WEST HAVEN — Board of Education members donned hard hats and walked under scaffolding and around construction materials Monday evening as they toured the site of the 108,000-square-foot addition project to West Haven High School.
They saw what will become the huge media center enveloped by walls of windows, the framework of music and art classes, shop rooms, and what appeared to be a magnificent auditorium.
In the cafeteria downstairs, in addition to the usual lunch line, there will be kiosks where students can grab a quick bite, a central kitchen for the district and space for expanding the popular culinary program. Those students will make desserts and stock them into a two-sided fridge where cafeteria-goers can grab them for purchase.
“It will be much more modern, much more state of the art and student-centered,” Guthrie said.
Board member Rosa Richardson said she loves the modernization and technology the new building will bring to the school.
Richardson also liked that administrative offices will be a long, straight row so there are no areas where anyone can hide.
Board members also liked, for safety reasons, that no one can get into the school where students are without first going through offices.
Cavallaro said the entrance to the school will be in the back of how the school currently is situated and through the new building. He said there often is confusion now, because most people go to the back thinking the entrance is there.
Richardson raised the issue of whether the media center will be open after school for students to access and Cavallaro said he likes the idea, but will visit it after the new portion of the school opens, as it would require staffing.
West Haven High School Building Committee Chairman Kenneth Carney led the tour, saying the team at Gilbane Building Co. of Glastonbury has gone “above and beyond” to make sure the project is top-notch, making improvements over what the plan called for where issues arose.
The completed school will offer a cutting-edge media center, advanced STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — classrooms and laboratories, and upgraded public areas for the school and community. The building will be fully air-conditioned and will have lower maintenance and operating costs while also offering enhanced access and security, according to a news release.
Site restoration work is expected to continue until spring 2022.
The project’s construction phase, also known as Phase III, is composed of three major “subphases” to allow the school to offer a full academic curriculum throughout the project, officials have said.
The project’s first subphase includes constructing the food services, building services, tech-ed shops, media center, auditorium, music and arts classrooms, and administrative offices to permit the transferal of building uses. That opens other parts of the existing building for renovation or demolition.
The second subphase involves renovating the existing eastern three-story building after demolishing the existing cafeteria and media center.
The third subphase includes demolishing the existing auditorium and music spaces, renovating the northern wing of academic spaces, and demolishing the existing gym and southern academic building.
New garage first step in redeveloping Hartford neighborhood
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A new parking garage for state office workers near The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts is nearing completion and could be the first piece of a puzzle giving rise to a neighborhood that has been envisioned for the area for decades.
The 1,007-space garage, is more than double the capacity of the one that it is replacing, at the corner of Washington and Buckingham streets and will help free up vast swaths of paved parking lots nearby for mixed-use redevelopment. The garage, expected to be open this spring, also has about 4,000 square feet of retail space that has yet to be leased.
The $39 million garage, which will not be generally open to the public, is part of the $205 million, state taxpayer-funded renovation of the 87-year-old State Office Building on nearby Capitol Avenue across from The Bushnell. The renovation of the State Office Building — an imposing edifice of Indiana limestone — has been underway for more than a year. The top-to-bottom makeover is expected to be completed by the end of this year and more than 1,000 workers relocated by mid-January of 2020.
The project was controversial for its price tag, given the state's troubled finances. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy justified the expense as part of a larger vision for saving money by consolidating state offices from leased space to buildings the state owns and operates.
For instance, state employees now working at the privately-owned 55 Elm St., which include the attorney general and the state treasurer, will move to the State Office Building. The move is expected to save the state $5 million a year in rental costs.
Drew Grillo, project executive for construction manager Gilbane Building Co., said the project is now about 44 percent complete, with floors slated for completion beginning with the top floors.
On Friday, the building buzzed with the activity of dozens of workers. New office spaces were being framed, pipes were cut to run water and new, energy efficient windows were laid in place.
The glass won't hearken back to the 1930s, however, meeting modern energy efficient standards instead.
"We had to put up plastic over it in the wintertime because it leaked like a son-of-a-gun, with the heat," said Jeffrey Beckham, a DAS spokesman, whose office was once in the building.
The renovations — the first major rehabilitation of the 1931 structure — includes the replacement of old-style ribbed radiators and 750 window air conditioners with a modern heating and cooling system linked to a centralized system serving downtown state office buildings.
A major change on the exterior involves moving the front entrance to the east side of the building facing a new landscaped plaza. The entrance will be enclosed in glass, opening into a new two-story foyer outfitted in imported marble and terrazzo floors. The structure's two, little-used interior courtyards are being raised 6 feet, connecting the foyer visually and making it accessible to the building's cafeteria and beyond, all with ample use of glass.
Planners see the big-ticket investment by the state as the long-sought catalyst for redeveloping the vast expanse of parking lots around The Bushnell into housing, business and storefront space, morphing a wasteland of parking into a neighborhood that extends downtown south from Bushnell Park.
The Capital Region Development Authority expects to seek redevelopment proposals for state-owned parking lots in the area early this year. Construction of a second parking garage of up to 500 spaces on the site of the former, state laboratory on Clinton Street also in expected to get underway by the end of the year.
