September 24, 2014

Fortier continues to back Renaissance

Democratic city Councilor Mary Fortier released this statement about Renaissance today:

I commend my fellow Council member Calvin Brown for his positive comments regarding the most recent Renaissance Downtowns presentation and public hearing.  I too, wish there had been an opportunity for the BDDC members and Councilors to offer their comments.
For any that don’t know, I have been a supporter of Renaissance Downtowns and continue to be.  I’d like to share some of the reasons why.  As the Preferred Developer for Depot Square they signed a contract with the city that contained pages and pages of requirements.  They have worked hard for years and have accomplished most of those requirements.  Their efforts at grassroots organizing and marketing for this project through Bristol Rising have certainly exceeded the requirements of the contract.  While the contract includes the basic mixed use outline for this project, including many hundreds of housing units, specifics like the piazza, which has become very popular, have grown out of the partnership with Renaissance and Bristol residents.  Renaissance and Bristol share a vision for a more vibrant, walkable, sustainable downtown.

Renaissance has made a commitment to Bristol and Renaissance deserves renewed commitment from us.  Renaissance has taken risks in Bristol and Bristol needs to move beyond the risk.  No one is banging down the doors of city hall for a chance to develop this parcel.  In our current downtown, incomes are below average and rents are below average. The age of our residents is older as is the housing they live in.  These demographics make this project risky.  The risk has always been part of this project, but these demographics are precisely the reason the project exists. If we had a strong thriving downtown, it wouldn’t matter what we built on Depot Square, a school, a hockey rink, or even just a hill, it would be a contribution to an already successful place.  If we don’t change the demographics of our downtown we risk not having a downtown at all.  We need younger residents, with higher incomes to change the balance in downtown.  “If we build it, they will come”, sounds like the dream from a movie, but if it doesn’t happen we will never have anything but a couple more drug stores on Depot Square.  Doing this project is risky, but not doing it is much riskier.

The current issue is financing Phase I.  As far back as the April submission, Renaissance discussed several options for closing the gap that exists in financing. The time has come to seriously explore every possible option.  For example, one such option is the CHAMP program.  “The CHAMP program can provide up to $5 million in gap financing for projects and would typically require as little as 20% to be workforce housing.”  Workforce housing is not Section 8 housing and it doesn’t become Section 8 housing.  We need to look into CHAMP financing and we are entitled to get an explanation as to why, or why it would not, be a viable option for this project.

I look forward to doing whatever I can to explore options, ask questions, and get answers so we can get this done and start building our future this spring.

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1 comment:

Shawn Ruest said...

Well it's certainly nice to see someone admit that this is a multifamily housing project anyway...