May 30, 2014

Let's build a Fan Hall of Fame in Bristol

For years, the city has searched for something – anything, really – that ESPN could do for the community aside from growing and growing and growing.
Now nobody’s complaining about all that growth. It’s helped keep the city coffers full and done all sorts of wonderful things to bring fame and glory to this little New England gem.

But officials have long hoped the sports colossus would offer some spillover that would attract tourists to town – from a little exhibit of sports stuff downtown, which is plausible, to an ESPN Zone, which never was.
It turns out, though, that ESPN itself has created the opportunity the city has longed for: A Fan Hall of Fame.
Today's Bristol Press front page.
Don’t snicker.
There’s real promise in this.
Listen to what Aaron Taylor, ESPN’s top marketing guy had to say during the second induction ceremony of particularly outrageous fans at the company’s Bristol campus.
After correctly pointing out that ESPN is “the world’s biggest sports fan,” he said that it figured out there was “a glaring deficiency in the sports landscape” that included halls of fame for every from baseball to boxing. Almost every sport has a hall of fame somewhere attracting people to come gawk at the memories enshrined within.
But there was no hall of fame for fans themselves.
As “The Georgia Joker,” Pierce Wallace, said in his acceptance speech, fans are “kind of half the game” and without them, there’s not much to sports. ESPN, of course, caters very much to those fans. They are its lifeblood.
Taylor said the hall of fame ESPN created in 2012 – which has inducted two small groups of fans so far – is an initiative the company will sustain over time.
Public approval for it, including hundreds of thousands of online votes, “has reinforced our belief in its long-term potential.”
“We want this to be an institution,” said Ben Shields, the ESPN marketing guy who led the team that created and pushed for the new hall of fame.
“It’s something we intend to do every single year,” Shields said.
That sounds pretty promising, doesn’t it?
But what is the hall of fame itself? Just a few vintage stadium chairs bolted down beside a sidewalk on the ESPN green in the middle of its increasingly college-like campus. Tiny signs indicate the names of those inducted in 2012 and 2014.
Forgive me, ESPN, but that ain’t a hall of fame.
Nobody can even see it unless they’re lucky enough to find some excuse to get escorted onto the campus, something that even most people in Bristol have never had the chance to do.
A hall of fame doesn’t have to be as awe-inspiring as Cooperstown or Canton. It doesn’t have to include a giant basketball like the storied museum in Springfield.
But it has to include a building, a place where people can come and see who’s been inducted and why.
And a real Fan Hall of Fame offers so much to both Bristol and ESPN that it’s seems like a can’t-miss opportunity.
Imagine people driving past ESPN on Route 229, gawking at its satellite dishes and wishing they could catch a glimpse of Stuart Scott or Hannah Storm, and then continuing on to a new Fan Hall of Fame.
Inside they could see videos of the inductees in all their glory as well as walls of pictures of other fans, maybe divided up by teams or sports or colors, whatever.
Have a computer where people could look up a previously filed fan profile of himself and then call up their pictures on a giant monitor lined with ESPN logos or something so they can picture themselves in the hall of fame.
Have some monitors showing highlights of fans over the years, from the idiotic to the tragic moments, and some showcases with their pig noses or green hair or bald heads or whatever. The country’s chock full of the appropriate flotsam. And ESPN itself has plenty.
Carol Wallace, the mother of the Georgia Joker, told Taylor ESPN ought to consider putting up a real hall of fame.
And you know what? She’s right.
Right here on the border of Red Sox Nation, where the New York Giants and the New England Patriots fans begin to meld together, at the very place where every game in every land seems to pour in to ESPN’s vast headquarters to be sliced, diced, analyzed and highlighted.
This is the place where fans should be honored.
Let’s build this Fan Hall of Fame. It would spur tourism and bring more glory to Bristol’s biggest employer and taxpayer.
Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

May 27, 2014

RIP, Richard Inglis

A friend who was also a supporter of Youth Journalism International died recently. I'll miss him.
Here's his obituary:

