Letter sent this week by former Mayor William Stortz:
The Honorable Art Ward
Mayor, City of Bristol
Mr. Michael Nicastro
President and CEO
Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce.
With all the things that are happening or could be happening, maybe it is time for the city to consider an idea suggested some time back, the idea of a “Downtown Manager”.
There are many groups that have a vested interest in seeing something done in the Downtown area as well as on sites that affect the growth of Downtown, such as the BDDC, BDA, Chamber, Board of Education, the City itself, Private
Developers, and the State among others, but there does not seem to be a focal point, a single source that is coordinating all the efforts, providing communication between various groups, being an advocate for downtown, and developing an inventory of options to be considered.
We have a golden opportunity to make things happen, good things for Bristol, and it is critical that we maximize our efforts, and therefore our results. At the same time we must utilize our resources in the best way possible so as to reduce the burden on the taxpayer.
Maybe this can be a short term function, maybe the Chamber and the City can combine resources to provide for it, not unlike what was attempted awhile back relative to attracting restaurants. But this is even bigger and much much more critical.
For example, one of the proposals talks about a parking garage, while at the same time, parking has been mentioned by others for the site adjacent to the Board of Education and some others mention the possibly for the Family Center site, and there is talk about a downtown parking study. Who is coordinating this?
Is anyone taking the initiative to address the Summer Street issue relative to downtown development?
With all the talk about Rail Service, is anyone addressing the idea of local transportation to support it and to get people downtown to the station? Who
is/should be responsible for getting the ball rolling so that if Rail Service becomes a likelihood, we can make sure that we have or will provide local transit for people to get to the Rail Station and to Downtown.
Is there any coordination of the use of buildings as they become available i.e. Bingham School, the Armory, the Family Center and others? There are others that might become available as one entity moves out into something else
Any developer, and others who might want to build or start a business in the downtown area should have ONE place to go to get started. The businesses that are downtown should have a go to person with their concerns, their issues and for help if needed.
As we develop the old Mall Site, who is making sure that the various groups that have a vested interested are kept in the loop? Police, Fire, Public Works will be affected: who will be their contact? Other city committees, commissions have a role to play. Transportation, Handicapped are two that come to mind quickly.
On the other side, is anyone responsible for working with the Board of Education to make their timetable for Bingham, O’Connell and the Boulevard known to various potential players?
At some point in time BDDC will either have their role expanded, or they will be phased out. If they are phased out, who will pick up their role?
Who is/will be responsible to pursue subsequent use of Memorial Boulevard, possibly as an adjunct, all or in part, with Tunxis Community College?
Who will work with businesses as Route 72 filters traffic to the downtown area, including Riverside Ave? This position could also assist in promoting the Forestville section as Route 72 is completed.
None of these ideas are really new, and actually there are many other things that are or might be happening that need assistance, coordination, and marketing.
That is another potential aspect of a Downtown Manager, someone to market our overall development, to make potential businesses and developer aware in a proactive fashion, and be available to guide them as they pursue these options.
Bristol has a lot to offer, but we are woefully lacking in marketing the good side of Bristol, not just in the physical sites and buildings. I am proud of Bristol, I know you are too. Why aren’t we telling the world?
A Downtown Manger would be helpful in keeping the area clean, the area safe.
A Downtown manager would be an advocate for the overall development of Downtown, assuring that all actions work towards that goal, an active and
vibrant Downtown. Certainly paying attention to any changes, making sure
that they are Pedestrian friendly is needed. Making sure that citizens concerns and interest are heard is vital: a singular contact point would be helpful.
There is much that could be done with a coordinated effort, there is much that could be done to better take care of the opportunities in front of us.
Having followed the downtown effort over the years, from various perspectives, I have seen and heard many good ideas from many people. This is just one of them.
I know that this letter is somewhat lengthy and rambling, but there is so much that this concept could accomplish. I could go on, but if you would like and could provide more information and backup if either of you are interested.
I know both of you are committed to Bristol, a better and growing Bristol and will try to do what the things that are right. Hopefully this concept is one of them.
William T. Stortz
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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