CT Construction Digest July 19, 2021
In the next 14 months, Empire Paving Corp. will be delivering the Connecticut Department of Transportation's (CTDOT) $28,857,927 Reconstruction of Interchange 33 on Interstate 95 in Stratford project, an initiative that is helping the state address the infrastructure deficit and improve traffic flow by providing motorists with more options.
The work, taking place on the southern side of the town of Stratford (Fairfield County), began in June 2020 and is scheduled to be completed on July 5, 2022.
The project is financed by the federal (80 percent) and state (20 percent) funds and Empire Paving was awarded the contract on Sept. 3, 2019, which gave the contractor sufficient time to plan the project and assemble equipment and personnel to execute it.
The interstate and interchange were constructed in the 1950s and on a daily basis both carry approximately 142,000 cars and trucks. In addition to reconstruction, the project is adding an Exit 33 off-ramp in the southbound lane direction and an on-ramp in the northbound lane direction to make it a full interchange. There also will be roadwork on Ferry Boulevard and Barnum Avenue Cutoff with minor road configurations and traffic signal work, as well as drainage improvements.
"The interchange currently handles on average, 910 vehicles daily on the northbound off-ramp and 680 vehicles daily, on average, on the southbound off-ramp," said Steven Herbert, CTDOT's project engineer. "The projected volume for the new northbound on-ramp is 270 [average daily] and 450 [average daily] for the southbound off-ramp. The project was needed due to a public desire that a more functional and efficient full diamond interchange be constructed. Prior to construction, there was only a partial interchange, which consisted only of a northbound off-ramp and southbound on-ramp, thereby limiting the basic usefulness and functionality of the interchange. The project was planned over the course of approximately eight years.
"The existing condition of I-95 was/is in good shape due to the construction activities from the Moses Wheeler Bridge Projects that CTDOT recently performed," he added, "however, the condition of the local roads was, and is, in poor shape."
STV and CTDOT designed the project.
"The intersections on the local roadways are getting updated, including the installation of modern traffic signal equipment with improved video detection versus less reliable loop detector systems, which will enhance traffic flow and efficiency," said Herbert. "It is also addressing the removal of Raymark Waste within the project limits, as well as capping all areas containing asbestos contaminated soils. As part of the project, $4 million is being invested in the construction of new noise barrier walls to help mitigate noise from the interstate.
"Projects often present unique circumstances that require special handling," he added, "This one required the removal of Raymark Waste that contains asbestos and other contaminants and must be removed from the site and disposed of properly. This necessitated coordination with the EPA, CTDEEP, CTDOT Office of Environmental Compliance and the town of Stratford's Environmental Office. This issue was resolved by removing all Raymark Waste within the project limits and coordinating with the EPA and DEEP to dispose of it in the newly constructed EPA landfill. As for particular challenges, the limits for Raymark Waste removal fell within the southbound I-95 off-ramp construction. The EPA landfill was still under construction at the time, so the removed material had to be temporarily stored and monitored in the designated Waste Stockpile Area [WSA] until it was disposed of."
The construction of the new off-ramp utilized all native material from within the project limits.
"Since all the soil within the project limits was deemed asbestos contaminated soil [ACS], the goal was to use as much, if not all of the soil to construct the ramp and cap it with clean material to limit the need for off-site disposal," said Herbert. "Some of the challenges in dealing with the ACS was the need for constant air monitoring to ensure the safety of the workers and the public. Working with ACS meant the soil had to always be moistened to limit any fugitive dust, and on a daily basis any exposed soil at the end of the workday had to be protected. In the case of the latter, Empire Paving chose to cap the native soil with a clean process where possible. Any vertical faces where soil would not stay put were covered with poly, so it was necessary to plan to make sure all work could be protected at the end of each shift."
The new bridges, constructed in 2020 and 2021, are designed with a lifespan of 75 years and the newly constructed roadways have an anticipated lifespan of 20 years.
"The Bridge 7011, the new southbound I-95 off-ramp over Barnum Avenue Cutoff, utilized a Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil — Integrated Bridge System [GRS-IBS]," said Herbert, "which kept the cost of the bridge the same as a traditional cast-in-place concrete construction, but was able to reduce the time needed to construct the bridge."
The maintenance and protection of traffic plans protecting motorists and construction workers are based on lane closures that occur on I-95 southbound from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. and on the northbound side from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. Two travels lanes in each direction are being maintained, with people being urged to "be alert, cautious, and to maintain a safe speed when driving in this vicinity."