This second parking garage — also headed up by CRDA — is seen as the first step in creating "district parking" that would be shared by state office workers, future residents of the area and patrons of The Bushnell. The $16 million garage makes it possible to redevelop the parking lots.
State officials say the two garages are needed to accommodate the large number of state office workers in the area, the second primarily for state office workers in buildings along Elm Street.
Redeveloping the area still faces obstacles because key parking lots are privately owned by partnerships that include West Hartford-based Simon Konover Co. Konover has said it is open to proposals for those lots but, so far, nothing has emerged. Konover and its partners also are trying to sell 55 Elm.
New Haven port operator chosen to run State Pier
Hartford — After months of negotiations, the Connecticut Port Authority has reached an agreement with Gateway New London LLC to run State Pier in New London for at least the next 20 years, despite Mayor Michael Passero's reservations about the deal.
After the port authority's board voted unanimously to approve the 20-year agreement during a brief meeting in Hartford Monday morning, Chairman Scott Bates said the deal represents the largest investment in State Pier in the facility's history.
"We have a better deal for the taxpayers, which means we're getting more revenue in that we can put to work on projects across the state," Bates said.
Gateway, a privately held company based in Connecticut, is the largest port terminal operator in the state, operating five terminals on about 75 acres in and around the port of New Haven, one of the state's three deepwater ports.
New Haven's port, the highest-volume commercial shipping port on Long Island Sound, handles petroleum products, cargo, scrap metal, metallic products, cement, sand, stone and salt. State Pier receives shipments of mostly steel, lumber, and salt but is being envisioned also as a staging area for offshore wind projects.
Passero said in a statement that he is looking forward to "forming a strong relationship" with Gateway but that he is disappointed that Monday's announcement "provides no assurance that New London will be the hub of the emerging offshore wind industry in the Northeast."
Missing from the agreement is any recognition by the state, the port authority or Gateway "of their obligation to support the operating budget of its host municipality through a fair and equitable payment of property taxes," he said.
Passero said by phone Monday afternoon that the city is negotiating with the port authority to get more payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOT funds, and that he's pushing the state "to recognize that the port authority should pay property taxes like any other commercial organization."
The assessed value of state land in New London totals $53.9 million, which would generate $2.35 million in annual taxes under private ownership. The state, under the PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes program, paid the city $295,665, or 12.6 percent, of what tax revenue would be, said Finance Director Don Gray.
The parcels that make up State Pier represent $29.97 million of the assessed value. It means the state paid about $164,750 in PILOT funds last year on State Pier.
'Potential offshore wind hub'
Gateway will take over operations at State Pier on May 1. At the end of the 20-year contract, the port authority has the option to extend the agreement for two additional 10-year periods.
Under the agreement, the port authority will receive $500,000 annually from Gateway with an increase of $250,000 every five years. The port authority will also receive 7 percent of Gateway's gross annual revenues at State Pier, with a minimal annual guarantee of $500,000. Gateway will also pay an unspecified annual wharfage and dockage fee.
The deal will ultimately enable the port authority to become financially independent, and no longer receive on annual appropriations from the state, which have been about $400,000 in recent years, Bates said, "but not immediately."
Matthew Satnick, co-CEO and chairman of Enstructure, Gateway's financial partner, said in an interview after the announcement that the company sees New London's deepwater port as a "potential offshore wind hub," and that Gateway is in touch with "the major players in the offshore wind (industry) and are collaborating on opportunities for New London."
What the company built over the past several decades in New Haven is "a good analog for opportunities in New London," Satnick said. "We think we bring both customer-specific relationships and market experience to the table and look forward to expanding the business in New London."
Deepwater Wind, which in October was acquired by Orsted after developing a five-turbine wind farm off Block Island, is under contract to deliver 300 megawatts of electricity to Connecticut from a wind farm off Martha's Vineyard.
Orsted in October said it had collaborated with Gateway on a proposal to operate State Pier, but Orsted spokeswoman Lauren Burm said Monday that Gateway was chosen on its own and Orsted "will have no role for operating the terminal."
"However, we're still very much excited about using the port for the Revolution Wind project, and very excited about New London and will be opening an office there," Burm said.
Port needs improvements
More than 64 companies from across the globe were contacted by the port authority to run the state-owned facility; 12 signed non-disclosure agreements allowing them to receive proprietary information about the facility. Six companies responded to the request for proposal for a pier operator, and three submitted complete bids, including Logistec, which has run pier operations for the last two decades.
Bates said the port authority, in evaluating the proposals, was looking for a partner to "maximize the potential of State Pier."
"We wanted a partner that would have the resources, that would have the commitment to generate new business to bring into the port of New London, and that we knew had a proven track record of excellence," Bates said. "It's interesting that we looked all over the world and we landed on a Connecticut-based firm. That's no mistake because of how the Port of New Haven has been transformed over the last few decades."
Satnick said Gateway has committed $30 million in capital improvements such as equipment and maintenance at State Pier. The port authority also received $25 million from the state for improvements to the facility.
Bates has said it would take about a $100 million investment to make the New London port "a first-rate port facility," an investment he said would likely come from a public-private partnership. Orsted has committed to keeping Deepwater Wind's pledge to invest at least $15 million in the pier.