport, which includes realigning Schoephoester Road along with a portion of the airport’s lower roadway system. The $11 million project includes the installation of a traffic roundabout where traffic enters the airport grounds from Route 20.

Bob Bruno, director of planning, engineering and environmental services for the Connecticut Airport Authority, said the roundabout is what is known in the transportation community as a “traffic calming” tool, designed to reduce the speed of vehicles as they come off Route 20 and onto the airport grounds. The authority oversees the operation of Bradley International.

“It will still allow us to maintain high levels of traffic,” Bruno said. Construction of the new roadway system began in June 2017. The project is being paid for with money collected from passenger facility charges and other customer fees.
Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Airport Authority, said that “for the most part, this construction has been conducted without any delays.”

The flow of traffic from Route 20 to the airport will not be interrupted, Dillon said. Instead, the changeover to the new road system will take place in series of steps over the next six months.We just think its important for the public to be aware that multiple traffic changes will be occurring,” he said. “This is one of the first projects of what we envision will be a bright future here at Bradley Airport. We believe there is a lot of potential in this market and as we look to fulfill that (potential), we’re going to have to continue to pay attention (to) infrastructure.”
Dillon said Airport Authority officials are in early stages of discussions about providing a shuttle service between the airport and the Windsor Locks train station. With the launch of the Hartford Line commuter rail service between New Haven and Springfield, Massachusetts earlier this month, more trains will be stopping at the Windsor Locks train station, which is located a few miles away from the airport, he said.

Changing traffic patterns at the airport will free up 19 acres where a multi-level ground transportation center will be built staring next spring, Dillon said. Building the transportation center is scheduled to take two or three years, he said.

The transportation center will include a new parking garage on two lower levels and car rental locations on multiple levels above the parking garage. Currently, car rental locations that serve Bradley are located on the periphery of the airport grounds, requiring customers to take a shuttle to get to them.

June 27, 2018

CT Construction Digest Wednesday June 27, 2018

Point of Interest: Stamford’s ‘hole in the ground’ taking shape
Tresser Boulevard and Greyrock Place: The famed 4.3-acre “hole in the ground” downtown is not much of a hole this spring and summer as construction workers make quick work of assembling a foundation and cement pillars are now rising on the corner. Photo: Michael Cummo / Hearst Connecticut Media / Stamford Advocate
The famed 4.3-acre “hole in the ground” downtown is not much of a hole this spring and summer as construction workers make quick work of assembling a foundation and cement pillars are now rising on the corner.
A spokesman said there has been “great progress on construction” on the large-scale, mixed-use development, a so-called “Stamford Urby.” It is expected to be completed next summer.
The site, a vacant lot for some three decades, will soon house nearly 650 residential units. Developers F.D. Rich Co. and Ironstate Development Co. broke ground in October 2017. The parcel was once the site of tenements

South End developer proposes deal to revitalize neighborhood
STAMFORD — Free money has the South End split as the neighborhood’s largest developer is offering $8.5 million to rehabilitate old historic homes and slow gentrification in a deal to avoid making city-mandated affordable units available in two new opulent waterfront towers.
Building and Land Technology’s proposal to give local nonprofit Housing Development Fund the cash for neighborhood initiatives, including no-interest home loans, prompted hours-long discussion at a Planning Board meeting this week.
The conversation, at times derisive with residents near tears, some infighting and an unorthodox move to allow public comment, ended with the board voting 3-2 in favor of a compromised buyout. The Zoning Board can take up the recommendation or vote against it. The Planning Board recommended for BLT to provide 16 of the about 44 required affordable units. A quarter-million of BLT’s money should fund a study of the South End’s affordable housing needs, and the remaining about $6 million should be held by the city until the study is finished, the board recommended. The study’s findings would then dictate the best course of action.
The plan, as presented by BLT’s attorney William Hennessey, would stave off gentrification by making South End residents homeowners, who would rehabilitate historic homes that have long fell into disrepair. No interest loans will also be available to renovate homes “We don’t often get an opportunity like this to think about who should mold an area as discrete and as deserving as the South End,” Hennessey said. “This will be part of the larger goal of stemming the tide of gentrification.”
Joan Carty, president of HDF, told planning the buyout through her agency could create more than 65 affordable units, compared to the 44 required inside the new 22-story towers coming up on Pacific Street.
But some South End residents, preservationists and planning board members were skeptical of the claim. If BLT truly wanted to rehab the South End and kick-start homeownership, it could start with its historic multifamily homes on Henry Street, they said. The boarded-up homes have been vacant for years. In 2016, BLT tried to demolish the four on the corner of Henry and Garden streets, but were stymied by the state Historic Preservation Office.
Terry Adams, president of the South End’s Neighborhood Revitalization Zone, told planning board members that he would approve of the buyout if there was a real plan, to bring back the Henry Street properties, for example.“There’s an appetite to do something, but there’s no plan,” Adams said. “The South End is hot now, everything that comes to the market investors come in and snatch it up quick.”
Hennessey argued the South End’s heat made it imperative to lock down the buyout, preserving what is left. NRZ member John Wooten agreed with Hennessey, and near tears explained why he thought the city needed to act to keep old homes with interest-free home loans to longtime South Enders.
“Don’t miss this opportunity because you’re going to regret it,” he said.
Board Vice Chairman Jay Tepper said the money shouldn’t be considered a kind gesture. Excluding low-income housing boosts profits, and that is the motive, he said
“Let’s not kid ourselves,” Tepper said. “That’s the driving force.”
 Planning Board members conceded the city should take action to preserve South End homes, but disliked the trade-off. The buyout would create a waterfront property for “elites,” unlike all of BLT’s other buildings — each 10 percent affordable — now permeating the peninsula, they said.
“The South End is two south ends,” board Chairwoman Theresa Dell said. “It’s now called the Harbor Point South End and the South End. ... In every building that goes up, affordability should be in them.”

Senior development a step closer in Newington

by Erica Drzewiecki
NEWINGTON - The town has paved the way for a new senior community and a hefty grand list addition.
Town councilors unanimously approved a tax agreement to help bring a long-awaited development to the vacant site at the intersection of Route 175 and Russell Road. The Villas at Cedar Mountain will have 89 independent-living apartments for seniors and 122 assisted-living and memory-care units.
Economic Development Director Andy Brecher called the $60 million project “the biggest investment anyone has ever made in Newington.”
Developer HDC One bought the property in 2007. After years of failed attempts to secure funding for the project, principal Michael Frisbie stepped forward to ask the town for a tax break this spring.
“I wanted to be transparent, open and honest about our need for tax relief,” he told the council.
Under the agreement, the company will be afforded a property tax abatement of 50 percent for a period of 10 years. With an anticipated yield of $1.2 million in annual property taxes, the town would receive $613,000 annually and then payments in full after the ten-year period.
Tax assessment fixing is guided by Connecticut General Statutes, making it feasible for the community to become operational before reaching financial stabilization and profitability. This also serves as the stimulus to securing the construction loan.
“Unlike a lot of businesses where property taxes are a small part of the overall expense, they represent 10 percent of the revenue for this sort of enterprise,” Brecher explained. “Anyone considering investing or lending to the project needs to feel confident they are going to get a return commensurate with their risk.”
“The town has provided all of the land use approvals necessary for the project to proceed,” he continued. “We are confident with approval of the 50 percent tax abatement for the next 10 years they will be able to finalize their financing and begin construction.”
Shovels are expected to be in the ground by year’s end. Construction will take about 18 months, with occupancy anticipated in mid-2020.
Councilors agreed the town’s need for senior housing is critical, as around one-third of residents are expected to be of retirement age by 2020.
“There are no options close by that fit that need and this fits that need,” Councilor Beth DelBuono said.
Mayor Roy Zartarian said his mother could have benefited from this type of community when she was alive.
“There just wasn’t anything available until it was too late.”
The property will consist of one- to two-bedroom units with one to two bathrooms, balconies, covered parking areas and community amenities.
“This will allow couples to live together while receiving the services they need in a supportive environment,” Frisbie said, adding that the demand for senior housing in the area is double the amount of apartments he plans to build.
The company has agreed to pay the town in full for building permit fees, about $297,000, as well as personal property taxes, estimated to start at $58,800 annually. At full occupancy, the facility will consist of two buildings and will employ 97 people.