"They have been working effectively, and most motorists are reducing speeds in the work zones," said Herbert. "The CTDOT appreciates their cooperation to help keep our workers safe while we deliver this project for the public."
he construction of the Exit 33 off-ramp in the southbound direction began in March 2020 and is still under construction. Empire Paving, thus far, has completed New Bridge 7011, retaining walls 101 and 102, the removal of Raymark Waste, the local roadway drainage and a major portion of the traffic control signal work.
"The remainder of the work is focusing on the completion of retaining wall 103, noise barrier walls 1, 2 and 3 and the completion of the reconstruction of local roadways and ramp tie-ins," said Herbert. "The on-ramp in the northbound lane direction will be completed in the late fall of 2021. The roadwork on Ferry Boulevard and Barnum Avenue Cutoff [approximately 0.5 mi.], which includes minor road configurations and traffic signal work, is also going according to schedule."
"The work has been slow and steady," said Chris Goddard, Empire Paving's project manager. "We have had a lot of engineering challenges to overcome before we can start on doing a lot of the work. We've done a lot planning and things have reached a point where we're getting a lot done, primarily through day shifts. We worked all winter long. It's a very tight work zone. We are using some of the real estate of the project to store materials for next stage. As we go from one area, we use the complete section for storage. Deliveries have to be carefully considered.
‘We have a very good relationship with the DOT and issues are resolved as quickly as possible," he added. "They put great effort into any issues we bring up. Some things take time, but they get resolved."
The reconstruction began with the drainage infrastructure installation in May 2020.
"We did a lot of pre-emptive drainage work and then we started the cut and fills for the ramps," said Goddard. "The remainder of drainage work will have to be done after the retaining walls are completed. We're 80 percent complete at this point. This wasn't easy for sure — there was a lot of deep drainage with fairly unstable material, but it all went off without a hitch. The challenges for the cut and fills were due to presence of asbestos in the soil. We have a comprehensive dust control program, but one of the main methods we're utilizing is spraying atomized water on all the excavation operations and it seems to be working very well."
The fill operations also were supported by the use of a water mist cannon to dampen the dust, which was supplied by Rain for Rent.
The construction of the Exit 33 off-ramp in the southbound lane direction is nearly complete.
"With the exception of retaining wall 103, it has been completed," said Goddard. "The wall is just west of Route 1 and it starts widening out the deceleration lane that has not been completed. There were some engineering problems early on with that and we're just starting construction on this wall. It will take the rest of the construction season to complete. We did all the cut and fills, built the bridge for the off-ramp bypassing the area where the retaining wall so that we could keep working, and built the rest of the ramp."
A John Deere 700K dozer equipped with GPS systems has aided this work.
"We are heavily invested in GPS technology," said Goddard. "Topcon GPS systems helped to make accurate fills buried beneath the roadways."
The on-ramp in the northbound lane direction was completed last year.
"It was done the same way as the off-ramp, with the same equipment," said Goddard. "The exception was that we had to widen bridge 134 at I-95. After the abutments were completed, there was a delay in the steel fabrication due to COVID. We waited for the steel to be delivered to the site until this spring and we're just about to complete the bridge deck. We demolished the existing bridge 134 Parapet to allow for the widening. The rest of the ramp was built on a fill. The work went quite well."
For the demolition work, Volvo and Cat mini-excavators with hydraulically activated hammers were used. The fill work at the ramp employed a John Deere 700K GPS controlled dozer.
The roadwork on Ferry Boulevard and Barnum Avenue Cutoff, which covers several miles of lanes, includes minor road configurations and traffic signal work, also is proceeding to schedule.
"The road work is going along fairly well," said Goddard. "We're starting with the reconstruction of the sidewalks and the curb and that will continue throughout the current constructions season."
This element of the project includes minor road and intersection reconfigurations and lane shifting, adding lane and installing new signal equipment. The new lanes are based on a 12 in. of subbase material and 10 in. topping of asphalt.
Crews are working on one lane at a time to allow for traffic to keep flowing throughout the reconstruction.
The drainage improvements are adding more than 60 structures and increasing the size of some discharge pipes from 18 to 24 in., as well as installing a new 30-in. outlet drainage pipe.