Obituary for Richard Inglis

Richard “Dick” Inglis
A family man and world traveler who lived life to the fullest, Richard H. “Dick” Inglis died Sunday, May 18 at Hartford Hospital. He was 82.
The son of Lila and Lovald Inglis, Dick was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota. As a boy growing up in the Depression in a small town in South Dakota, Dick collected stamps. This lifelong hobby spurred an interest in other countries and sparked a desire to see the world.
He succeeded in visiting 127 countries and this spring was thrilled to visit Antarctica, his seventh continent, with Darleen, his wife of 56 years.
As a young man, Dick attended South Dakota State College in Brookings, where he met Darleen Iverson, a fellow student, and fell in love. They married in1958 and left soon afterward for New Mexico, where he landed a job as a credit reporter with Dun & Bradstreet.
His career with the financial firm spanned 25 years and took the family to Oklahoma City, Memphis, Kansas City, Chicago and New Jersey. In 1975, they moved to England, where he transformed the company’s London office and eventually oversaw its European operations.
After retiring from Dun & Bradstreet, Dick began working for Justitia International, running its office in the United Kingdom before returning to the U.S. and founding the affiliated Justitia International Inc. in Bristol, Connecticut.
In Bristol, he got involved in the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, the Main Street Community Foundation and served on the board of the New England Carousel Museum. An avid newspaper reader and independent voter, Dick closely followed local and state politics.
A supportive and encouraging father, he urged his children to follow their dreams and seize opportunities – even if it took them far from home. He cherished summers, when his children and grandchildren gathered at the family home in Bristol and also traveled together to South Dakota.
He was interested in everything and everybody, and was a great conversationalist. He loved talking with people wherever he went, and was genuinely interested in the world, its cultures and especially its youth. He was generous and supported many charities. He served as an Ambassador for Youth Journalism International.
He and Darleen enjoyed their garden and were avid fans of UConn men and women’s basketball.
Besides his beloved wife, Dick leaves his daughter Bobbi Couch and her husband Philip Couch of England; daughter Kelly Inglis-Sun and her husband Lan Sun of Hong Kong, granddaughters Emily and Isabel Couch and grandsons Jeffrey and Kevin Sun. He leaves his brothers Loyd Inglis of California and Blaine Inglis of South Dakota, a sister, Lola Williams of Kansas and a dear cousin, Ray Mayo of Wisconsin. He also leaves two sons from a previous marriage, Ricky and Randy Preshaw and their families as well as extended family members and friends.
His was a life well-lived and worth celebrating. Dick had no regrets. Family and friends will gather at 2 p.m. Friday, May 30, 2014 at the DuPont Funeral Home, 25 Bellevue Ave., Bristol, CT 06010 to remember him. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Dick’s memory to Youth Journalism International, 33 Griswold Dr., West Hartford CT 06119.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

May 24, 2014

Bristol residents rally to help abused cat

It appears that a terrible thing was done to a cat in Bristol this week. More than $4,500 has been raised in one day to help cover the medical bills. Take a minute to look at the poster and read this link:

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May 22, 2014

Democrats endorse McCauley for registrar

City Democrats endorsed former city Councilor Kevin McCauley for registrar. A primary is expected with incumbent Mary Rydingsward taking him on.
She's already won two primaries against endorsed candidates in 2010 and 2012.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Democrats renominate Nicastro, Wright

At a Thursday night meeting, city Democrats unanimously nominated two incumbent state representatives: Chris Wright and Frank Nicastro.

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May 20, 2014

Larson favors 'Marshall Plan for American Infrastructure'

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Larson, Bristol's congressman:

 (Washington) – Congressman John B. Larson released the following statement today after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act Conference Report (H.R. 3080), a bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed 412-4 in the House of Representatives:

“Today, Congress took an important step toward improving our nation’s infrastructure by passing the WRRDA legislation.  It is my hope that the innovative financing programs, such as the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which I advocated for and were ultimately included in the agreement will have a real impact on the infrastructure associated with our waterways, particularly the 70-year old levees protecting the banks of Hartford and East Hartford.  This, however, was only a first step towards addressing our significant infrastructure problems. 

The American Society of Civil Engineers gives our nation’s ports a C grade, inland waterways a D-, dams a D, and levees a D-. Funding for levees and flood protection projects are acutely critical to Connecticut and the Northeast in the face of a changing climate. Every dollar invested in pre-disaster mitigation or resilience measures can reduce the cost of damage by four dollars

“What we need is a Marshall Plan for our infrastructure. It’s time to set aside our partisan bickering and come together to develop a real plan to rebuild and repair our nation’s waterways, railways, airways, roads, bridges and broadband, and in turn, put Americans back to work.  As Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster said at my forum in Hartford last year, investing in our infrastructure is neither Republican, nor Democrat, it’s American.”