Glastonbury’s Gemma tapped for Virginia energy plant project

Joe Cooper
Glastonbury's Gemma Power Systems has inked a contract with a Virginia power company to build a 1,600-megawatt natural gas power plant in the state.
Gemma announced Tuesday it will provide engineering, procurement and construction services for Chickahominy Power LLC to build a state-of-the-art natural gas-fired power plant in Charles City County Virginia.
Known as the Chickahominy Power Station, the plant will be developed by the Virginia company's parent, Balico LLC. The project begins in early 2019 for completion in spring 2022.
The project will create between 800 to 1,000 construction jobs and 35 long-term positions to operate the facility upon completion.
Under the plans, the development will house three advanced class combustion turbine power trains and air cooled condensers.
Clean natural gas will power the site located in an area where electricity demand is expected to spike as several data centers are planned and under construction across the region.
"We appreciate the confidence the Balico team has shown in us and we look forward to a continuing and long relationship with them," Gemma CEO William F. Griffin, Jr. said.
The station's name honors the Chickahominy Nation, which populated the area for centuries.
Gemma recently provided similar services for an Ohio plant under a contract with an affiliate of NTE Energy. The energy center was certified for commercial operations and was dispatched to the grid in May.

Residents Slam Tilcon Gravel Plan, But New Britain Supports It

Using such phrases as “devastating destruction” and “environmental tragedy,” a long line of residents on Tuesday evening condemned Tilcon Connecticut’s proposal to expand its Plainville gravel quarry into New Britain.
“It’s private profit at the expense of the public,” John Sokolowski of Southington said during a hearing of New Britain’s common council. “We do not want to drink out of an industrial puddle.”
More than 130 people crowded into the Gaffney School auditorium, with almost all of them applauding the opposition to Tilcon, whose massive gravel quarry is near the New Britain and Southington borders.
But New Britain’s water department argued that the Tilcon proposal offers major advantages for the environment and for central Connecticut’s future water supplies.
Tilcon wants to expand its quarry into 72 acres of New Britain-owned watershed. The land is environmentally sensitive and protected by state law, but the water department contends that the benefits of Tilcon’s plan could outweigh the destruction of forest, vernal pools and animal habitats.
Tilcon says that after decades of quarrying, it would return the property as a reservoir that could hold 2.3 billion gallons of water. That would expand New Britain’s water storage capacity by 45 percent, a buffer against future droughts, climate change and population growth, said Ray Esponda, head of the city water utility.
Tilcon wants to lease the land from New Britain for 35 to 40 years. Nobody is saying how much the company would pay, but it offered $15 million for a roughly similar proposal 11 years ago. In addition, Tilcon would give New Britain, Plainville and Southington a total of 291 acres as open space.
“This proposal will allow us to continue to be a major employer and economic contributor for generations to come,” company President Gary Wall said. “Blasting in the current quarry’s footprint would be less frequent with new ‘no blast zones’ added, as well as a 1,000-foot minimum forested buffer around the perimeter of the expanded quarry.”
Residents and environmentalists disagreed. Two state regulatory agencies concluded that the project could jeopardize New Britain’s drinking water, former Alderman Suzanne Bielinski said. And opening protected watershed to industrial development sets a dangerous precedent, she said.
”Do we really want to be the city that opens up the floodgates for this to happen in Connecticut?” Bielinski asked.
Tilcon initially wanted 131 acres, but its scaled-back plan does less damage to wetlands, vernal pools, hiking trails and the Bradley Mountain ridge.
Lenard Engineering, a consultant hired by New Britain, reported that the project would harm some animal species. But it predicted no severe environmental damage, and said the quarry wouldn’t pollute drinking water. Tilcon is willing to relocate box turtles and other species whose habitats would be damaged or wiped out, according to Lenard.
Mayor Erin Stewart wouldn’t say on Tuesday afternoon whether New Britain is going to pursue the controversial plan.
“I reserve any thoughts on how or whether to proceed until we have all had a chance to digest the report and to consider the input we will gather tonight,” she said.

June 26, 2018

CT Construction Digest Tuesday June 26, 2018

Harbor Point developer BLT expands footprint in Stamford

By Barry Lytton
STAMFORD — The newest Building and Land Technology development is a departure for the company reshaping the South End.
It is the company’s first across the West Branch of Stamford Harbor, putting BLT in direct competition with other large-scale complexes after dotting the South End with new luxury apartments over the last decade.
Harbor Landing, a waterside apartment complex overlooking the new Hinckley boatyard and all of the South End, is nearing completion with residents moving into one of the 100-unit buildings this week.
Although it is not physically part of the grand-scale redevelopment of the South End called Harbor Point, it’s meant to accent the new high rises by connecting the waterside across the harbor with a boardwalk. The new 218-apartment rental complex is also similar in that it replaces what was an industrial site, this time a fuel depot. Harbor Point was built on vacant land that once housed manufacturing giants Pitney Bowes and Yale Lock.
“The idea is to create this thing to make it all interconnected,” said Ted Ferrarone, BLT’s chief operating officer. “The fuel depot was not a great neighborhood use.”
The connection is not merely symbolic. A free water taxi connects the two neighborhoods, which are separated by 400 feet of water. The complex, with a pool, is less than a football field away from the harbor “It’s casual coastal luxury,” said Ferrarone, adding that residents can also rent a boat slip at the nearby marina from the company. The development also links other boardwalks, creating an unobstructed waterfront path from Hinckley to Boccuzzi Park.
Rents, comparable to Harbor Point, range from $1,900 for a small studio to roughly $4,600 for a top-floor two-bedroom. But the prices, which include parking and access to gym facilities, aren’t keeping prospective tenants away, Ferrarone said.
“We’re getting a lot of traffic,” he said.
Sandwiched between a remaining industrial site, an asphalt plant, and the seafood favorite Crab Shell restaurant, the luxe units are hardwood floored with water-views in higher stories.
Each building is five stories tall, competing with other Waterside complexes, including the sprawling 15-acre TGM Anchor Point, with more than 320 units.

Developers break ground on West End charter school in Bridgeport

By Jordan Grice
In one year’s time, students and faculty of Great Oaks Charter School of Bridgeport will have a new home on the west end.
School officials and developers broke ground on the 70,000-square-foot building at 375 Howard Avenue that will house the new middle and high school that is slated to be completed and open for the fall 2019 semester. “It’s overwhelming,” said Michael Duffy, President of the Great Oaks Foundation. “For so long it was a dream, and there were many times when it seemed like it would never happen.”
It’s been four years since the charter school set up at 510 Barnum Avenue in the former Singer Sewing Machine Factory, which Duffy said was always meant to be a temporary space for the school. With its history of housing the original Housatonic Community College and eventually Park City Prep Charter School, the east side facility served as a prime incubator for the charter school.
Great Oaks teaches grades six through nine, providing two hours of daily tutoring in math and English Language Arts to every student with the help of a 60-member, AmeriCorps-funded Tutor Corps.
The school plans to add 10th grade next fall prior to transitioning to the new Howard Avenue address where they plan to expand, yet again to teach sixth through 12th grade. The middle school will be on the south side of the property, while the high school will be on the east side.
The new three-story building will house classroom space and a common cafeteria for 725 students along with other amenities. There will also be another 23,000 square feet of residential space that will accommodate 17 apartments for tutors.
Development of the charter school has had setbacks in recent years due to issues with the state budget, said Gary Flocco, managing partner of Corvus Capital, which oversees construction the new facility.
The New York developer has been working to transform a batch of decrepit factory buildings on the west end bordering Cherry Street and Howard Avenue into hundreds of loft apartments along with the new Great Oaks building.
“We expect smooth sailing now for the school. All the headaches have been dealt with and most of that were things that we found on the site from 50 years ago,” he said.
Issues with the state budget created hurdles to gaining the financing needed to bring the new school to fruition. As a result, the development was pushed back roughly a year, Flocco said.
Boston community loan fund was the primary investor for the school, along with organizations such as Capital for Change investing for construction of the tutor house. The school was $17 million and the tutor housing $8 million.
 Development of the school is expected to happen simultaneously while Corvus Capital begins construction of its next batch 159 apartments adjacent to the school. Flocco said in earlier interviews with Hearst Connecticut Media that there will be no cause for concern to incoming residents and students with future construction.

