Though seven years have passed since the city bought a former Wonder Bread outlet on Riverside Avenue in order to build a new parking lot and pedestrian bridge to Memorial Boulevard, nothing has yet happened to make the plan a reality.
“We really need to follow up,” Mayor Art Ward said.
The holdup is twofold, officials: a lack of city money and the lack of a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Meanwhile, there’s nearly $100,000 left over from a state grant for the Veterans Park that state Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat, snagged five years ago. That money can still be tapped if the city get moving, officials said.
The city aims to erect an 80-foot long pedestrian bridge that would span the river between the city-owned parking lot on Riverside Avenue and the boulevard. It would not actually touch the water, officials said, and shouldn’t have any impact on the river.
The prefabricated bridge walkway would be more than 3 feet higher than the expected flood crest of the worst storm in a century, according to permit paperwork.
Beside the parking lot is a small, vacant store included in the property the city bought for $179,000 in 2002. For years, it housed Hubbard’s Florist, but Wonder Bread was its last tenant.
The city hasn’t found a use for the structure yet, but officials have suggested it could be used one day for meeting space for veterans and or community organizations.
Potential purchasers have occasionally inquired about buying the property for private use, but because Bristol used grant money for the project, selling it may be difficult.
City Councilor Ken Cockayne said the Real Estate Committee is taking a hard look at the property to see what might be done.
Ward said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued a permit to allow the bridge. He said the DEP is the only obstacle remaining aside from money.
The city put the project on the shelf this year because of the lack of funding. But it could be included in future capital project lists.
The city used downtown revitalization money to acquire the Riverside Avenue property for $179,000 during Mayor Frank Nicastro’s tenure in 2002.
It tapped Community Development Block Grant aid to pay the $43,000 demolition fee to knock down the old Hubbard & Co. Feeds & Fertilizer barn there in 2003. That was Mayor Gerard Couture’s first act after taking office.
Since then, however, there’s been nothing done on the site.
Both Jonathan Rosenthal, the city’s economic development director, and Public Works Director Walter Veselka are likely to report on the project’s status at the December 8 City Council meeting.
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