June 11, 2019

CT Construction Digest Tuesday June 11, 2019

Norwalk reconsiders school building projects in wake of delays
Justin Papp
NORWALK — The Board of Education will not submit an application to the state for reimbursement on the project to build a new Columbus School at the old Ely School site.
City officials announced last week that the project, money for which was originally in the proposed 2019-20 capital budget, would have to be deferred a year because an open space land swap — mandated by the state — would not receive approval by the June 30 deadline.
As a result, the subsequent construction project to either build a new, or renovate the existing Columbus School and turn it into an International Baccalaureate elementary school called the Norwalk Global Academy, would also be delayed. The implications for future projects, as well, could be significant.
“I think it’s going to be necessary at your retreat this summer, to take a look at the big picture again. A lot of variables have emerged that we were not dealing with a year, two years ago. And that’s not unusual, because this is like waking a sleeping giant. We had no work for so long,” Superintendent of Schools Steven J. Adamowski told the Board of Education’s Facilities Committee Monday. “We may want to do some reordering, and keep our eye on the big picture.”
Adamowski did not recommend a reordering of school construction projects — which aim to add 900 seats in the district — for this year. Board members Bryan Meek and Bruce Kimmel, however, did suggest that a new school at Cranbury might be added to the capital request, though Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton said it would not be doable.
“You have to have the money in place, the appropriations have to be in place, you have to have a schematic drawing,” Hamilton said. “All of those things would have to be developed in time to submit them to the state on June 30.”

Details released of reconfiguration of Memorial Blvd. school
BRISTOL - Details on how the old Memorial Boulevard School will be reconfigured into the new Memorial Boulevard Intradistrict Arts Magnet School have been released.
Angel Cahill, from Quisenberry Arcari Malik LLC, the architectural firm hired to remodel the building, said her firm specializes in educational architecture, municipal architecture, historic preservation and arts-oriented buildings.
She described how the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, will mostly retain its exterior appearance, with the front entrance lowered to the ground floor to make it more accessible, and a light canopy added for weather protection. A small addition will be put on the back.
The ground-floor level where the swimming pool and gymnasium once were will be reconfigured to accommodate a “black box” theater - a small theater where seating can be arranged in multiple ways, an art gallery, music rooms and a recording studio, with a new gym added in back.
The first floor level plan is dominated by orchestra seating is for the main theater. Cahill said the seating will be reduced from 900 seats to about 750, to make room for formal lobby space, including a ticket booth, coat check and concessions. The rest of the floor will house classrooms and administrative and staff offices.
The second and third floors will house mezzanine and balcony theater seating, as well as academic classrooms.
The plan is for the school to accommodate 525 students in grades six through 12, chosen through a lottery system. The building closed as a school in 2012 and the target date for its reopening is August 2022, when it will be 100 years old.
“This is a project that’s really important to just about every aspect of our community,” said Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu. “This school is going to be a gateway to a new downtown.”
Through almost 10 years of discussion about what to do with the century-old school, “one thing has remained steady - this community wants something special to happen at the Memorial Boulevard,” she said.
Michael Dietter, district director of special services and chair of the arts magnet school building committee, said the committee has added Twitter to its outlets for the public to access information about the project. “We will be posting information @buildingmbiams,” he said.
That is in addition to the committee posting agendas, minutes, meeting schedules, and more on the Board of Education www.bristolk12.ct.us and city www.bristolct.gov websites, he noted. “One of the functions of the city website is you can sign up for automatic updates about this project.”

Redevelopment project at New Westbrook Village in Hartford begins
Slade Rand
The dilapidated buildings and overgrown lawns of Westbrook Village are on their way to being leveled and replaced with new homes, storefronts and office spaces.
Developers and city officials ceremoniously broke ground on the housing complex on Friday, but crews began the multi-step demolition process a few days prior. Right now at least four construction companies have a presence on the 40-acre plot wedged between Albany Ave, the University of Hartford and a pair of train tracks in the North End area.
The dilapidated buildings and overgrown lawns of Westbrook Village are on their way to being leveled and replaced with new homes, storefronts and office spaces.
Developers and city officials ceremoniously broke ground on the housing complex on Friday, but crews began the multi-step demolition process a few days prior. Right now at least four construction companies have a presence on the 40-acre plot wedged between Albany Ave, the University of Hartford and a pair of train tracks in the North End area.
Early in 2018, the state gave $9 million to assist relocating remaining Westbrook Village residents and to start the demolition process. Sanderson said the last 70 or so residents moved out a few months ago.
“Families have lived there for 40 years, so having them move out was emotional and that’s why we wanted them to be involved in the planning from the beginning," Sanderson said.
The old Westbrook Village, built in the late 1940s and early 1950s, catered to low- and middle-income families. Part of the Hartford Housing Authority’s original portfolio, the complex stopped taking new tenants in 2012.
Evelyn Lopez-Ramos, president of the Westbrook Village Tenant Association, is excited to move back in when the job is complete. “Westbrook Village is more than a revitalization project to me, it is my home," Lopez-Ramos said. "I have seen the plans and am so looking forward to living in the beautiful new neighborhood it will be part of once the project is done.” The demolition process will begin when abandoned buildings in the Phase 1 area have been cleared of asbestos and other harmful contents. On Monday, an environmental sanitarian from the Connecticut Department of Public Health’s asbestos program visited the site to approve inspection reports of a handful of buildings. Sanderson said developers are targeting a 7-to-8-month time frame for demolition.
Matt Chalifour of Freeman Companies, the engineering group who designed the project, said the abatement process for phase 1 buildings will take around two weeks.
Oscar’s Abatement is handling the asbestos removal. Crew supervisor Bryan Ardon, son of company owner Oscar Ardon, has lead a team in preparing the abandoned buildings for asbestos abatement since last Wednesday.
“So far it’s going well, with no complications," Ardon said. “We’re going at a pretty good pace.”

