Six years after buying Riverside Avenue property in order to build a new parking lot and pedestrian bridge over to Memorial Boulevard’s war monuments, the project remains stalled.
But city councilors this week unanimously agreed to stay the course.
What’s holding up the project is the lack of a permit for the proposed bridge across the Pequabuck River that needs to be issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection, said Robyn Bugbee, the city’s grants coordinator.
“It is frustrating,” said Mayor Art Ward. “The wait is longer than any of us anticipated.”
Bugbee said the division that would issue the permit is short-staffed, but has assured her that the permit application remains on the table.
The city’s hope is to erect an 80-foot long pedestrian bridge that would span the river between a city-owned parking lot on Riverside Avenue and the boulevard.
There is also a small, vacant store on the property – which once housed Hubbard’s Florist – that might someday become a meeting space for veterans and perhaps other community organizations, officials said.
City Councilor Frank Nicastro, who heads the Real Estate Committee, said he’s been approached by several potential purchasers interested in the site.
But, he said, “I don’t see selling it.”
Councilors unanimously backed Nicastro’s contention that the city should hang on to the property.
Councilor Kevin McCauley said the project hasn’t been forgotten.
“We are still working on it,” he said.
Public works officials said years ago they did not expect much trouble with regulatory agencies because the bridge abutments on both sides would be located outside the river’s channel.
The prefabricated bridge walkway would be more than 3 feet higher than the expected flood crest of the worst storm in a century, according to permit paperwork.The city used downtown revitalization money to acquire the Riverside Avenue property for $179,000 during Mayor Frank Nicastro’s tenure in 2002 and tapped Community Development Block Grant aid to pay the $43,000 demolition fee to knock down the old Hubbard & Co. Feeds & Fertilizer building there in 2003.State Sen. Tom Colapietro got a $150,000 state grant to help the project along a few years ago. Some of the money was used for a parking lot for the boulevard, but there is still some cash left for the bridge project.
Bugbee said the state recently gave the city another three years to use the funds.
Bugbee said, too, that she’s not sure the city could sell the Riverside Avenue property at this point.
She said the grant money that Colapietro nabbed provides that it would remain public property for at least 10 years.
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