Downtown Danbury to get facelift

By Zach Murdock
DANBURY — A plan to rebuild downtown Danbury’s aging sidewalks will start this year with a $2 million boost from the state.
The project will include new crosswalks, street lamps, murals, trees and reconstructed sidewalks throughout the downtown core from the HARTransit transfer hub to the Metro-North train station and down Main Street.
It is the first phase of the large-scale makeover outlined in the city’s new transit-oriented development plan, released this spring, that envisions a new $30 million Danbury Transit Center that could improve all types of transportation downtown and help stimulate redevelopment.
The state’s $2 million contribution is one of just five grants it is distributing this summer for transit plans designed to improve pedestrian safety and help spur economic activity in the surrounding area, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced last week. The other $6.5 million in grants will go toward projects in Hartford, West Hartford, Torrington and Stamford.
The state funding doubles the $2 million the city already set aside to begin the improvements in its next capital projects budget, Planning Director Sharon Calitro said.“We’re really excited, it was great news for us,” she said. “Our goal is to go bid early next year and it’s all part of the urban revitalization, focusing on transit-oriented development, to help reinvigorate downtown.” The project will include more than two miles of new sidewalks in total, including on Main Street from White to about Boughton Street, on Liberty Street from Main to Patriot Drive, and for the paths from Kennedy Park to the Danbury Green to Patriot Drive at the entrance to the train station, according to the preliminary plans.
Some parts of that sidewalk network are in relatively good shape, but others were last rebuilt in the early 1990s, Calitro said.
The plan also will include dozens of new trees, bike lanes and artwork — like crosswalks painted with murals — that would make downtown more comfortable to walk around in, she said.
“It’s all the things that go along with that to create a walkable, refreshed look and infrastructure in downtown to make it more enticing and to incentivize development,” she said.
The city’s funding for the project will be available when the new fiscal year starts July 1, so officials plan to hire surveyors and civil engineers to prepare the formal plans for the project this summer and fall. If put out to bid in early 2019, construction could start in less than a year.
CityCenter Danbury previewed what some of the changes could look like earlier this month when they hosted Connecticut Main Street Center’s annual awards ceremony in town and held an event in the alley next to the Post Office on Main Street. The former eyesore shortcut has been transformed by city crews and artists with new lamps, a thorough cleaning and custom murals to the delight of downtown leaders.
 The sidewalks are only the first step in a long-term plan to reconfigure downtown transportation of all kinds — by foot, bicycle or car. The chief recommendation of the plan is to combine the HART PulsePoint transfer area near Kennedy Park with the existing train station to create a single hub called the Danbury Transit Center.
Negotiations are still underway among the city, Metro-North, HART and Eversource, which owns part of the property needed to enlarge the station, Calitro said.
Mayor Mark Boughton has said he’s “pumped” for the overall project, which he views as an “aspiraprunttional” plan for the city to pursue as it can within its means. He lauded the state for helping jumpstart the plan with the sidewalk funding.
 “That’ll keep (construction superintendent) Tom Hughes and (Public Works Director) Antonio Iadarola going for a long time over the next 18 months,” Boughton joked.

DOT To Narrow Lanes, Widen Shoulders Along Route 17 In South Glastonbury

he state Department of Transportation plans to narrow the travel lanes along Route 17 creating a wider shoulder, but has no plans to widen the roadway.
Crews will begin a milling and repaving project over the next few weeks. When it is complete, crews will line the new roadway creating the wider shoulders. Last month, the town council sent a letter to the DOT requesting shoulder improvements for the route, which is popular for bicyclists traveling along Main Street, or Route 17, into South Glastonbury.
Thomas J. Maziarz, bureau chief of policy and planning at the DOT, said lane widths in the area range from 12 to 14 feet with “inconsistent” shoulder widths of 1 to 4 feet. Maziarz said when the project is complete the lanes will be 11 feet wide “to provide a wider shoulder area for pedestrians and bicyclists.”
“These improvements will be implemented to the maximum extent feasible where the existing roadway width and number of travel lanes allow,” he said.
Maziarz said the project must be done within the existing roadway. He noted the project does not incorporate the construction of sidewalk or roadway widening for increased pavement width. He also noted that widening in “key locations” could make the road safer by preventing rear-end crashes.
Town Manager Richard J. Johnson said there isn’t much room to widen the highway.
“One of the challenges is there’s shoulders. There are [future] sidewalks that are planned, drainage and other structures,” he said.
Johnson said the town is hoping to fund a sidewalk project for the stretch of road from Mallard Drive south to Stockade Road over the next couple of years.
The town has applied for a “community connectivity” grant from the DOT for 1,250 feet of sidewalk along the western side of Main Street from Stockade Road south to Red Hill Drive. Funding is on hold pending bond commission approval.
“While we do not know the timing or amount of any future bond commission approval for this program, the town had a strong application and we are hopeful that funding will be made available,” Maziarz said.

New Haven begins demolition of Church Street South

Mary E. O'Leary
NEW HAVEN — As city officials watched, the excavator moved in and took a large bite out of the two-story concrete-block structure on Malcolm Court that once housed a group of families.
The second-story floor and the outer wall fell into a pile of crumpled wallboard amid masonry as a nearby machine continually sprayed water to keep the dust down.
It was the beginning of the end for the 301 deteriorated apartments at Church Street South that had housed thousands of low-income residents over the past 50 years.
Interior demolition has been completed, according to Dan Masto, director of operations at Abcon Abatement and Demolition, which he said has a $5 million contract to clear the 13-acre site of the 22 residential buildings, plus several storage buildings.
He estimated it will take up to two years to clear Church Street South as it takes two to three weeks per building and the work slows down in the winter. The cleanup is being paid for by the owner, Northland Investment Corp It is a valuable development site across from Union Station and there are preliminary plans to build between 700 and 1,000 units of housing, 30 percent of which would be affordable in a public-private partnership between the city and Northland.
Deputy Economic Development Administrator Michael Piscitelli called the demolition “an important milestone,” for the Hill to Downtown plan, which not only covers Church Street South, but other parcels stretching to downtown.
He said 40 percent of those parcels have been vacant since the end of the redevelopment era in the 1970s.
Piscitelli said, separate from CSS, RMS Cos. is working on four plans for 300 units of housing at these sites, each with affordability components.
Both Mayor Toni Harp and Piscitelli said the transition put the families first as Elm City Communities, the city’s housing authority, which was hired by Northland, worked with the residents individually to find new apartments.
The last tenant did not move out until May, a process that began in 2015.
 Once the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development did a thorough inspection in 2015, after the New Haven Legal Aid Association continued to highlight the mold and structural problems the tenants were facing, dozens were moved to hotels and soon into apartments after securing Section 8 vouchers.
Church Street South originally was a cooperative with tenant ownership, according to staff at the Livable City Initiative, but was later sold to The Community Builders. It again changed hands when it was sold to the Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts company, for $5 million in 2008.
Piscitelli said the city also had an issue with TCB not investing in the property.
Northland has denied charges, brought in a class action suit, that it engaged in “demolition by neglect.”HUD, in September 2015, said Northland had failed to provide “decent, safe and sanitary” conditions for the tenants. It also gave it a score of 20 out of 100 when it assessed conditions at the complex.The company has said it paid millions on transitioning tenants to new housing, paying for hotels and storage of residents’ household goods.
Harp, who was at the site Monday, said the property had been allowed to fall into disrepair over many years, leaving the residents “caught in the middle of a bad situation.”
She thanked city Building Official Jim Turcio, LCI Executive Director Serena Neal-Sanjuro and Elm City Communities for aggressively dealing with the situation and HUD for quickly shifting the rental subsidies to new landlords from Northland.
Larry Gottesdiener, chairman and chief executive officer of Northland, issued a statement on the demolition and the future of the property.
He said it was a complex challenge to find quality housing for the tenants and he thanked them for their patience. Gottesdiener said his company and the city has now established a “true partnership and never lost sight of the common goal: relocating the families in a respectful and sensitive manner.”
Gottesdiener said he looks forward to working with city officials “to create Union Square, a mixed-use, transit oriented, green, 21st century village that will weave Union Station, the Hill, and the Medical District into Downtown, provide an architecturally stunning ‘front door’ to New Haven and increase the affordable housing supply in the city by 300 units.”
The mayor said the story of Church Street South over the past two years “underscores the extent to which we in New Haven, under my administration, will continue working to address the needs of those who are vulnerable, whose voices are muted by disadvantage, whose at-risk circumstances might prompt others to take advantage of them.”
Harp said in this state and the country “there are those who seem utterly content living with an approach as if to say: ‘I’ve got mine — the rest of you fend for yourself.’“In New Haven, we share a city we love, we watch out for one another, we take care of one another and we’re working to provide suitable housing for one another,” Harp said.
 Piscitelli, at the press conference held at the Church Street South site, praised LCI for answering more than 10,000 complaints last year and conducting more than 5,200 residential inspections.
Rafael Ramos, deputy director of housing code enforcement at LCI, who along with Turcio, condemned the housing units, said he was happy that the tenants are now in better homes.

