January 11, 2019

CT Construction Digest Friday January 11, 2019

Lamont's Pledge for 30-Minute Express Trains Well-Received
Max Reiss

Hotel to be built on site of former church, bank in New Haven
Mary E. O’Leary
NEW HAVEN — As the downtown keeps evolving, what once was a church and then a bank now will be the site of a hotel.
Spinnaker Real Estate Partners LLC of Norwalk and Olympia Companies out of Portland, Maine, have formed a partnership — Spin Olympia New Haven LLC — to convert 80 Elm St. to a 132-room hotel with parking on the ground level and five floors of guest rooms.
Preservationists were hoping that Spinnaker, which already is building hundreds of apartments at Orange, Audubon, State and Grove streets, would keep the 80 Elm St. building and renovate it for a new use, but the plan is to demolish the structure.
The company did bring in Colin Caplan, an architect, local entrepreneur and historian, who runs Magrisso Forte and Taste New Haven, to detail the history of the site and to identify potential significant elements of the current building which has structural elements of a church that was located there in the 19th century.
Frank Caico, vice president for development at Spinnaker, said the company met with an ad hoc historic preservation group around June at which time it committed to hiring a consultant and subsequently selected Caplan. It followed up this week with the group to provide an update and overview of Caplan’s findings. He said they may be able to salvage remnants of millwork from the church.
Also, Caico said they may take some of the artifacts from the church and bank and incorporate them into the interior design of the proposed hotel.“We are really excited about the development,” Caico said. He said he feels it “will be transformative” for that part of downtown and activate the corner of Elm and Orange streets. He said the proposal has incorporated the city’s plans to improve the intersection.
The hotel will feature a business center, restaurant, bar, fitness center and meeting rooms, in addition to the guest rooms. A total of 27 rooms will be built on each floor, with 24 rooms where the fitness center is located.
The hotel will be six stories and will cover what now is the bank building and a surface parking lot. There will be 31 parking spaces on the first level with an entrance off Elm Street; cars will exit onto Orange Street.
The hotel will be called the Hilton Garden Inn. The gross building square footage will be 91,970 square feet. Baskervill Architects of Richmond, Va., is designing the project; Caico said Olympia will manage the hotel once it is constructed.
Mayor Toni Harp said there are about 300 hotel rooms proposed or in the works in separate projects in New Haven. She continues to hope that a four-star hotel with major conference space eventually will locate in a development at the former Coliseum site in Ninth Square.
Live Work Learn Play is talking with Spinnaker about partnering on that stalled development.
The former Webster Bank building is on the Historic Resource Inventory, according to an earlier interview with Anstress Farwell, president of the New Haven Urban Design League. This necessitated a 90-day delay before a demolition permit could be issued.
That time has lapsed and the firm is expected to seek a permit once the project is approved by the City Plan Commission, according to Building Official Jim Turcio. The hotel plans may be on the commission’s agenda as early as this month or in February.
As for the earlier history of the site, St. Thomas Episcopal Church was built there in 1854. The congregation later closed it and built a new church on Whitney Avenue.
The current 1948 Art Moderne building was designed by architect R.W. Foote for the First Federal Savings and Loan Co. Foote incorporated some of the church structure into the bank building, which can be seen from the rear of the structure.
There is evidence in city land records of a building at that corner as early as 1641.
John Herzan, former preservation services officer for the New Haven Preservation Trust, in a previous story, said the building is as an example of Art Moderne architecture.Art Moderne is different from Art Deco in that it takes a more simplified approach. Herzan praised the quality of the craftsmanship at the 80 Elm St. building from the polished granite to other aspects of the interior.