WRRDA will provide a boost to our nation’s water infrastructure by eliminating $18 billion of the Army Corps’ estimated $60 billion backlog, reforming the Army Corps’ broken project approval process, and creating innovative financing mechanisms to get private capital off the sidelines and towards infrastructure.  The measure will move to the Senate and is expected to be signed into law by President Obama. 

The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) will provide an opportunity for states and municipalities to access much-needed capital for water infrastructure through loan guarantees and low interest loans.  This program is modeled after the U.S. Department of Transportation’s successful TIFIA program, which has spurred $60 billion in transportation investment since its inception.  Earlier this year, Larson joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in writing a letter to the WRRDA conference committee urging the inclusion of WIFIA in the conference report. 

Last year Congressman Larson published an op-ed calling on Congress to take up WRRDA legislation.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Roche nominated for state Senate race

Press release from Democrat Dave Roche:


Bristol—In front of more than 50 supporters in the Bristol Public Library Monday night, Bristol resident Dave Roche was officially nominated as the Democratic candidate in the race for the 31st District state Senate seat.  
Dave Roche is seeking to succeed retiring state Senator Jason Welch (R- Bristol) and in his acceptance speech he told supporters his goal was find the middle ground to get the 31st District working again.
“Building the economy is just like my field of construction, you always start from the ground up,” said Roche. “Proper investments in our education system will serve as the foundation for our future. We have a tech school right here in Bristol but students leave without learning some fundamentals  they will need to help them get jobs.When I am elected we will expand education and programs like Helmets to Hardhats to get people working again.This program can and will be expanded to help all our veterans who serve. Once we solidify our foundation we can focus on the framework of our economy.”
After the speech Dave thanked his supporters and vowed to work hand and hand with them to win in November.

The night started out with a nomination from Mike Portozza, a Bristol resident, who recognized Dave’s strong work ethic and ability to bring people together.  

He continued by saying “ we need a senator who understands our day to day issues. Dave will fight for good paying jobs so working men and women can support their families. Dave will bring a strong voice to our district and the ability to get the job done.”
The 31st Senate District includes Bristol, Harwinton, Plymouth, Plainville and Thomaston.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

May 11, 2014

Barley Vine owners push Renaissance plan

This is another open letter, from the owners of the Barley Vine restaurant on Main Street:

Our Viewpoint on the Proposed Renaissance Downtown’s Phase 1 Development Plan.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that we, Victor & Terry Lugo, owners of Barley Vine at 182 Main St., Bristol, and homeowners in Bristol, are supporters of the proposed Phase 1 downtown development plan. We are confident it provides the best opportunity for success in Bristol’s downtown.
We believe in Bristol and the proposed Phase 1 plan because it’s similar to our experience opening Barley Vine on Main Street.  We had to adjust our business plan to meet lenders’ expectations at the time. We assumed more risk ourselves, because investors and lenders didn’t believe in Bristol or a restaurant on Main Street.
Now, investors and lenders call frequently.  Why?  Because we proved the concept works in Bristol.  Like the plan presented by Bristol’s partners, Renaissance Downtowns, we have to prove the concept and show that we can create a vibrant and viable downtown Bristol. 
Recently Renaissance Downtowns delivered on another milestone, the financial plan for Phase 1.  It can be downloaded from this website: .
The plan says, building (A) a 4 story building will contain 100 residential units with 2,000sf of retail/service space on the ground floor.  We could really use an opportunity to access 100+ people, along with their friends, living across the street.
As Bristol residents for 10 years, a distressed 15-acre parcel in the heart of our city, generating no revenue and adding no lifestyle benefit has been proven not to work.  A vibrant mixed-use development is a model that works in countless communities throughout Connecticut and the rest of the planet.
The plan is detailed and we encourage those of you who want to make informed decisions to review the plan and come to the May 19, 2014 meeting at Nuchies in Forestville at 6:15 pm to learn more.
We’ve risked much because we believe in ourselves and Bristol. We urge those of you who believe in Bristol and want to see Bristol have an opportunity for success to consider and support this plan.
Thank you,
Victor and Terry Lugo
Owners, Barley Vine

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

May 10, 2014

Renaissance deserves 'open arms and a genuine smile'

An open letter from Adam and Regina von Gootkin, Bristol residents:

Dear Bristol Leaders:
We thought it time to share some of our thoughts about Bristol Rising. While I imagine there are people more involved, qualified, and financially invested in the final outcome than we are, I’m not sure our voice is being sufficiently considered, as I believe we represent a demographic that is important to a flourishing, growing, and successful community.
I am 31 years old, and my bride is 29. We moved to Bristol five years ago, and purchased the E.D. Rockwell house on Federal Hill.  Our dream was to finish the restoration of this beautiful historic home and create a life here.  My family is originally from Middletown where we have lived for almost 200 years and we had no prior connection to this town.  Well done, you’ve attracted us here!  We don’t have children yet, we work very hard, and for now, we appreciate a “no kids yet” lifestyle, which means we have a little spending money.
We were attracted by the rich history and architecture of the historic neighborhood; by the incredibly kind and genuine, hardworking people that we’ve met; and by the buzz around Main Street and the Depot Square development area. 
Since moving here, I’ve launched Onyx Spirits Company, a Connecticut company producing Onyx Moonshine and the first whiskey in Connecticut’s history.  My wife, an attorney and double UConn alum, practices at a firm in Glastonbury that recently opened a firm office on Stafford Avenue in Bristol.  She has been active in the community through volunteering on the Historic District Commission, helping to revise the town’s charter, and mentoring a student at the Ivy Drive School. 
Right now, a three minute walk from our home brings you to a rotting, vacant, Depot Square. It’s my understanding that the “Downtown Revitalization Project,” in one form or another, has been on the table since the early 2000’s. From an entrepreneur’s outlook, when you have a company willing to pour millions of dollars into a massive asphalt parking lot, I would think your priority would be to welcome them with open arms and a genuine smile. Host them! Make it as easy as possible for them to work with you for success.  Help them spend their money here!
I’d like to ask those involved with the project to consider the fact that an abundant, successful community requires access to commercial options.  Considering our “no kids yet” lifestyle, we enjoy meeting our friends and colleagues for lunch and dinner.  We almost always leave town for this due to the small selection of options, and it’s tough to get our young friends to come here. We would love to see restaurants, shopping, places to walk around and quality housing for our friends that are not yet ready to buy a home. I have to assume that the hundreds if not thousands of young professionals working at ESPN would much rather live, spend and shop closer to their job.
We hear whisperings of egos, politics, and fear. Of people not willing to stand up and put themselves on the line for this project. As we start moving into our next phase of our life, our priority is shifting to one of a quality lifestyle.  If you don’t shape Bristol into the town it could be TODAY, I’m worried our demographic will move on. And if we don’t see some honest, rational teamwork abounding with common sense to make this project a reality, you can keep your parking lot, but you may just lose us. 
Adam & Regina von Gootkin

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

May 9, 2014

Tickets are on sale for Muzzy Field concert on July 5

Tickets are on sale for the concert being held to celebrate Muzzy Field’s 100th birthday this summer. (Click here to purchase.)
The July 5 concert, featuring Journey’s former lead singer Steve Augeri and Russell Thompkins, Jr and the New Stylistics, is a fundraiser for the Farmington-based Reach Foundation, which hopes to raise money to help young people.
Tickets range in price from $30.80 for bleacher seats to $46.20 for on-field, reserved sections. Ticketmaster also tacks on charges totaling about $5 per ticket.
Augeri was Journey’s lead singer for many years after Steve Perry left, regularly performing the band’s blockbusters before packed arenas.
Thompkins is the original lead singer for The Stylistics, a rhythm and blues band that had a string of hits in the 1970s that include “Stop, Look, Listen", "You Are Everything", "I'm Stone in Love with You", "Break Up to Make Up" and "You Make Me Feel Brand New.”
In addition to the concert, the city plans a vintage baseball game in the afternoon on July 5, fireworks after Journey’s gig is over and a two-day carnival beginning on July 4.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

May 8, 2014

Brown is 'saddened and disturbed' by privatization move

Statement released by city Councilor Calvin Brown about the Board of Education's decision last night to privatize school cafeterias:

I'm saddened and disturbed by the decision made by the Republicans on the Board of Education last night to privatize our school cafeteria workers. It shows a lack of respect for people's jobs and livelihood; neglect for our students and, really, our community at large; it shows an overall ineptitude for leadership to allow a private corporation to come into our schools and interact with our children on a regular basis.
Whitson's - the out-of-state company the BOE has chosen to contract with - has several law suits pending against them. They have not committed to hiring the current cafeteria workers who will be displaced. We still do not know if the company performs background checks on the employees they do hire - and therefore we will not know who is feeding lunch to our students. Again, I am saddened and disturbed by this.
The Republicans on the BOE have shown they do not understand what it really takes to care for our kids. If they did, they would see these grave concerns as the threat to community and safety that they really are. Instead, the Republicans on the Board of Education see only dollar signs.
Alas, I do believe that their inability to bargain in good faith, their inability to think critically, and their inability to lead responsibly will come back to haunt them: in court, at future meetings, and come the next election cycle.
I only pray that in the meantime our kids don't have to pay the price for the Board of Education's ineptitude.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