Ansonia, Bridgeport, New Milford receive state brownfield grant money

Michael P. Mayko
ANSONIA — Another $200,000 in state grant money is on its way for help the re-develop the 40-acre vacant Ansonia Copper and Brass property which abuts the downtown.
“This is great news for the city,” Mayor David Cassetti said Monday. “It’s a giant step in helping us develop strategies to assess, clean-up and reuse this vacant property which is so crucial to the revitalization not only of the downtown but of the city.”
Meanwhile the city is working on a Request for Proposal seeking a redevelopment corporation, a brownfield bank or a developer to partner in re-purposing the site. Corporation Counsel John Marini said wording of the RFP may be ready for a vote during the Board of Aldermen’s July meeting.
The Ansonia Copper and Brass site, also known as the Anaconda American Brass property, is in a designated opportunity zone which allows a developer to invest capital gains into a project for federal tax benefits.
Ansonia was one of six municipalities and community organizations awarded Brownsfield Area-wide Revitalization grants from the state.
The program, created in 2015, encourages municipalities with multiple blighted properties to develop strategies to assess, clean up and reuse the parcels for business, housing and public amenities that will generate jobs and revenues.“We worked hard in presenting our case to state officials,” Cassetti said. “With so many brownfields across the state, it’s a testament to the work my staff put in, particularly John (Marini) and Sheila (O’Malley, the city’s economic development director).
“This property stands out because of its sheer size in relationship to the size of the city,” said Marini, a former aldermen. “We had to show the state we are ready to move onto the next stage.”
The next stage is demolition of the remaining six buildings. O’Malley estimated tearing down the buildings will cost between $8 million and $10 million.
“I want a clean canvas that a developer could paint the future of the city on,” Cassetti said.
 Once the buildings are down, the land could be capped to contain any contaminants, which could pave the way for a mixed use development of retail and residential along the Naugatuck River site.“In its day, it (American Brass) was a city unto itself,” O’Malley said. “It had its own power plant, its waste treatment facility, its own laboratory, its own medical clinic and had a freight line passing through.”
The latest $200,000 comes on top of $600,000 in previous state grants as well as nearly $2 million in remediation work by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. EPA workers have been on the site since last summer.
“They believe everything is contained except a test pit on the site,” said O’Malley.
Marini and O’Malley developed a budget breaking down the use of the $200,000 BAR grant into five areas: environmental, re-use, site access, infrastructure and community outreach.
They’ve designated $50,000 for environmental work, which includes $15,000 for subsurface testing and $30,000 for a demolition study.
The site access budget includes $30,000 for a feasibility study of a new road. Cassetti would like to see the road extended to the Route 8 entrance ramp to Seymour near the vacant Molto Bene restaurant.
They’ve also budgeted $45,000 for a marketability and revenue potential study and another $45,000 for a utility needs assessment.

June 25, 2018

CT Construction Digest Monday June 25, 2018

How the Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects Around the Country

