City councilors put the city’s seal of approval Wednesday on a proposal to construct a new Bristol Boys and Girls Club.
In a special session Wednesday, councilors unanimously endorsed tapping downtown funds to pay for a feasibility study to determine whether the 1.7-acre West Street site eyed by the club is suitable for its plans.
“I’m proud to endorse this,” city Councilor Kevin McCauley said. He said the project might serve as “a catalyst for our revitalization” efforts both downtown and in the troubled West End.
Mayor Art Ward called it “a great first start,” particularly given the city’s interest in improving the West End.
The club is eyeing the purchase of the lot from St. Ann Church – with ESPN chipping in a portion of the price – in order to construct a multi-million dollar building to replace its crumbling Laurel Street quarters.
The money, which Bristol Downtown Development Corp. has also agreed to spend, would pay for experts to evaluate the site to make sure it would work.
The study will determine “if it’s adequate for what we want to do,” said Michael Suchopar, the club’s director.
Suchopar said the club has a long record of service to the community, but “we can’t do it” much longer in the aging Laurel Street building that has housed it for decades.
The fate of the existing building is unclear. Ward and other city officials said, chuckling, that the club should sell it to the city for $1 when its new quarters open.
Suchopar didn’t make any promises.
In addition to backing the $50,000 feasibility study, councilors also agreed that Tigh & Bond should get $37,000 to carry out consulting services for a downtown parking study sought by the BDDC and approved by the state. The money would come from state aid.
Councilors also agreed to dip into state downtown aid to pa Harrall-Michalowski Associates up to $40,000 for its work on the downtown revitalization plan.
That allocation came about because the firm, which serves as the BDDC’s executive director, often winds up working on city-related issues that are not strictly connected to the 17-acre former mall site that the BDDC has jurisdiction over.
Frank Johnson, who heads the BDDC, said that creating a city pool of money to pay invoices related to city work will clear up administrative issues to “ensure we’re all on the same page.”
Ward said the new allocation is “a good move” that will prove “very useful” to the city as it moves to pump life into downtown.
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