The city is taking the first step toward a possible realignment of High and Summer streets that would require the demolition of at least one decrepit apartment building.
City councilors agreed Tuesday to pay $29,250 to Beta Group, a design firm, to work up plans for fixing the intersection in order to clear up a troubled junction and provide more parking for tenants in the area who have nowhere to leave their cars overnight.
Doing the work “does create some positives,” said Jonathan Rosenthal, the city’s economic development director.
Only one councilor opposed the move, Democrat Craig Minor. The others supported the idea, which has the backing of business and neighborhood groups.
Minor, however, called it “a waste of money” that could be better spent on more pressing issues elsewhere in Bristol.
City Councilor Frank Nicastro, a former mayor, said the proposal has been tossed around for years. He said that doing it would help both the library area and downtown generally.
“It sounds like a solution looking for a problem,” Minor said.
The city already has a design in hand for a $1 million streetscape project that would transform the atmosphere along Main Street from the top of the hill to the Downtown Café.
The plan would copy much of the look of the revamped North Main Street that was done during former Mayor Gerard Couture’s administration, including new lighting, traffic calming, walkways, benches and other pedestrian amenities meant to make the area more appealing to shoppers and merchants.
Rosenthal said he doesn’t know what the intersection realignment will add to the bill, if the city opts to do it.
“We don’t know what it costs until it’s designed,” Rosenthal said.
City officials have long eyed the possibility of razing some of the aging apartments on the west side of Main Street near the library because they have no parking and are so beaten up that they hold little attraction for the young urban professionals the city would like to attract downtown.
Rosenthal said that lining up the roads and knocking down a building or two would allow for the creation of some parking for the remaining buildings while cleaning up some problematic properties.
The Bristol Development Authority, which is overseeing the streetscape work, has already given its blessing to the realignment design.
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