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A team of political activists huddled at a Hardee’s one rainy Saturday, wolfing down a breakfast of biscuits and gravy. Then they descended on Antioch, a quiet Nashville suburb, armed with iPads full of voter data and a fiery script.
The group, the local chapter for Americans for Prosperity, which is financed by the oil billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch to advance conservative causes, fanned out and began strategically knocking on doors. Their targets: voters most likely to oppose a local plan to build light-rail trains, a traffic-easing tunnel and new bus routes.
“Do you agree that raising the sales tax to the highest rate in the nation must be stopped?” Samuel Nienow, one of the organizers, asked a startled man who answered the door at his ranch-style home in March. “Can we count on you to vote ‘no’ on the transit plan?”
In cities and counties across the country — including Little Rock, Ark.; Phoenix, Ariz.; southeast Michigan; central Utah; and here in Tennessee — the Koch brothers are fueling a fight against public transit, an offshoot of their longstanding national crusade for lower taxes and smaller government.
At the heart of their effort is a network of activists who use a sophisticated data service built by the Kochs, called i360, that helps them identify and rally voters who are inclined to their worldview. It is a particularly powerful version of the technologies used by major political parties.
In places like Nashville, Koch-financed activists are finding tremendous success.
Early polling here had suggested that the $5.4 billion transit plan would easily pass. It was backed by the city’s popular mayor and a coalition of businesses. Its supporters had outspent the opposition, and Nashville was choking on cars.
But the outcome of the May 1 ballot stunned the city: a landslide victory for the anti-transit camp, which attacked the plan as a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money. “This is why grass roots works,” said Tori Venable, Tennessee state director for Americans for Prosperity, which made almost 42,000 phone calls and knocked on more than 6,000 doors.
Supporters of transit investments point to research that shows that they reduce traffic, spur economic development and fight global warming by reducing emissions. Americans for Prosperity counters that public transit plans waste taxpayer money on unpopular, outdated technology like trains and buses just as the world is moving toward cleaner, driverless vehicles.
Most American cities do not have the population density to support mass transit, the group says. It also asserts that transit brings unwanted gentrification to some areas, while failing to reach others altogether.
Public transit, Americans for Prosperity says, goes against the liberties that Americans hold dear. “If someone has the freedom to go where they want, do what they want,” Ms. Venable said, “they’re not going to choose public transit.”
The Kochs’ opposition to transit spending stems from their longstanding free-market, libertarian philosophy. It also dovetails with their financial interests, which benefit from automobiles and highways.
One of the mainstay companies of Koch Industries, the Kochs’ conglomerate, is a major producer of gasoline and asphalt, and also makes seatbelts, tires and other automotive parts. Even as Americans for Prosperity opposes public investment in transit, it supports spending tax money on highways and roads.
“Stopping higher taxes is their rallying cry,” said Ashley Robbins, a researcher at Virginia Tech who follows transportation funding. “But at the end of the day, fuel consumption helps them.”
David Dziok, a Koch Industries spokesman, said the company did not control the activities of Americans for Prosperity in specific states and denied that the group’s anti-transit effort was linked to the company’s interests. That notion “runs counter to everything we stand for as a company,” he said.
“Our decisions are based on what is most likely to help people improve their lives, regardless of the policy and its effect on our bottom line,” he said. Koch Industries has opposed steel tariffs, for example, even though the company owns a steel mill in Arkansas, he said.
The group’s Nashville victory followed a roller-coaster political campaign, including a sex-and-spending scandal that led to the mayor’s resignation.
But the results also demonstrate that the Kochs’ political influence has quietly made deep inroads at the local level even as the brothers have had a lower profile in Washington. (This month, Koch Industries said David Koch would step away from his political and business roles because of declining health.)
“These are outside groups,” said Nashville’s new mayor, David Briley, in an interview. “They don’t represent Nashville’s interests or values.
A Nationwide Effort
The Nashville strategy was part of a nationwide campaign. Since 2015, Americans for Prosperity has coordinated door-to-door anti-transit canvassing campaigns for at least seven local or state-level ballots, according to a review by The New York Times. In the majority, the Kochs were on the winning side.
Americans for Prosperity and other Koch-backed groups have also opposed more than two dozen other transit-related measures — including many states’ bids to raise gas taxes to fund transit or transportation infrastructure — by organizing phone banks, running advertising campaigns, staging public forums, issuing reports and writing opinion pieces in local publications. In Little Rock, Americans for Prosperity made more than 39,000 calls and knocked on nearly 5,000 doors to fight a proposed sales-tax increase worth $18 million to fund a bus and trolley network. In Utah, it handed out $50 gift cards at a grocery store, an amount it said represented what a proposed sales tax increase to fund transit would cost county residents per year.“There’s nothing more effective than actually having a human conversation with someone on events that affect them on a day-to-day basis,” Akash Chougule, policy director at Americans for Prosperity, said in an interview. “It’s a great opportunity for us to activate people in their own backyards, and we’re among the first to do it in a sustained, permanent way.”
The paucity of federal funding for transit projects means that local ballots are critical in shaping how Americans travel, with decades-long repercussions for the economy and the environment. Highway funding has historically been built into state and federal budgets, but transit funding usually requires a vote to raise taxes, creating what experts call a systemic bias toward cars over trains and buses. The United States transportation sector emits more earth-warming carbon dioxide than any other part of the nation’s economy.
The Trump administration had initially raised hopes of more funding for transit by advocating a trillion-dollar infrastructure push. However, when that proposed plan was made public it reduced funding for transit-related grants. 
On the Ground in Nashville
Nashville’s idea to invest in transit got off to a strong start. Introduced in October by Megan Barry, who was mayor at the time, it called for 26 miles of light rail, a bus network, and a 1.8-mile tunnel for buses and trains that would bypass the city center’s narrow streets.
The $5.4 billion proposal, the costliest transit project in Nashville’s history, was to be funded by raising the sales tax city residents pay by one percentage point, to 10.25 percent, and raising other business taxes. A coalition of Nashville businesses urged voters to endorse the spending as vital to a region projected to grow to almost 3 million people by 2040, an increase of 1 million.
“It will be far-reaching, it will serve every part of our city — north, south, east, and west — and it will help to shape our future growth and development,” said Ms. Barry, who enjoyed approval ratings near 70 percent. A poll by her team found that close to two-thirds of voters would support raising taxes to pay for transit.
The vote was set for May 1.
But then in late January Ms. Barry, who is married, acknowledged a nearly two-year affair with the former head of her security detail after a series of exposés, including reports of steamy texts, overseas trips and inappropriate spending. In March she resigned, and later pleaded guilty to theft. Ms. Barry did not respond to requests for comment.
Americans for Prosperity kicked its campaign into high gear.
Secret Weapons
The team that gathered at Hardee’s in March, two weeks after Ms. Barry’s resignation, was led by Ms. Venable and Mr. Nienow of Americans for Prosperity. Other canvassers that morning included a local Tea Party leader and a lawyer-turned-fantasy-novelist who writes about a young witch who pushes back against an authoritarian government.
Central to the work of Americans for Prosperity is i360, the Kochs’ data operation, which profiles Americans based on their voter registration information, consumer data and social media activities. The canvassers divided the neighborhoods into “walkbooks,” or clusters of several dozen homes, and broke into teams of two.
There are rules: No more than two people at a door (to avoid appearing threatening). No stepping on lawns (homeowners don’t like it). And focus strictly on the registered voter. If anyone else answers, say a polite “thanks” and move on.
“It’s the concept of opportunity cost,” said Mr. Nienow. Their data zeroed in on people thought to be anti-tax or anti-transit and likely to vote.
On a laptop in her S.U.V., Ms. Venable tracked, in real time, the progress of the four pairs working that day. By 4:30 p.m. they had knocked on 230 doors and connected with 66 people, a success rate of 29 percent. “Excellent,” she said.
“Everything we do is very scientific, very data-based, very numbers-based,” said Mr. Chougule, the Americans for Prosperity policy director. “We are able to see who are the people that are most likely to engage on this issue, who are the people most aligned with us that we need to get out, and who are the people whose minds we can change.”
Another weapon in the Koch arsenal is Randal O’Toole, a transit expert at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington that Charles Koch helped found in the 1970s. Declaring transit “dead” and streetcars “a scam,” he has become a go-to expert for anti-transit groups. Crisscrossing the country, he speaks at local events and writes opinion pieces.
At a forum in Nashville in January hosted by a conservative radio host, Mr. O’Toole gave an impassioned speech. “I think of light rail as the diamond-encrusted Rolex watch of transit. It’s something that doesn’t do as much as a real watch can do. It costs a lot more. And it serves solely to serve the ego of the people who are buying it,” he said, meaning city officials.
Public transit critics have long raised fears that rail projects are a conduit for crime, and Mr. O’Toole himself has made that argument: “Teenagers swarm onto San Francisco BART trains to rob passengers,” he warned in a blog post last year. But in Nashville, Mr. O’Toole made a different argument, namely that transit is for hipster millennials and would be a conduit for gentrification, forcing people to move further away to find affordable housing.
In another line of attack, he also argues that ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are the future of transportation, not buses and trains. “Why would anybody ride transit when they can get a ride at their door within a minute that will drop them off at the door where they want to go?” he said in an interview.
Asked whether low-income people could afford to use Uber instead of a bus, he said that subsidizing their rides would still be more cost-effective.
Raj Rajkumar, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Mobility21 research center, which focuses on transportation issues, said studies have shown that mass transit reduces congestion and pollution. But he also said there is some truth in concerns that transit could bring gentrification. To offset that, he said, transit plans should be paired with measures to increase affordable housing.
Still, in most places and over the long run, buses and trains are the most effective and cleanest way of moving large numbers of people large distances, he said. Ride-sharing can help people on shorter trips, Mr. Rajkumar said, or getting to and from a train station. “But if you’re going 30 miles, Uber is less suitable. I don’t think Uber and Lyft can really replace public transit,” he said.
A Money Trail, Undisclosed
The scale of the Kochs’ anti-transit spending is difficult to gauge at the local level, because campaign finance disclosure standards vary among municipalities. But at the state and national level, the picture gets clearer.
Last year Americans for Prosperity spent $711,000 on lobbying for various issues, a near 1,000-fold increase since 2011, when it spent $856. Overall, the group has spent almost $4 million on state-level lobbying the past seven years, according to disclosures compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonpartisan nonprofit that tracks political spending.
Broadly speaking, Americans for Prosperity campaigns against big government, but many of its initiatives target public transit. In Indiana, it marshaled opposition to a 2017 Republican gas-tax plan meant to raise roughly a billion dollars to invest in local buses and other projects. In New Jersey, the group ran an ad against a proposed gas-tax increase in 2016 that showed a father giving away his baby’s milk bottle, and also Sparky the family dog, to pay for transit improvements among other things. “Save Sparky,” the ad implores.
In Nashville, Americans for Prosperity played a major role: organizing door-to-door canvassing teams using iPads running the i360 software. Those in-kind contributions can be difficult to measure. According to A.F.P.’s campaign finance disclosure, the group made only one contribution, of $4,744, to the campaign for “canvassing expenses.”
Instead, a local group, NoTax4Tracks, led the Nashville fund-raising. Nearly three-quarters of the $1.1 million it raised came from a single nonprofit, Nashville Smart Inc., which is not required to disclose donors. The rest of the contributions to NoTax4Tracks came from wealthy local donors, including a local auto dealer.
Both NoTax4Tracks and Nashville Smart declined to fully disclose their funding.
‘I Knew We Were Going to Win’
After Ms. Barry’s resignation, Nashville’s pro-transit movement struggled. Its messaging became muddled, strategists said, with supporters claiming that the plan would do everything: create jobs, benefit the environment and even boost the health and wellness of residents.
Ultimately, the pro-transit camp failed to fend off criticism that the plan benefited a gentrifying downtown at the expense of more distant lower-income and minority areas.
“If everyone’s going to pay for it, everyone needs to benefit,” said Rev. Jeff Obafemi Carr, who threw his support behind the opposition campaign and mobilized African-American voters.
After the vote, the Americans for Prosperity crew celebrated its victory at the Nashville Palace, a country music venue. “I knew we were going to win,” Ms. Venable said. “But I wasn’t taking my foot off the gas for a second.”
Getting There: Highway construction boom built on myths

How did Americans develop their love affair with driving?
Visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington and the transportation exhibit “America on the Move” will sell you on the commonly held theory that when Henry Ford made cars affordable, Americans loved them and demanded more and more highways.
Of course, that exhibit is sponsored by General Motors, which donated millions to put its name on the collection.
But University of Virginia history professor Peter Norton, author of “Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in American cities” contends that’s a myth. Just as outgoing President Dwight Eisenhower warned us of the military industrial complex, Norton says an automotive-construction complex took over our country, paving from coast to coast.
Sure, Americans like their cars. But it was a conspiracy of economic interests that turned us into a car culture. Where cities once enjoyed a network of cheap, fast streetcars, GM, Firestone and oil companies bought and wiped them out, replacing them with buses and cars. “This country destroyed and rebuilt its cities in the 20th century to serve automobiles,” Norton says.
And those same interest groups are alive and well in Connecticut.
Groups like “Move CT Forward” aren’t pro-transportation as much as they are pro jobs — in construction. The groups have spent a lot of money lobbying in Hartford to keep their members, the unions and contractors busy. While I’m happy they’re promoting transportation, their motives are hardly altruistic.
This is nothing new, Norton says. The original interstate highways built in the 1950s used Portland Cement because that company lobbied so hard for its product over cheaper asphalt. Now that rusting rebar and crumbling cement is costing us a fortune.
Another myth from that era was that Eisenhower built the interstates to move troops quickly for national defense. That may have been the pitch to Congress, but the real reason for the highways was to evacuate civilians from the big cities in the event of nuclear war. Luckily, we never had to test that idea.
When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston — the most urbanized highway city in the country —authorities last summer didn’t even try to evacuate people because they knew more would die on congested roads than in the storm.
Who pays for all this road building? You do, in the form of income taxes and, yes, gasoline taxes. But Norton says gas taxes are hardly a fair way to pay for everything.
Why does the motorist driving on a dirt road pay the same gas tax as one driving Interstate 95? The costs they place on road maintenance, the environment and our stress levels are grossly different, so why isn’t the cost? “It would be like having Best Buy selling everything by the pound. People would flock to the electronics (our crowded interstates) instead of the towels,” he notes. I’m not sure Best Buy even sells towels, but I take his point. He reminds us that before the interstates, the nation’s first “super highways” like the Pennsylvania and New Jersey turnpikes were built as toll roads — not freeways — and remain that way today.
 Driving may seem to be free, but it isn’t. Until we ask drivers to pay for its real cost, there is no incentive to do anything but drive (and pave) more.