Danbury company exits 2018 with $62M loss
Alexander Soule
FuelCell Energy inched sales back upward in the final three months of its fiscal year, even as the Danbury company quietly put up as collateral its interests in a pair of power plants backed by the state, as part of a $100 million loan it secured in December.
FuelCell plants generate electricity through a chemical process the company likens to that of a battery, with Connecticut having subsidized the installation of FuelCell plants in Bridgeport, Hartford and elsewhere to make the total cost competitive with other electric generators like natural gas plants.Under CEO Chip Bottone, FuelCell has its main manufacturing plant in Torrington where the company has been hiring as it readies to increase production by half to fulfill contracts, and where it is consolidating some production that has been performed at its Danbury headquarters.
On Thursday, FuelCell reported sales of $17.9 million in the fourth quarter, up from $12.1 million in the third quarter though well below the $47.9 million it took in a year ago
Despite those deals and others — the company estimates its product and services order backlog at a record $2 billion — FuelCell generated a $62.2 million loss for its 2018 fiscal year ending in October, including $14.1 million in its fourth fiscal quarter not including additional amounts accrued by investors holding preferred stock. On a conference call Thursday morning, Bottone said FuelCell’s actions in 2018 have “set the company up quite well,” in his words, to generate growth going forward, and maintained his opinion that investors are not adequately valuing the company’s shares which traded Thursday morning at 55 cents, less than a third of their value of a year ago.
“We recognize the need to deliver results,” Bottone said. “Relative to our ability to compete, I think we’ve done a very nice job with that.”
Last fall, FuelCell announced plans to acquire a 14-megawatt power plant in Bridgeport it had constructed for Dominion — a “showpiece facility” as Bottone described it Thursday — with the company telling investors it expects to generate $150 million in revenue from the plant. FuelCell is also completing a small plant on Triangle Street in Danbury that Bottone indicated should be running shortly.
Last month, FuelCell secured a $100 million loan from Generate Lending to finance the manufacture of fuel cells, with the possibility of another $200 million in credit if approved by the Generate Capital affiliate. The deal’s provisions include a three-month period at the end of any installation under which FuelCell can either sell the power plant or refinance the loan; and if it does not do either, giving Generate Lending the option to take ownership of the plant in exchange for erasing any repayment obligation by FuelCell.
FuelCell has already drawn $10 million from the loan to finance construction of a 5 megawatt fuel cell for Bolthouse Farms, a California-based subsidiary of Campbell Soup alongside Pepperidge Farm in Norwalk. FuelCell agreed to put up as collateral projects in Hartford and Derby awarded by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, as well as three more with the Long Island Power Authority.