May 7, 2014

Tours of Bingham and O'Connell sch0ols on Saturday

From a note this morning from City Planner Alan Weiner to members of the city's Planing Commission:

The Planning Commission's walk-throughs of O'Connell and Bingham schools have been scheduled for Saturday, May 10th beginning at 8:00 AM. Those attending the walk-throughs will initially gather at the main parking lot at O'Connell School, located at 122 Park Street (the parking lot entrance is across the street from the driveway for Bristol Auto Body). The walk-through at O'Connell is anticipated to take 30-45 minutes. After this first walk-through has been completed, attendees will proceed in their own vehicles to Bingham School, located at 3 North Street, where we will again gather at the school's east parking lot (next to the credit union). The walk-through at Bingham is anticipated to also take 30-45 minutes.
(Please note that, in order to save some time, we will meet up first at O'Connell School and NOT in the City Hall parking lot, as was mentioned at last Wednesday's Planning Commission meeting.)
Dave Oakes of the city's Public Works Department will be our guide at each of the two schools. He has advised that you NOT wear sandals, flip-flops, or any other type of open-toed footwear.
Please note that, per the requirements of the state's Freedom of Information laws, these walk-throughs are considered a special meeting of the Planning Commission. As such, members of the public may attend if they choose. A copy of the meeting agenda, which has been posted with the City Clerk, is attached for your information. Also attached is information about roof replacement work proposed at Bingham School.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

May 6, 2014

Cockayne takes aim at graffiti

Press release from Mayor Ken Cockayne:

The City of Bristol and Mayor Ken Cockayne (R-Bristol) continue to fight blight in the community.  To date, six houses have been demolished that were failing to meet minimal standards. Several more have been put on notice.  Code Enforcement has attacked this issue with vigor and will continue to do so. 
As a second stage in the blight fight, Mayor Cockayne has instructed Code Enforcement to increase their efforts to address graffiti as well.  “If any code official is out and see's graffiti I would like it addressed ASAP.  In the past this was complaint driven. This will now be addressed when noticed.” said Mayor Cockayne.
Current statutes call for the removal of graffiti within ten days of notice from the building department.  Failure to comply will result in the removal of the offending markings by a private contractor hired by the city.  The resulting fees will be placed on the property in the manner of a tax lien which is allowed by local and state laws.
“We will continue to address blighted properties, but I feel we need to continue this fight on other levels as well. Graffiti is a public nuisance and is a criminal act.  I for one am very concerned about what it says about our community to people visiting our town.” said Mayor Cockayne.  “This next stage needs to be a community effort.  I am asking for residents to speak up and report offenders.  Educate your children on why graffiti is a criminal act.”
The Mayor is also considering the formation of a Graffiti Task Force, similar to those found in larger cities and urban centers.  “I want to be proactive and very responsive to the needs of this community.  There are Graffiti Task Forces in larger communities that have taken a very comprehensive approach to addressing this issue, including education, reporting, prosecution, removal teams, and many other functions.  The best function though is how they seem to engage the public in addressing the issue.  I would like to explore some of them and perhaps modify an existing model to meet our needs.”
One piece of this that the Mayor is hoping to unveil as soon as possible is a clear and effective way to report graffiti to the city.  Mayor Cockayne stated, “I would like to see a link on our city webpage in which citizens can report graffiti with an attached photo and location.  We can address it than follow up with the complainant when it has been remedied.” 
“I look at blight as a quality of life issue and we have only just begun to fight.  The tone has been set with code enforcement and the razing of properties not in compliance.  We will continue that fight, but we are now taking things a step further and will pay increased attention to other contributing factors as well.  The first one to be addressed will be graffiti.  This time, my hope is to engage the public as well though.  This is our town and we all have a responsibility to work together to improve it.”