As gas plant rises, pastors, PSEG remain at odds

By Brian Lockhart
BRIDGEPORT — The ongoing construction of a new gas-fired power plant in the South End is changing that harborfront neighborhood’s skyline.
But behind-the-scenes, a coalition of pastors has escalated its fight with plant-owner PSEG Power LLC and Mayor Joe Ganim’s administration over what critics characterized as a vaguely-worded 2016 deal that outlined what PSEG would do for the community in exchange for support for the plant’s construction.
The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport and other religious leaders have triggered a dispute-resolution section of the city’s pact with PSEG to force confidential negotiations among the parties. The pastors for months have alleged PSEG reneged on offering a robust construction union apprenticeship program and on hiring locally.
The pastors, PSEG and city officials had been trying informally to settle their differences for several months to no avail. “We didn’t feel the initial requests for response (to the allegations) were getting the level of attention they warranted given the size of the project and gravity of its impact on our community,” said Carl McCluster, whose Baptist Church is located across from PSEG’s property.
PSEG has continually insisted the company has met or exceeded its obligations.
As the sides remain at odds, the window of time to reach a resolution is closing. The gas-fired plant is 38 percent complete and scheduled to begin operations June 1, 2019. Most recently, a massive 10-story, 7 million pound crucial piece of equipment — a heat recovery steam generator that recycles the plant’s exhaust — was floated up the coastline by barge and installed on the property.
So what could PSEG and the city offer the pastors to satisfy them when the gas plant is nearly half built? The Rev. Cass Shaw, the Council of Churches’ president, did not want to offer details given that the negotiations are supposed to be confidential.
“We hope and trust we can come to an understanding of how best to serve Bridgeport residents,” Shaw said.
Good faith
The gas-fired power plant will, by 2021, replace the aged coal-run facility with the iconic candy-cane smoke stack next door that PSEG has operated since 2002. That swap, announced in early 2016, was considered a compromise between activists who wanted the industrial site shut down and redeveloped and city officials who did not want to lose PSEG’s substantial tax payments — $51.1 million over the next four years — and contributions to area charities — $525,000 since 2016.
 The Ganim administration, City Council and PSEG also in 2016 drafted a Community Environmental Benefit Agreement that committed PSEG to: Establish a construction union apprenticeship training program; try to hire Bridgeport residents and contractors; and provide $2 million to be divvied up as grants among municipal departments and private entities for public health and environmental initiatives.
To date, PSEG has graduated 15 city residents from its Ready2Work program aimed at placing participants into labor union apprenticeships, with applications being accepted for a third class in July. And the company said that as of mid-June, city contractors, suppliers and businesses will earn $22.73 million off of the plant project.
 But pastors like McCluster and others have claimed that, in order to sell their congregations on the gas-fired plant, PSEG promised dozens more apprenticeships and even more local investment. For example, while there are 400 union laborers building the plant, according to PSEG, 13 percent of the work hours have so far gone to Bridgeport resident One problem is the Community Environmental Benefit Agreement, which only requires PSEG to make a good faith effort without establishing actual goals. PSEG recently said it hopes a minimum of 15 percent of the work hours go to Bridgeport residents.
Another complaint the pastors have is that the agreement required an independent facilitator to monitor PSEG’s compliance, which has not happened. The Ganim administration has argued that, in the meantime, the city’s small and minority business office is monitoring the project.
Money in limbo
And lastly there is a complication with PSEG’s required $2 million payment. The company has made the money available, but the Community Environmental Benefit Agreement did not delineate the legal, banking and accounting complexities involved in depositing and distributing the cash.
 Stuart Sachs is chairman of a special task force the city appointed to accept the $2 million. This week, he briefed members of the City Council on why that money remains in limbo.
“I don’t know who wrote this (Community Environmental Benefit Agreement), but (I) would like to roll it up and whack them in the ear,” a frustrated Sachs said. “I hope what you’re beginning to understand is this procedure is fairly complicated.”
Sachs said his task force, after investigating several options, has decided to partner with the United Way of Coastal Fairfield County to accept, manage and distribute the $2 million.
 Sachs added that some of that $2 million will be spent on hiring the facilitator to provide the oversight of PSEG and the gas plant construction that the pastors have been demanding.
“I wish we could have had it earlier,” Sachs said.

Preston to hold zoning hearing on Mashantucket request to allow RV campground on Route 2 land

By Claire Bessette
Preston — The Mashantucket Pequot tribe is considering creating an RV campground resort on three parcels on Route 2, where tribal officials initially had proposed hosting the Revolution Rock Festival in 2016.
The town Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday on a proposed zoning regulation text amendment to add recreational campgrounds to the Vacation Resort section of the existing Resort Commercial District. Tribal officials requested the zoning regulation language change for the three parcels at 451, 455 and 495 Route 2 in the Resort Commercial District.
The land is an expansive field with wooded areas at the edges located between the Route 164 intersection and the Hilton Garden Inn hotel at the Watson Road intersection, about a half-mile from Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Town Planner Kathy Warzecha said Tuesday’s hearing is only for the regulation wording change. The tribe would need to apply for a specific development plan if the text amendment is approved. The amendment would allow recreational campgrounds in the zone with a special exception, which also would require a public hearing.
“We continue to work with the town of Preston as we consider all potential options for the use of properties owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation along the Rt. 2 corridor,” tribal spokesman Lori Potter said in an email response to a question about the tribe’s pan.
In a letter dated May 22 to commission Chairman Arthur Moran Jr., Mashantucket Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler said tribal officials met with Warzecha in March to discuss the possible development of an RV campground resort at the properties. Butler said tribal officials were told the regulations did not include the specific language for RV campgrounds within the zone, but the commission was in the process of reviewing regulations.
“It will provide economic benefit to the region by attracting visitors that will use the region’s businesses therefore improving viability,” the tribe’s text amendment application stated. “It will diversify the business environment and encourage a positive sustainable economy. It will promote appropriate economic development along Route 2.”

CT approves $8.5M for transit-oriented development projects

Joe Cooper
Projects in Hartford and West Hartford are among five municipalities that share in an $8.5 million grant to accelerate transit-oriented development, the governor announced.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Friday said the second round of funding for the transit-oriented development program will also go to projects in Danbury, Stamford and Torrington.
The funding, meant for highly populated, mixed-use business and neighborhood centers near transit stations and corridors, is administered by the Office of Policy and Management (OPM).
"Transportation isn't just about cars, trains, and buses – it's about building vibrant communities and continuing to make Connecticut a more attractive place to live, visit, and do business," Malloy said.
Under Phase I of the project last year, the state approved $15 million for 11 projects in municipalities including New Britain, East Windsor, Berlin, Wallingford and Norwalk.
The following projects will receive the grants under Phase II:
West Hartford – New Park Avenue: $2 million to construct infrastructure improvements along New Park Avenue from New Britain Avenue to Oakwood Avenue.
Hartford – Main Street: $450,000 to develop a section of Main Street from State House Square to study improvements for bike and pedestrian amenities, transit services, new streetscaping and a new cycle track, and other linkages to improve bike and pedestrian connections within the project area, among others.
Stamford – Springdale: $1.9 million to prepare design and engineering drawings and build improvements around the Springdale Train Station
Torrington – East Main Street: $1.9 million to construct new sidewalks, and repair and replace existing sidewalks along portions of East Main Street between Torrington Heights Road and the Big Lots Plaza. 
Danbury – Downtown Streetscape: $2 million to design and construct sidewalk and streetscape infrastructure improvements along downtown pedestrian routes near the Danbury Train Station.