"We're ensuring that the drainage system works a lot better," said Goddard. "Prior to this, it was choked off and had high-value limitations — it could not handle the amount of flow required at some points."
The CTDOT District 3 construction team is assisted by AI Engineers, TRC and Garg Engineering.
"We have an excellent working relationship among the various teams and crews," said Herbert, "and all parties share a common goal of completing the project on time, safely, and within budget."
The Empire team consists of several experienced people.
"It's well integrated, and the crews are very hard working and pulling toward getting the job done," said Goddard.
Peak days have 30-plus Empire Paving and subcontractor workers on site, with the main subcontractors being: Bay Crane Service of Connecticut for bridge work; Davis Tree and Logging for clearing and grubbing; Mystic Air Quality for air monitoring and testing; Star construction for curb and sidewalk; Quaker Corporation for guardrail and noise barrier wall installation; Rizzo Electric for illumination and traffic signal construction; All Seasons Landscaping for plantings; and Garrity Asphalt for milling and safety markings for line striping
Demolition and excavation operations are expected to generate 15,000 tons of concrete, 10,300 tons of asphalt, 15 tons of steel, and 680,000 tons of earth and rock. New materials being brought in will include 7,100 tons of concrete, 15,100 tons of asphalt, 450 tons of steel, and 4,600 linear ft. of various sizes of pipe.
"We're not recycling anything on site due real estate restrictions — the site is just too small," said Goddard. "We're sending everything off to a recycling yard in Milford and then bringing it back from there. The materials that we excavate are removed from the site the same day.
"Hydraulic lines are a constant battle for us, but they are usually quickly resolved," said Goddard. "We have an in-house service department that does most of our repairs, but they are supported by the dealers that supply parts on a timely basis."
It sometimes seems that the second 50 years after World War II are being spent correcting the mistakes of the first postwar half-century.
One was situating highways so they blocked cities from their waterfronts, as happened in Hartford and Middletown.
This year, Hartford celebrates the 40th anniversary of its effort to reconnect to the Connecticut River. Middletown has just initiated a riverfront revival plan.
In retrospect, it seems crazy for a city to wall off its river or harbor, given the myriad economic, aesthetic and recreational advantages of waterfront access. But early highway builders weren’t thinking about community impact, they were thinking about moving cars. Waterfront land was often the easiest to acquire.
Waterfronts were “sadly, an all too common location for highways, since early highway building manuals recommended waterfront routes as expedient,” said Ben Crowther of the Congress for the New Urbanism, a nonprofit that promotes walkable cities, in an email exchange.
“Generally speaking, since waterfronts had already been put to industrial uses, routing highways along them was considered less contentious than in, say, a residential neighborhood. That’s not to say that people didn’t also live along these waterfronts, just that they were lower-income communities, so highway builders could justify the routes publicly through lower cost of land acquisition. And these communities had little political capital to fight back,” said Crowther, who heads a CNU initiative that helps cities remove aging highways and replace them with traditional city streets.
Having built the highways along waterfronts, it didn’t take that long for cities to ask: What were we thinking?
Starting in the 1970s with the replacement of a six-lane highway along the Willamette River in Portland, Ore., with a boulevard and linear park, cities across the country began clawing their way back to their waterfronts: large cities such as Seattle and San Francisco, smaller cities such as Chattanooga and Savannah, and a host of others joined the movement. None appear to regret it.
Connecticut’s newest waterfront reclamation project is Middletown’s, where officials have announced a plan to readapt a 200-acre swath of underutilized land along the river south of Harbor Park as a new, mixed-use city district.
By contrast, Greater Hartford’s Riverfront Recapture has methodically reconnected Hartford and East Hartford to the river since 1981, with plans to link to Windsor and Wethersfield as well. It can serve as a model for Middletown or for other urban revitalization projects.
A river there somewhere
The construction of I-91 and the I-91-I-84 interchange in the 1960s cut Hartford off from the Connecticut River so effectively that, it was said, children growing up a mile away didn’t know the river was there.
To even see the river from downtown you needed to be in a tall building. One day in 1980, Travelers Cos senior executive C. Roderick “Rory” O’Neill looked out the window of his Travelers Tower office and wondered why Hartford wasn’t taking advantage of its riverine location.
He’d worked in Chicago, which glories in its lakeshore park system. Why not here?
