Though city councilors split this week on whether to proceed with plans to knock down a former movie theater on the downtown mall site, a majority backed the idea.
So the city will move forward with the $85,000 project to demolish the structure this summer and replace it this fall with a temporary pocket park.
City Councilor Craig Minor, a third-term Democrat, sought to delay the work because of the sour economy.
He said he questioned the wisdom of proceeding with the project given that the building isn’t blighted. It’s just empty.
“I don’t think that taking down this building is the best way to spend this money,” Minor said.
But city Councilor Ken Cockayne, a first-term Republican, said he views the building as “an eyesore” that has to come down.
Moreover, Cockayne said, the poor economy meant the city could get “a much better price” for the job than it might in better times.
Minor said Cockayne had a good point, but he stuck with his opposition. Another councilor, Democrat Kevin McCauley backed Minor.
But the rest of the council, including Mayor Art Ward, voted to award the contract to Bristol’s Carpenter Construction. It was the lowest of nine bidders.
City Purchasing Agent Roger Rousseau said the project would be paid for out of bond money allocated for the demolition of the downtown mall in 2007.
The city set aside $3 million for knocking down the mall, but wound up spending less than $1 million, Rousseau said. Tapping a bit of the excess to remove the old theater is reasonable, he said.
Rousseau said demolition work will begin in June and should be done by mid-August.
The site will be prettied up by November so that it makes for an attractive entrance to downtown on the corner of Main Street and Riverside Avenue, he said.
Ward and downtown revitalization officials have said they want to clear the17-acre mall site as much as possible so that when the economy turns around, the city is ready to move ahead with an overhaul of the property.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at email@example.com