Demolition To Begin On Derelict Dillon Stadium

Demolition is set to begin on the ramshackle stadium in Colt Park that city leaders have tried unsuccessfully for years to revive.In the coming weeks, crews will start to dismantle at least half of the bleachers at Dillon Stadium, the historic South End arena that once hosted The Grateful Dead and professional sports matches. Project managers will evaluate the remaining seating along the east side of the stadium to see if it is salvageable, said Michael Freimuth, executive director of the Capital Region Development Authority, which is overseeing the effort.
The renovation is expected to conclude in spring 2019, when a new, professional soccer team will begin playing at Dillon. Bruce Mandell, who is putting the team together with two business partners, said he plans to announce a club name, franchise details and sponsorships this summer.CRDA has chosen Newfield Construction Inc. to spearhead the upgrades of several structures, including bathrooms, locker rooms, concession stands and a press box. Other pieces of the stadium, like the bleachers and natural grass field, will be ripped out and replaced with new materials. The project calls for a new, west side seating area and an artificial turf field.
Managers are resolved to stay within the $10 million, state-funded budget.
“There is a lot of pushing and shoving inside the budget,” Freimuth said. “It has shifted a thousand times, but we’re trying to stay within it.”
Under a deal hammered out between the city and CRDA, the development authority would manage Dillon for five years, with the option for three, five-year extensions. Mandell’s company, Hartford Sports Group, would pay $300,000 annually to cover overhead expenses and another $25,000 that would go into a community fund. The fund will pay for neighborhood events.
Mandell is also putting up $7 million to $10 million to form the team, backed by the United Soccer League. Hartford Sports would have access to the facility for 20 years. After the first five, the group’s annual payments will be adjusted for inflation.
The company is also responsible for the cost of police patrols outside the stadium, security inside the facility, utilities and maintenance. The city will pay for utilities during community events.
Mandell acknowledged that the project’s timeline and budget were tight, but he was optimistic the stadium would be completed by April 2019.
Project managers have tried to fend off comparisons to Dunkin’ Donuts Park. The grand opening of the $71 million facility north of Hartford’s downtown was delayed a year due to construction and design flaws, and the development ran more than $10 million over budget.
“That hovers over every conversation,” Mandell said of the Dunkin’ Donuts Park fiasco. “How could it not? This project is one-eighth of the size, but so what? People should have expectations that we’re all working together to bring this thing forward in a positive way.”
A use agreement for Dillon is being finalized and subcontractors are still being selected.
Before its decline, the stadium was home to the Hartford Bicentennials soccer team and New England Nightmare women’s football league. It was a popular live music venue in the 1960s and 1970s, drawing artists like The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, The Grateful Dead and Kiss.
Dillon, built in 1935 at the southern end of Colt Park, has been deteriorating for years. It has most recently been used for high school football and soccer games.

June 22, 2018

CT Construction Digest Friday June 22, 2018

Steelpointe Harbor construction moving ahead

Jordan Grice
A harsh winter created some setbacks, but developers of Steelepointe Harbor are making up ground as they look to complete the first phase of construction on the southern end of the peninsula by fall.
Development of what is being called the Dockmasters building was delayed this year following a series of storms during the winter, but last few months have yielded vertical construction on the site south of Stratford Avenue.
The building has been taking form in recent months with the developers putting the crown on the lighthouse portion of the structure this week.
“When nobody can work for four days out of the week, it hurts,” said Robert Christoph Jr. of RCI Group, which oversees the project.“I’m actually really amazed with how still on schedule they are given how bad the winter season was.”
The 48,000-square-foot building will house office space for a marina along with a restaurant and several retailers. Construction of the building is expected to be completed by October.
Though Christoph declined to name which businesses are coming, he said they will be in place before next summer. Development of the marina is also coming together with plans for new concrete floating docks and roughly 110 slips starting out.
Developers anticipate around 200 boat slips in total.“It’s going to be an exciting session coming up,” he added. “It’s something that Bridgeport will be very proud of.”
Plans also include construction of hundreds of residential units with ground-level retail spaces. Christoph said he and his team are looking to break ground on the first wave of residential units by March 2019.
The first building will be on East Main Street, Pembroke Street, and Stratford Avenue and will feature 25,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor and roughly 200 units above to rent at market rates.“I think the market needs to have market-rate apartments in Bridgeport, and that push needs to move forward,” Christoph said. “That is a positive step for Bridgeport.”
Renderings of the waterfront site include several high-rise structures that Christoph said are a part of future phases of residential properties.
As development of the site moves forward, Christoph said he is looking to be closer to the project. He is currently in the process of moving to Fairfield County from Miami to oversee work on the site.
“I think there is a lot of opportunity here,” he said. “This next session is going to take a lot of time and effort, and I want to make sure I’m here and available to make sure that the priorities of Bridgeport get carried through.”

Stonington to begin Hewitt Road work

Mystic — The Town of Stonington has announced that it will begin an extensive eight-week project to rebuild Hewitt Road at the end of this month.
Hewitt Road is a busy bypass between Mistuxet Avenue and Route 1. The project will consist of drainage improvements as well as new pavement. The announcement called it a “large project in a very difficult location.”
The town said the complex project will be completed in six phases. These include repairing existing drainage structures and installing new ones, grinding the road surface, shimming the road with an asphalt pavement surface to eliminate low areas and creating an even surface, adjusting sewer manholes, final paving and completing repairs along the edge of the road.
“Each year, we pave streets in poor condition to make them safer, smoother and extend their useful life. Keeping our transportation system in a state of good repair helps lower the cost of future maintenance,” the town stated.
Crews are scheduled to work weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., with work extending past 5 p.m. some days to ensure the area remains safe through the night.
During the installation of some of the drainage crossings, portions of the road will be closed and detours will be posted. During grinding and paving, one lane will be closed. Because of this, the town is encouraging drivers to use other roads during construction.

June 21, 2018

CT Construction Digest Thursday June 21, 2018

Torrington sewer plant project bid deadline extended

TORRINGTON — Contractors who plan to bid on the $70 million sewer plant upgrade project now have more time to finalize their bids as the city extended the deadline to July 10.
The change from the initial deadline of June 19 was made after a contractor requested an extension , said Ray Drew, the Water Pollution Control Authority’s administrator. The request came from Walsh Construction Co.of Canton, Mass., he said.
The three-week extension shouldn’t delay the planned start of construction, Drew noted, which is still expected to be late August or early September. The city missed a deadline in March, which caused state regulators to reject the contract and require the new bidding process to be held. Only one company, C.H. Nickerson, of Torrington, had bid on the project before the bid was rejected.
George Hicks, the supervising sanitary engineer with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said Tuesday that the contract addenda announcing the deadline change can be viewed on the website of the Wright-Pierce, the city’s project engineers, at https://bit.ly/2I7WspE. The contract document lists seven plan holders, or contractors, who are expected to bid on at least one portion of the project. They range from companies based in Illinois, Ohio to Texas, with the majority of interested contractors located in New England.
The project description listed on the Wright-Pierce website calls for construction of systems that will remove phosphorus from treated wastewater that is discharged into the Naugatuck River. The upgrade is required by the state as part of its environmental protection regulations. Other requirements of the contract, called for by the project engineer, are the renovation of existing structures and buildings and the demolition of certain existing equipment.
Sixty people attended the city’s pre-bid conference held on May 30.
“They don’t all represent contractors,” Drew said.

Some are sub-contractors.

“They attend to get an idea of the extent of their specialty,” for the project, he said.

A second addenda, or addition to the contract, will be issued soon, Drew said, to respond to four requests for information. Those requests contain 41 questions, he added.

The extended deadline “will give contractors additional time to prepare bids” Drew said. “I hope there will be more bids,” he said, compared to the last round.

Public hearing to be held on Bethel elementary renovations

BETHEL — Voters already approved the money for renovations to the Rockwell and Johnson elementary schools, but now the Planning and Zoning Commission must give its blessing.
The commission will hold a public hearing on the project at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Riordan Room D of town hall.
“The voters approved the money and the concepts,” Town Planner Beth Cavagna said. “Now we’re down to the nuts and bolts of the application.”
The commission will consider traffic, the position of the buildings and stormwater management as it reviews the project, Cavagna said.
She said she is not sure how long it will take for the commission to review the project, but said it could vote on it the night of the hearing.
The renovations are meant to give the two elementary schools a major face lift and provide a 21st century educational environment for students. Both schools will get updated gyms, libraries, cafeterias and classrooms. An addition will also be built onto Johnson.
The project will also fix problems at the buildings, such as outdated heating and cooling systems and poor handicap accessibility.
A state grant will cover 45 percent of the project’s eligible costs.
Superintendent Christine Carver said the public hearing will give residents the opportunity to share any concerns about issues such as construction noise. But she expects few residents will have a problem with the renovations, especially since the buildings are in the secluded school park on Whittlesey Drive.
“These two projects are so isolated from other areas,” she said. “It’s not as if there is a neighborhood around it, so quite frankly I don't anticipate any issues.”
Crews plan to conduct hazardous waste testing and other preliminary work on the schools this summer. Work begins in earnest around October and will take about two years.
Carver said she met last week with state officials who were pleased with design development and will meet again with the state in late August or early September to review designs.
“We really are progressing nicely,” she said.