In 1981, O’Neill, lawyer Jack Riege and others formed a nonprofit, Riverfront Recapture Inc. In the ensuing four decades, it has turned a forgotten and forlorn asset into a vital part of the community. Riverfront, led for nearly 30 years by the gently persistent Joe Marfuggi, built parks and river walks on both sides of the river. Marfuggi and his troops got the state to lower the highway and then built a platform connecting downtown to the river, with a promenade across the Founders Bridge connecting to East Hartford.
Finally, Riverfront has laid the groundwork for Hartford 400, a bold and river-centric plan announced earlier this year by the iQuilt project. If it goes forward, it will remove or cap the highways and bring development in Hartford and East Hartford right up to the river. “It will radically change how we relate to the river,” Zaleski said.
A first step toward that visionary project may have been the recent passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of the $715 billion INVEST in America Act, the recurring federal transportation funding bill. The bill included a $16 million request by U.S. Rep. John B. Larson for the Greater Hartford Mobility Study, a 2-3-year study begun last year to analyze and address the region’s mobility needs.
Larson is a strong supporter of the Hartford 400 plan. It is his fervent hope that the bill passes the Senate and that the subsequent study incorporates major features of the Hartford 400 plan.
Middletown is at the beginning of its riverfront development adventure, although plans and proposals for developing the large swath along the river have been kicking around for decades, said Mayor Ben Florsheim in a recent interview.
He said there were three obstacles to developing the large parcel and connecting it to downtown. For one, it is blocked by Route 9, a state highway. Also, there is a wastewater treatment plant on the site. Finally, there’s the money to acquire the land and clean the site.
But things are looking up. The aging water treatment plant was recently decommissioned and will be demolished, not replaced, because the city has joined a regional wastewater treatment program based in Cromwell.
Last fall, voters approved a $55 million infrastructure bond, which includes money for the riverfront development.
Also, the state Department of Transportation has two projects underway to improve Route 9. Florsheim said he hopes to work with the state to incorporate a connection — possibly a pedestrian bridge — from downtown to the riverfront.
Also, the city is making improvements to Harbor Park, a smallish riverfront park just north of the proposed development site that is connected to downtown by a pedestrian tunnel. Finally, Florsheim said, there is a new tenant for the now-closed restaurant in the park.
With the stars lining up, city officials decided to move ahead. They recently brought in a team headed by the New York architecture and urban design firm Cooper Robertson, whose portfolio of more than three dozen waterfront projects includes Battery Park City in Manhattan, Stamford’s Harbor Point and the South Boston waterfront.
There was considerable interest in the project; Cooper Robertson was selected from about 20 applicants. The river vistas, the proximity to downtown and Middletown’s location between Boston and New York were part of the appeal, said Mike Aziz, Cooper Robertson’s director of urban design.
The firm will begin a series of public meetings in the next few months. “The city is committed to listening to anyone who wants to participate,” said Aziz. The goal is to have a master plan ready in about 18 months.
The challenge, Florsheim said, is balance: how much commercial, how much residential, how much open space. He said he wants a lot of public access, the kind of place people will go “not for any particular reason, just because it is a great place to be.”
He said he is also talking to the adjacent towns of Cromwell and Haddam about extending a river walk north and south of his city, as Riverfront Recapture is doing.
The irony of a city blocking its waterfront is that the waterfront usually was the city’s reason for being where it is. Middletown is such a city — it was built around its harbor. Florsheim believes “the soul of the city is still there” and reconnecting to it “can be transformative.”
The waterfront revivals in many other cities suggest he is right. The Wharf, a major mixed-use development that stretches a mile along the Potomac River’s Washington Channel, has transformed the long-underutilized southwest waterfront of the nation’s capital.
When a 1989 earthquake badly damaged the elevated Embarcadero Freeway, which blocked downtown San Francisco from its harbor, the city chose not to rebuild it but to replace it with a boulevard. This freed up more than 100 acres of land for development, which in turn triggered a strong increase in housing, jobs and commercial development.
The removal of a highway that blocked Chattanooga from its riverfront has drawn millions of dollars in investment to the riverfront and helped spur a 30% growth in he city’s population since 1990.
New England has seen a variety of waterfront revivals in recent decades, among them Burlington, Vermont’s, lakefront; Portland, Maine’s, Old Port; and the revival of mill buildings along the formerly industrial canals in Lowell, Mass.
What’s the magic that drives these projects? It may not be all that complicated. Said Mike Aziz: “People like to be near the water.”