Energy developer defends proposal for $1 billion power plant
WARWICK, R.I. (AP) — An energy developer is fighting to open a proposed Rhode Island power plant, despite a finding that energy demand in the region will remain flat for the next few years.
Chicago-based developer Invenergy has proposed a $1 billion fossil fuel-burning plant in Burrillville, but the town contested Wednesday that Invenergy needs to prove the project will meet the energy needs of the region under state law.
The project is in a final stretch of hearings with the Energy Facility Siting Board, which will decide if the plant is really needed.
The Providence Journal reports Invenergy argues that aging plants in the region will necessitate construction of more efficient plants for the future. Invenergy also contends the escalating development of renewable energy won't eliminate the need for fossil fuels.
Information from: The Providence Journal, http://www.providencejournal.com
Katrina KoertingSeveral area trail projects are closer to becoming reality with the $3 million in state grants announced this week.
Redding was the biggest recipient, receiving $300,000 for its first section of the Norwalk River Valley Trail. The design for the Redding Mile piece is already complete and was paid for with private donations.
“The Mile will be a great addition to our town,” said Stuart Green, the Redding town leader for the trail. “Once this section is built, I know our community will be eager for connections south to Ridgefield and north to Danbury.”
The 30-mile trail is planned to span from Norwalk through Wilton, Ridgefield, Redding and end in Danbury. So far pieces are already built in Wilton and Norwalk, totaling eight miles. Redding will have 3.2 miles total.
This is one of 19 projects the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection selected for its recent round of grants through the Recreational Trails program. The Connecticut Greenways Council serves as an advisory committee to DEEP for grant selection. The money was allocated at the state bond commission in July.
There were 73 applicants for these grants, totaling more than $12 million in requests. Eligible projects are for locally supported bikeways, greenways, trails and trail systems. There’s a wide list of ways the grants can be used, including land acquisition, publications, amenities and planning and design.
New Milford also received a $180,500 grant to plan and design a 2.5 mile extension for the river walk. So far a piece is already built along Young’s Field, but the town hopes the trail will eventually span 13 miles and tie into the larger western New England Greenway trail, which will go from New York City to Canada.
“I’m very excited the state has decided to give us a grant so we can continue the trail,” Mayor Pete Bass said.
He said he’s looking for the next phase which will begin at Boardsman Bridge. The timeline is being finalized.
Another area project that will benefit from the money is the Housatonic Valley River Trail — a canoe and kayak trail on the Still and Housatonic rivers. It already travels through Newtown, Danbury, Brookfield and New Milford. Monroe received $220,000 to plan and design two of the sections the trail. The town will be using money from the state Department of Transportation for the construction.
The Connecticut Forest and Park Association received $295,500 to maintain and restore the Blue Blazed Hiking Trail system, which has more than 825 miles throughout the state. The money will also be used for CT Trails Day. Last year, Connecticut had more than 250 events — the largest of any state participating in the national event.
But the recent state grants isn’t the last step for these projects. Redding still has to raise $32,000 to meet its match. The Norwalk River Valley Trail has already raised $58,000 for this portion.
“Surely $32,000 is a notable sum,” said President of the NRV  Patricia Sesto said. “However, the Redding community has been so generous and now that we have this grant, I am confident that generosity and this opportunity will encourage people and businesses to step up.”
The Redding Mile, is located in the woodlands between Pickett’s Ridge Road and Fire Hill Road. It will be built this year with Ridgefield expected to be close behind. The trail plan and construction estimates for the 1.5 mile Ridgefield Ramble section are completed. The association is working on permitting and fundraising with hopes to build in 2020. Green said he’s excited for the trail to be built in Redding. “Even given our well known trail system the NRVT is an amenity unlike anything we have in Redding,” he said. “The wide, smooth surface makes this trail attractive for biking, running, and simply strolling for both the young and old.”
New England is known for many things… the colorful autumn leaves, snowy winters, a powerful football team … and rocky ground conditions that challenge contractors on most projects.
At a minimum, nearly every site involves hammers and excavators, and unfortunately way too often the site calls for drilling and blasting. Most contractors are not equipped to handle their own blasting; they have found that it is not cost effective for them to make the investment in the crushing and screening processing plants necessary to produce aggregate on site.
Some, however, are set up to handle their own aggregate processing once the blast has occurred and it has been a common practice on New England building sites for decades to process the rock that is blasted or excavated into aggregate materials that are either re-used on site or are sold to area contractors and municipalities.
Enter Baystate Blasting, a family-owned drilling, blasting, crushing and processing service that is headquartered in Ludlow, Mass. Founded in 2003, Baystate prides itself on being flexible and mobile enough to offer turn-key solutions for projects large and small throughout the New England and New York region."We have identified a market and put together the right fleet of equipment to handle all aspects of rock breaking and aggregate production," said Tony Vital, general manager of Baystate Blasting.
Baystate Blasting employees are experts in their field of blasting rock, but unlike most blasting services, they provide a full range of rock and recycled aggregate crushing services. The company has a full range of portable and stationary crushing equipment that includes jaws, cones, closed circuit crushers, stacking conveyors, screening plants, excavators, loaders and road service trucks to keep the fleet running smoothly.
The products Baystate can produce on the job site include a wide variety of stone and sand products with applications including subbase, foundations, roads, sidewalks, driveways, trench beds, structural fill, stone, riprap and landscape products.
On the blasting side, Baystate Blasting is federally licensed with the ATF as a dealer and user of explosive materials. Its highly skilled and experienced team is licensed to work in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and New York State.Baystate has four blasting crews made up of 22 people, 10 drill rigs, and nine crushing spreads. Their experiences include working with mass rock, trench rock, presplit, line drilling, cushion blasting, hydraulic rock splitting, seismic monitoring, as well as hoe ramming.
"Our customers are varied, including general contractors, construction managers, design builders, quarries, state and local agencies, private developers and even the occasional homeowner," Vital said.
Baystate also is equipped with advanced estimating software, which allows its estimating department to provide customers with accurate cut/fill volumes allowing them to clearly assist in determining subgrade quantities. Baystate will work closely with its customers throughout the entire bidding process to verify information that is contained in the bid documents and to design blast plans which meet all federal, state and local regulations.
Clearing the Way for a Hotel
On Nov. 1, Baystate Blasting began work at the site of a future hotel on U.S. Route 116 in Lincoln, R.I. As is typical for that region, the area was solid rock. At this job site, approximately 60,000 yds. of solid rock will be blasted, and when possible processed into ¾-in. stone.
Prior to starting on this job site, Baystate executed a pre-blast survey, which established the conditions of all residential and commercial properties bordering the site to be prepared in the event of property damage claims. Prior to each blast alerts are sounded, and residents are notified.
Despite the number of charges being released into solid rock, the noise level was barely noticeable, and a minimal amount of seismic disturbance was felt.
The excavation was scheduled to be completed by Dec. 18, 2018.