October 7, 2008

Roberts Orchard owners say new school should be downtown

Reporter Jackie Majerus wrote this:
The owners of Roberts Orchard said they think the former downtown mall site would be a better location for a new school than the site selected nearby on Chippens Hill.
"We like the mall site," said Ellen Ferrier. "It could be the catalyst to revitalizing downtown."
Ferrier and her sister and brother-in-law, Linda and Paul Arbesman, said they support building a new school but said that it should be located downtown on the 17 acres already owned by the city.
An attractive new school downtown would enhance the area, they said, and build on the assets already in the heart of the city.
A school would be a safe area and bring people downtown, they said. It would work well with the nearby Imagine Nation children's museum, the New England Carousel Museum, the Bristol Boys and Girls Club, the Bristol Public Library and Brackett Park.
"We just invested $10 million in the library," said Paul Arbesman, adding that it would be nice for school children to use it.
If the city can recover much of the money it paid for the mall by using the site for a school, Paul Arbesman said, it would make great sense to do so.
"In today's world in particular, money's kind of important," he said. Instead of money going out the door to buy something new, he said, there could be money coming back to the city.
"I have no problem with the school being up here," he said, but prefers the downtown site to the one at Matthews Street and Clark Avenue, just down the road from his orchard.
The West Bristol School Building Committee recently decided to propose the Matthews and Clark location to city councilors. Councilors have not yet weighed in on the issue, but they rejected an earlier proposal to put the school at a former Scalia sand pit. The city's planning board will also have to weigh in on the newly proposed site, perhaps as soon as this month.
Linda Arbesman said the new 900-student, K-8 school for the city's West End should be located within walking distance of the families to be served.
If one of the goals is to get parents involved in the school, volunteering in the classrooms and attending events, it would help to have the school close by so parents wouldn't have trouble getting to the school even if they didn't have access to a car.
The schools slated for closure, Bingham and O'Connell, are in the downtown area, Linda Arbesman said. St. Anthony's School, a parochial school which is also downtown, is not closing.
The economic climate isn't conducive to developing the former mall site, they said.
"It's not a good time for anybody to be developing anyway," said Ferrier, but she said what effort is expended should focus on the gateways to the city – including Riverside Avenue – and bring out the beauty of the Pequabuck River.
"Bristol should work on revitalizing downtown using the river like other cities have," said Ferrier.
If the school were located on the former mall property, the orchard owners said, businesses that cater to families would want to locate nearby and that would spur more activity.
"It would be an evening draw," said Ferrier.
According to Paul Arbesman, it's only natural for people to think of the future and want something better for their children than they had themselves. He said he does, too, and that's why he supports the idea of a new school.
"One of the best investments you can make with your tax dollars is the schools," he said.
The orchard owners are the latest voices to urge consideration of the downtown property for a school. Early on, the mall site had some proponents, but they were outvoted by officials who opposed giving up such a large chunk of commercial real estate.
More recently, developer George Carpenter has spoken out strongly in favor of putting the school on the site, saying it would be tough to find a developer in this economy to invest in the property.
The Bristol Downtown Development Corp. is in charge of overseeing the re-use of the former mall site. Though they've yet to find a developer to undertake the retail, commercial and residential project they envision, only one board member, Thomas Cosgrove, has voiced support for locating the school on the former mall site.

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Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

13 comments:

former GOP activist said...

Gob Bless Robert's Orchards. I agree with them 110%

Anonymous said...

Dear Jackie, The first thing I thought was strange about this article was that you interviewed and quoted the orchard owners and you did not talk to other neighbors or anyone else for that matter for their opinion. Then I was shocked to see St. Anthony School mentioned in the context of schools closing. Where did that come from? How can a parochial school be mentioned in a story about public schools? St. Anthony School is NOT closing. The owners of the orchard are nice people but I know are from out of state, are focused on Chippens Hill, not downtown, and don't have children in the schools, so I do not feel that they should have been the main source of your story.

Anonymous said...

I think the former mall property is the best site for a west end school, too; and it would be interesting to see just how many people are okay with this idea.

Anonymous said...

12:56 you shouldn't be surprised at all by the story. As you pointed out, it was written by Jackie, so it's information selective to what she finds "interesting" for her article.

I'd like to know where she heard that St Anthony's is closing also. I don't think it's an accurate statement for her to make.

I think that the Orchard owners would welcome a school in the area. It will keep the deer away from their crops and will give them the opportunity to sell goods to the additional traffic that will come through the area.

Downtown is no place for a school. You don't take a prime piece of downtown property off the tax rolls.

Anonymous said...

I just re=read the article. My apologies, it says that St Anthony's is NOT closing as the other downtown public schools would be if the K-8 goes through.

Anonymous said...

Cry, Cry, Cry.....thats all the city fathers do about taxes and what do some want to do take taxable land at Depot Square and build a school on it. DAH! That should give nada in taxes. Citizens please keep abreast of the goings on before they slip this looney idea in and we end up paying more taxes to cover the North Main Street parcel. Think we already have taxable property being taken up by city structures.
One of which is the Central Fire House prime property. NOT TAXABLE..City Hall NOT TAXABLE...
You'll be paying more taxes because if they put that new school on North Main Street NOT TAXABLE........

Anonymous said...

Empty lot called "Depot square" that the city Dumb-o-crats bought for about 3x what it's worth today= NOT TAXABLE.

Anonymous said...

Big surprise. Who wants a school up the street?

Anonymous said...

THis is why I shop at Minor's Farm.
Yeah not Craig Minor's.

Anonymous said...

Most communities locate their city halls and other important municipal buildings in "prime" downtown areas.

It is a symbol of civic pride and is given a prominent location in the community.

Most communities do not send their important municipal buildings to the outskirts of town and save the prime locations for dollar stores, strip malls, and fast food restaurants instead.

Anonymous said...

6:36

If "Depot Square" is such prime real estate, why is there no interest in it? Even before the current crisis there was no serious interest, unless you count the scammers who were the only bidders on the project.

Build the school there.

Anonymous said...

FYI - The owners of the orchard are not from out of state. They have lived in Bristol their entire lives.

Anonymous said...

"If "Depot Square" is such prime real estate, why is there no interest in it?"

Hello! There's something called a R-E-C-E-S-S-I-O-N going on. Once the economy has improved and 72 is finished, we may actually have a shot at getting some tax generating business downtown. We'd have to be complete idiots to build a school there....