It is kind of delicious for someone like me, who believes the stalled and impossibly expensive and impractical plans for a downtown New London Coast Guard museum need to be scrapped, to read a scathing criticism of the project by one of its partners.
Cross Sound Ferry eventually signed on to support the problematic waterfront museum site after then Gov. Dannel Malloy pledged in 2013 to provide $20 million to build a bridge across the railroad tracks connecting the downtown to the proposed museum as well as a new ferry terminal planned by Cross Sound.
The ferry company, it seems, hated the idea of the waterfront museum before it loved it.
And in its opening protest in 2012 of the downtown museum plans, Cross Sound Ferry, saying it was "adamantly opposed," cited a lot of good reasons why the project may violate Connecticut law preserving the waterfront for appropriate water-dependent uses.
That letter may be coming back to haunt the company, as Connecticut's prominent environmental gadfly, Robert Fromer, has included it in an objection to the project he has filed with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
"The proposed museum project stymies any growth opportunities for transportation at that site forever," the ferry company owner and President John P. Wronowski wrote in a three-page letter to Malloy in January 2012.
"The proposed structure has the serious potential to harm existing ferry operations by obstructing navigation, access to and from the ferry terminals along with blocking the line of sight down the river for departing and returning ferries. There is also an issue with riparian rights," Wronowski wrote.
The design of the museum did eventually change so that it is no longer over the water, but that occurred long after Cross Sound signed on as a supporter.
"We believe, as we know you do, that waterborne transportation and shipbuilding and repair should be the primary purpose of New London's deep water port," the ferry president told the governor.
This is exactly the point being made by Fromer, who this month submitted extensive comments to DEEP on its review of an application by the museum association to build the large museum on a small flood-prone parcel between the railroad tracks and the river.
Fromer's letter of objection includes an explanation of the Coastal Management Act, which limits waterfront development to water-dependent uses, and quotes from the legislative debate rejecting a proposal to substitute "water-enhanced' for "water-dependent" when the act was passed in the 1970s.
"What word in water-dependent use of facility is DEEP unable, unwilling or incapable to understand," Fromer wrote in his objection.
He also elaborated with objections that the big glassy museum would degrade the natural features and vistas in that historic section of the riverfront.
"Bank Street buildings are the same buildings 19-century whalers saw when they sailed into port," he wrote. "The museum's features will block or degrade critical views and vistas; its impact would be an abomination of the historic district. It is a grotesque and hideous contribution to the district."
Fromer also wrote to Attorney General William Tong alleging that political pressure is being brought to bear on DEEP in regards to the museum application, suggesting there has been intervention by the Coast Guard commandant, Gov. Ned Lamont and U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy in the environmental review.
He said he also plans to complain to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has oversight of DEEP, to ensure compliance with the coastal management law.
What the complaint doesn't address is the common sense I hear from most critics of the plans: Why, in a time of global warming, would you build such an expensive structure to house precious artifacts of Coast Guard history on a flood-prone site that old photos show was devastated in the Hurricane of 1938?
Fromer's complaint, with its extensive legal citations, reads like it could be the basis of a lawsuit against any DEEP approval of the museum plans.
When I asked DEEP about Fromer's complaint, I heard from Michael Grzywinski, senior environmental analyst, who said the department is preparing a response, which he called a "priority" within the department. No one at DEEP replied when I asked whether Fromer's claim of political interference is true.
If Fromer is right, and political pressure is indeed being brought by the governor, the head of the Coast Guard and two United States senators, I can see why a response to the environmentalist's serious complaint about the project is a priority at DEEP.
Maybe it's finally time for Connecticut's political officialdom to accept what potential donors, who have left fundraising for this ridiculous project dead in the water for years, have long understood: It's the wrong site for many reasons and a new one needs to be picked.
I think Fromer is maybe doing the politicians a favor and demonstrating a safe and fast route to the lifeboats.
This is the opinion of David Collins.
Groton — The town is in negotiations with a potential developer for the former Pleasant Valley Elementary School property.
A public unveiling of the name of the developer and the redevelopment proposal itself for the site at 380 Pleasant Valley Road South, near Route 12, is expected within the next several weeks, Groton Economic and Community Development Manager Paige Bronk said in a phone interview.
The approximately 17-acre parcel, with four existing buildings on site, is zoned for multifamily residential, Groton Director of Planning and Development Services Jon Reiner said at Tuesday's Town Council Committee of the Whole meeting. Both water and sewer infrastructure are available to the property.