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

May 5, 2014

City offers facade improvement program

Press release from Mayor Ken Cockayne today:

New Façade Program to Encourage Economic Development

The Bristol Development Authority (BDA) recently launched the Downtown/West End Façade Improvement Program to strengthen the economic viability of Downtown and West End businesses. By helping to improve the exterior appearance of storefronts and commercial buildings, the City hopes to attract quality businesses that foster economic growth while combating negative perceptions of these critical areas of the City. I believe in the “broken windows” theory in which crime and other undesirable activity gravitate toward blight and run-down establishments. This program is part of a larger quality-of-life focus for my administration to help create safe and attractive neighborhoods that residents, property owners, and business owners can be proud of.
The BDA will offer 50% grant awards, up to $25,000, for design and construction for a variety of façade projects, including new signage, windows, doors, paint, stucco or other siding material, brick work, and more. The BDA staff are excited to work with applicants through each step of the process, from obtaining project quotes, to aiding in the grant application process, to even helping choose paint colors or materials. And while the City can only provide 50% grants, BDA staff is ready to work with business owners to secure other financing to complete the projects.
Funding for this program is provided by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, which stipulates that funds can only be used in designated downtown and West End areas.  Eligible properties must be current on property taxes and must be deemed safe and capable of occupancy. Properties that are exclusively residential in nature, home-based business that are not assessed for commercial use, municipal buildings, and religious institutions are not eligible.
For more information on the program, and to learn if your business or building is eligible, contact the BDA at 860-584-6185 or log on to

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

May 4, 2014

Revitalization without Renaissance?

After talking with dozens of city and community leaders about the scaled-down Depot Square proposal by Renaissance Downtowns, I'm quite sure the idea as it stands is doomed.
There's no way the Long Island developer is going to get $6 million in public support, or anything close to it, to erect a 101-unit apartment building beside the railroad tracks near Main Street. The notion drew scorn from most officials and disappointment from even the most supportive ones.
Latest proposal from Renaissance.
There seems to be a lot of anger directed at Renaissance, for wasting the city's time, for failing to deliver what it promised, for letting down Bristol.
That ire is misplaced. Don Monti, the developer's president, pointed out the other day that the company is not a magician. It can only do what the financial numbers allow. It can't create funding out of thin air.
It's hardly Renaissance's fault that Bristol is perhaps too poor to justify the sort of investment required to deliver the sort of downtown that officials dreamed about, the kind of city center that many residents demanded when public hearings were held to solicit their thoughts.
And it's certainly not the developer's fault that the city bought the mall site almost a decade ago so it could control the lot's destiny.
That it's now a giant empty parcel is a shame, of course, but Renaissance has spent more than $2 million of its own money to try to turn it into a viable piece of a viable downtown. It has tried to help Bristol in many ways, and succeeded in lending a hand to the opening of a handful of businesses (though, of course, it hoped to profit in the end).
So what is the solution? If Bristol says no to Renaissance and boots the developer, it's back to square one for a piece of land that currently serves as a great big advertisement for Bristol's dysfunction.
It won't boost the city's image to have pinned its hopes on the Depot Square project and then abandon the whole thing.
What's really needed is some creativity and smarts that can figure out how to put the puzzle together so that Renaissance -- or any decent developer -- can get something going on that site.
I wish I had the answers. But I don't.
What I do know is that Bristol has for way too long muttered, carped and griped while nothing happened to create the sort of community it has the potential to become.
You don't have to look any further than that $11 million Bristol Boys and Girls Club rising on West Street to see that dreams can come true, even in Bristol, and that by pulling together and pressing ahead, good things can happen.
Somehow, the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. and the City Council have to take the lead and guide this project forward. There's no way to win the game by dropping the ball.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

May 1, 2014

Renaissance scales back plan to a single apartment building

Phase 1A, in new Renaissance proposal

The initial phase of the proposed Depot Square project has been pared back to a single 101-unit apartment building with a small retail space.
The Long Island-based Renaissance Downtowns released a confidential 39-page document Wednesday outlining its financing plans for what it now calls the 1A phase, including a possible $6 million allocation from the city to close the gap between what private investors are willing to pony up and the anticipated $17.7 million price tag
Don Monti, Renaissance’s president, said the key to revitalizing the entire former mall site is to create “an ecosystem” that brings in enough tenants to support the shops and restaurants the developer hopes to add as it moves forward with the rest of the multi-year project.
The report makes clear that market rate rents for the proposed building won’t cover its cost without public help, at least initially.
“The numbers either work or they don’t,” Monti said. “We are not magicians.” Link to story.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at