Cromwell road crews working to repave streets around town

CROMWELL — The town has embarked on another round of road repairs.
Crews made up of town employees and outside contractors have fanned out over the past week preparing five lanes for improvements, which, in some cases, involve completely rebuilding the roadway.
A portion of a sixth — Evergreen, between Coles and Willowbrook roads — was repaved earlier this month.
The work is part of a continuing program begun by Director of Public Works Louis J. Spina following his hiring in mid-2014. In his first budget as department head, Spina commissioned a pavement management study — which rates streets most in need for repaving or reconstruction. He has been methodically working through the list.
In just the past year alone, the town repaved or otherwise rehabilitated nearly 20 miles of the roads in town —“almost one-third of our stock,” Spina said in a recent interview.
That included repaving 7.1 miles of streets.
In all, the town has approximately 57.5 miles of roads. Those being repaved now are Catherine, Elm, Missionary and Hillside roads, and Lincoln Road between Timber Hill Road and South Street.
Taken together, the work will result in repaving and/or rebuilding 2.35 miles, Spina said.
“These areas are being addressed now as the town continues to make significant investments in our infrastructure,” Town Manager Anthony J. Salvatore said, discussing the ongoing work.
Paving will take place again in the fall, Salvatore said.
“We have the pavement management study that we go by. And both the Director of Public Works, Mr. Spina, and I have to been trying to stick to that, and we’ve been very fortunate that the (town) council has been supportive of those efforts,” he added.
Wednesday, Salvatore put the cost of this spring’s portion of the road-repair projects at $450,000.
Spina described the pavement management study as “one the best tools you can have. We had a professional come in and review the roads and make an objective assessment of which roads should be done first,” he explained.
Before he decides which to place on the list to be repaired, Spina reaches out to the Water Pollution Control Authority, water department and public utilities such as Eversource “to see if they have any plans to do any major work on these roads in the next few years.
“The last thing you want to do is to repave a road and then have someone come in three weeks later and excavate that road,” he said.
Spina had one penciled in for repaving with the current group of roads. But when he talked to the WPCA, he found out staff were planning repair work that would require opening up 300-plus feet of the roadway, so he removed it from the list.
Repairs begin with crack sealing, after settling and the freeze-thaw cycle opens up fissures in the street. Left unchecked, water from rain or snow melt gets in and the crevices widen.
Crews can apply either natural product or a petroleum-based liquid to seal the cracks, which buys time before a road has to be repaved.
Milling and paving is the next step. The worn-out surface of a road is removed and then the underlay is “milled” — furrows cut into the underlay and a new top coat laid down.
The furrows help the overlay bond more tightly to the underlay.
The final step is reclaiming a road, which essentially involves rebuilding the entire roadway, Spina said. The process involves stripping off the existing asphalt and pulverizing it.
That pulverized product then becomes the base material, which is overlain with a two-inch binder coat.
The crown of the road (which directs water off to the curb) is re-established and the road is tied into catch basins to restore appropriate drainage. A 1.5-inch surface coat is put down and tied into driveway aprons to cause water to flow into the nearby drains.
The reconstruction of a portion of Willowbrook Road, which has been widened and repaved, is separate from the ongoing infrastructure repair project being conducted by Spina and the highway department.
The Willowbrook project, tentatively scheduled to be complete sometime in July, is jointly funded by federal, state and local governments.

Wallingford wastewater plant project estimated to cost $86 million

WALLINGFORD — Proposed upgrades to the town’s aging wastewater treatment plant are projected to cost about $86 million.
The work will be done to meet stricter phosphorus discharge limits and upgrade other processes at the plant, which has not been overhauled since it opened in July 1989. Most existing systems and equipment are near the end of their useful life, officials have said.
The first phase, estimated to cost $55.7 million, will address the state-mandated phosphorus limits, according to a presentation given to the Public Utilities Commission this week by AECOM, a firm hired to design the project. The project’s first phase was previously projected in March to cost $47 million .
The second phase, estimated to cost $30.8 million, will upgrade other equipment and processes, including nitrogen removal.
Wallingford is eligible for state funding to pay for a portion of the phosphorus removal upgrades and a low-interest loan for the remaining phosphorus costs. To receive the maximum amount of state funding possible for the phosphorus upgrades, the town needs to meet a series of state deadlines, including entering into a construction contract by July 1, 2019, beginning construction no later than April 1, 2020, and completing the phosphorus upgrades by April 1, 2022The second phase is expected to be completed from 2023 to 2033 and will be broken down into “smaller subprojects” to level out the impact on ratepayers. The second phase includes $9.7 million to upgrade the plant’s process for handling solid waste, $7.2 million to replace various equipment and $3.5 million to expand lab space, which is undersized based on current standards, according to the presentation given by AECOM.
Much of the project will be funded through water and sewer rate increases.
Public Utilities Director Richard Hendershot could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said he anticipates the project will have a large impact on rates.
“I don't know how there could not be,” Dickinson said.
Dickinson wasn’t aware of the new cost estimates on Wednesday, but expressed concern.
“Other communities that have undertaken this are showing significant increases in water and sewer rates,” said Dickinson, who has long been opposed to the new phosphorus mandates. “The economy isn't good. At one time, 90 to 95 percent of this was paid for through state and federal funding. Well, they don't have the money, so where are we supposed to get the money?”
Earlier this year, the Meriden City Council approved a rate increase of 5.7 percent that will take effect this fall. As a result, the average home consuming 3,000 cubic feet of water per year, will pay $31 more for water and sewer annually.
Wallingford is one of many municipalities undertaking upgrades to meet stricter discharge limits enacted by the state. Phosphorus is naturally present in human waste but is also added to drinking water as an anti-corrosive for pipes to eliminate lead contamination. Phosphorus is considered an environmental hazard because it causes algae bloom, which depletes oxygen in water bodies and poses a threat to wildlife.
Officials will hold a public workshop on the project on 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in room 315 of Town Hall.

Work Continues On Park Road/ I-84, Local Road Projects Continue Through July

Construction work and detours in the area of Park Road and the Interstate 84 entrance and exit ramps are expected to continue through June and July and more roadways throughout town will be paved and milled, according to town officials.
Over the last month, Paramount Construction crews installed a retaining wall along the I-84 entrance ramp, narrowing the ramp to prep for paving the new entrance ramp in August. Crews for weeks worked on drainage on Park Road, according to West Hartford civil engineer Greg Sommer.
Over the next month, crews will work on electricity for traffic signals and granite curbing on Park Road. Motorists can expect to see a lot of what they have seen the last month or so — heavy construction and detours. Sommer said he hopes motorists will avoid the area as much as possible.
While the I-84/ Park Road project continues, the town has about 8.3 miles of road reconstruction, reclamation and milling projects slated to be completed by summer’s end.

A dedicated bike lane has been established on Boulevard with a shared bike lane westbound. Martin said signage still needs to go up on Boulevard to indicate no parking on the eastbound lane and that the westbound lane is a shared road.
Road reconstruction projects include work on: Wilfred Street, Bonny View Road, Smallwood Road and Brainbridge Road from Ballard Drive to Foxcroft Road.

In July, the town has a number of repaving and reclamation projects planned. Here are the tentative dates, weather permitted, according to Martin.Starting July 4, crews will work on Westpoint Terrace, and paving is expected July 18.Starting July 9, crews will mill South Main Street from Elmfield Street to the Newington town line. That project includes repaving of the Elmfield Street and South Main Street intersection and a detour will be set up for southbound traffic — that detour plan has not been finalized yet. Similar to the Boulevard paving — a dedicated bike lane will be set up southbound with prohibited on-street parking. The northbound lane will be a shared lane with on-street parking permitted.Starting July 12, crews will mill the entire length of Caya Avenue. The road will be closed to through traffic but the I-84 off-ramp will stay open. That project is expected to start earlier — 6 a.m. instead of the usual 7 a.m. start time. Project expected to be completed by July 16.Starting July 13, crews will mill Shield Street. That will be an overnight project and the road will be closed to through traffic. July 19 and 20 are tentative paving dates and will be done overnight.Starting July 17, crews will reclaim and repave Dexter Avenue. The reclamation portion will be done during the day and paving will be done at night. For a reclamation project, crews use equipment that breaks up asphalt into smaller pieces but keeps it in place to use as much of the existing pavement as a base. It does make for difficult travel, though. Dexter Avenue would be paved overnight starting July 27.Starting July 17, crews will mill the upper parking lots in Fernridge Park. Crews are expected to pave the lots on July 30.Milling is expected on July 11 and paving on July 18 for sections of Hillcrest Avenue, Braeburn Road, and all of Lynn Court.