The Pleasant Valley Elementary School, built in the 1950s, had closed in 2017 due to budget cuts.
After marketing and showing the property, the town issued a request for proposals in August 2020, with responses due in October 2020, Reiner said. A selection committee of elected town officials and staff then unanimously selected a proposal to recommend.
Bronk said the selection committee recommended a preferred developer to the council, and the town will continue to finalize its negotiations with the developer. A sales agreement, once ready, would then come before the council for consideration and a vote.
Reiner gave a public update on the project at Tuesday's meeting, and the council held an executive session to discuss details of the proposal.
Reiner said the town understands the sensitivity regarding recreational needs in the neighborhood, and the redevelopment proposal addresses some limited public use on the property.
Bronk said, as with other excess properties, the town is considering the former Pleasant Valley School as a redevelopment proposal rather than a simple real estate transaction.
"We are doing our best to make sure the project blends well with the neighborhood and accommodates their needs as well," he said. "I think people will be fairly pleased."
Groton has several redevelopment projects in the works for former schools, including apartments slated for the former William Seely School.
The nearby Charles Barnum School will remain in use as a school and become an intradistrict magnet school starting in the upcoming school year.
The nearby Mary Morrisson Elementary School closed at the end of the school year, but Groton school officials said they plan to use the building for the robotics team and storage. The school officials said at this past week's Board of Education Committee of the Whole meeting that they will keep the building for an undetermined amount of time in case the elementary school enrollment grows and the district needs to open another school.
BRIDGEPORT — The mercury topped 90 degrees Friday, but Gov. Ned Lamont said the city was sizzling for other reasons.
“Bridgeport is hot, and I’m not talking about the temperature,” Lamont said at a groundbreaking for the $70 million next phase of the Cherry Street Lofts on Railroad Avenue. “This is where the action is.”
The third phase of the planned development of a block of former factory buildings between Interstate 95 and the Metro-North Railroad on the city’s West Side will add 136 units of housing to the project, which already includes 157 apartments and Great Oak Charter School.
“This is smart, thoughtful development. And you know what? It’s paying off,” the governor said, referencing the rapid lease-up of the first apartments that went on the market in 2018.
Lamont complimented the vision of developers Gary Flocco and Geof Ravenstine, as well as the support of city officials in making the project happen.
“Over the last five years a public-private partnership with union labor was able to take a square block of property that was blighted, had been set on fire and was scheduled to be razed, and turned it into homes where people raise their families, a school where their children are educated, and a community they’re happy to come home to,” Flocco said.
“When we started to talk to people about converting old mill buildings into apartments in Bridgeport, in this corridor, there were people who looked at us and said ‘You’re crazy,’” he said. “And what we found on the other hand is the results were anything but crazy.”
Ravenstine said when the first phase of the development opened, 10,000 people called inquiring about the apartments in the first six months.
The developers and local officials thanked Lamont for approving $3.77 million in environmental cleanup funds through the State Bond Commission last December to make the project happen.
“When that phone rang and we said ‘Governor, we need a little bit more money to get this next phase off the ground,’ his administration said ‘No problem, it’ll be on the next Bond Commission agenda,’” Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, said.
Mayor Joseph Ganim called the project “transformative” — and said further phases that include retail space and plans for a supermarket will be even more so. The total cost of the project will be roughly $170 million.
“The final phases are even more transformative as you go down along I-95 and the railroad tracks than we’ve even seen so far,” Ganim said. “Urban redevelopment like it’s being done here is not done to this level with this degree of success everywhere.”
Duane Gates of the Fairfield County Building and Construction Trades Council said the project would support good jobs for union painters, carpenters, laborers, iron workers and sheet metal workers, among other trades.
“We don’t often get phone calls from developers saying saying, ‘Hey, we want to do this project 100 percent union,’ and we got it from these two gentlemen,” Gates said.
Rep. Antonio Felipe, D-Bridgeport, said he grew up on the west side and always wondered why so much of the area was so blighted.
“Now we have a place that shows us where Bridgeport wins,” he said. “Bridgeport wins when we have people who look off the highway and say ‘That’s an attractive place to live.’ But the project that we’re supporting also sustains the people who have been here.”