Driving in Rocky Hill or on I-91 this summer? Watch out for these road closures.
The state Department of Transportation will be closing Elm Street in Rocky Hill to thru traffic from June 14 to Aug. 9 as crews replace two bridges over I-91.
The 56-day closure will be detoured using West Street, Cromwell Avenue and Main Street until the road is reopened in August. The department will also close I-91 South in Rocky Hill on July 14 from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. and I-91 North on July 21 at the same times. Traffic will detour off Exit 23 and re-enter the highway near Exit 24.
“We’re minimizing traffic disruptions to the traveling public,” Dave Gentile, chief inspector on the project, said. “The Elm Street detour will be utilized through those 56 days.”
The project will replace two bridges over I-91 that were built in 1965 and are in poor condition. According to a release from the DOT, both bridges will be replaced with “single span steel girder superstructures." The project is expected to cost $11.4 million and will be completed in October.
 “There are four major goals in our bridge reconstruction project,” Gentile said. “Number one is to increase safety for the traveling public.”
Gentile said the other goals of the project are to minimize disruptions to the public, reduce future maintenance costs and use project funding efficiently.
 “By reducing the timeline and by reducing the effect on travelers, it creates efficiencies for the Department of Transportation,” he said.
Gentile said other highway closures are possible, as the DOT needs to move large equipment between the construction locations. Those potential closures would happened on either a Saturday or Monday morning between 12 a.m. and 4 a.m. Traffic will be detoured around the highway, Gentile said.
At a public information meeting in Rocky Hill, some residents worried about the various detours creating extra traffic in town, but Gentile said the DOT would be working closely with the town to make sure disruption was minimal to residents and local drivers.
“We’ll be monitoring traffic throughout the process,” Gentile said. “So if we have to make an adjustments on the fly, we can."

 Former Bridgeport factory goes from blighted to revitalized
Bridgeport — Gary Flocco, managing partner of Corvus Capital Partners, excitedly spoke over the sound of power tools and the shouts of hard-hat clad builders working in the concrete hallways of the former Graphophone Co.“We see ourselves as catalyst developers,” said Flocco, speaking under caged light bulbs strung above piles of pipes. “We’ll come to an area that needs a big lift, we couldn’t come here and build 25 units. That will never happen.”
By July, the three stories in the 70,000-square-foot building facing Howard Avenue and Cherry Street will have been transformed into a 725-student charter school. It’s one part of an ambitious brownfield remediation and revitalization project Flocco and his firm Corvus Capital Partners have undertaken in the city’s West End with home-development partner The Pacific Companies.
They are in the process of remediating the 245,000-square-foot block that once belonged to Graphaphone and other manufacturers. It will be developed into a mixed-use facility. Corvus also owns adjacent property to the west, down to Fairfield Avenue, and two lots on State Street. Remediation began in 2016.
“This is part of a whole master plan. By the time we’re finished here we’ll have over 1,800-units, we’ll have about 200,000-square-feet of retail space in addition to what we have here, we’ll have a charter school, we’ll have a medical facility, offices,” said Flocco. “We’re rebuilding a community.”
Investments in the neighborhood will total nearly $1 billion by the time construction ends in six or seven years.
Flocco said the sheer scope of the project and a multitude of state and federal incentives make the project profitable.
“We’re building this square block out,” said Flocco, his voice echoing off the barren halls of the future charter school. “We’ll have 400 units in this block, we’ll have the school. Once you have 400 units, that could be 1,200-people, so that means now you need the grocery stores, the dry cleaners, all the in-fills. It kind of all happens together.
 One-hundred and fifty-seven units are being built in the project’s first phase, 29 of which are already inhabited and the rest of which will be fully-occupied by August. The apartments include smart-home features like lights, speakers and air conditioning that can be controlled remotely via smartphone. There’s a clear line of demarcation between the redeveloped area and the broken factory windows pockmarking the blighted buildings that have yet to be restored by the 220-person construction crew.
“For us, the brownfield money was the first and most important money that came into the site because to get all the other investors they want to make sure there’s a clean site here and you have the means and methods to do that,” Flocco said.
Flocco and his business partner Geof Ravenstine of Roxbury have built a career on combining various forms of private and public funding to make redeveloping brownfields affordable.
The project is being financed by low-income housing tax-credits, state and federal historic tax credits, different forms of tax exempt bonds, money invested by the developer and federal Finance Adjustment Factor funds, distributed from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to states for use on affordable housing projects.
“These deals are a pain to finance,” Ravenstine said. “It’s not uncommon to have 10 elements in your capital stack.”
A condition of the state funding is the apartments have to be sold at 50, 60 and 80 percent the medium area income. The first 157 were filled in eight weeks.
“We had days where we rented 12 apartments,” said Ravenstine, explaining that demand far outpaced their expectations. “It was just a phenomenal success.”