City Council President Aidee Nieves thanked Flocco and Ravenstine, as well as “all of you who think about Bridgeport in a way of transforming our neighborhoods and ensuring that we have equitable housing, we have accessibility to care, we have businesses that are going to be prosperous.”
“They saw it, they believed it, they built it, and here they come,” she said. “And the people are coming.”
Mary E. O’Leary
NEW HAVEN — A successful State Street developer has put together a big plan for a small lot that saves a historic building and upgrades parking lots to a higher use.
Post Road Realty LLC, part of Post Road Residential, which built the 238-apartment Corsair on State complex, is looking to add more housing on the street.
The development team presented the proposal, for 75 apartments at 1041 State St. across from the Corsair, to the Board of Zoning Appeals as it seeks several variances and a special exception for a slight reduction in parking.
The plan for the triangular lot includes four townhouses, 9 studios, 33 one-bedroom units and 29 two-bedroom units.
It appears to go beyond the proposed criteria in terms of affordability for some units as outlined in an inclusionary zoning plan under consideration by the city, for which a public hearing is set for the end of the month.
The developers’ attorney, Greg Muccilli, said the proposal would categorize two studios and 2 one-bedroom units — 5 percent of the total — as “deeply affordable.”
Muccilli said half of them will be available to tenants at 50 percent of area median income and the other half for tenants at 30 percent of area median income.
The inclusionary zoning proposal, for new developments with 75 or more units, outside the city center downtown, asks developers to set aside 5 percent of their housing units at 50 percent of AMI.
Affordability is always an issue in New Haven, which reports show is short 25,000 affordable units for its population, half of which is rent burdened, or paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing.
The development combines four parcels, with four separate owners, to make up 0.44 acre of land.
It is located in a light industrial zone at the confluence of residential and business zones and forms the Upper State Street gateway to the East Rock neighborhood.
The site now consists mostly of fenced-in parking lots used for the storage of vehicles, as well as a 2.5-story commercial building built in 1900.
The plan is to convert that building into 2-story townhouses and incorporate it into a 6-story apartment complex with a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units.
There will continue to be a 1,000-square-foot commercial space for a coffee shop, or other use, on the ground level.
A 33-space parking garage, where zoning requires 37 spaces, also would be constructed at this level. The entrance would be from Mill River Street with an exit onto State Street.
“The proposed development will improve a vastly underutilized site and create a new residential development, completing the State Street corridor south of Interstate 91,” Muccilli said.
The complex directly abuts Interstate 91 on one side and retains a billboard, which would be moved from the roof, turned 90 degrees and affixed to the new building.
Most of the apartments will have a separate enclosed office space to “further the work from home trend as we emerge from the pandemic,” Muccilli said.
The proposal will feature 2,800 square feet of common amenity space on the first and second floors, a 590-square-foot outdoor lounge on the second floor and a rooftop deck.
The 2,500 square feet of bicycle storage will be in the basement.
John McFayden, a principal in Post Road Residential, said their business model is to take on boutique developments that combine historic renovations in conjunction with new construction.
Having pulled together the same team that worked on the Corsair, McFayden said they have dubbed it a “cousin project” to that successful effort.
Seelan Pather of Beinfield Architecture said they begin a project by defining placemaking, looking at the history of the site.
“The new building will help form the view at the end of State Street before the bridge and also frame the view as you enter State Street from under the bridge as you approach from the east,” Pather said.
The design forms a street wall along State Street, while the existing two-story building at the corner of Mill River Street defines that area as it has for decades.
The triangular shape of the lot allowed for some “drama in the architecture,” when the building takes an acute angle on both sides, Pather said.
He said they chose a “modern repetitive pattern” for the envelope of the building, which complements the pattern on the east portion of the Corsair across the street.
Pather said Post Road Residential “has always pushed the design team to try to make the next project better than the last. That is our goal here.”
He said they researched “how people want to live in a city, how that has changed since the Corsair and obviously since the pandemic,” pointing to the decision to have work-from-home spaces in the apartments.
The proposal received support from the New Haven Preservation Trust, the East Rock Community Management Team, the Upper State Street Association and the mActivity Fitness Center.
One objection was raised by Erma Cordero, who was speaking on behalf of her parents, residents of Mill River Street.
She strongly objected to the plan, which she she she feels does not accommodate enough parking for the potential residents of the townhouses, apartments, as well as the current residents of Mill River Street .
She said there are only four houses on the block, three of them multifamily, whose tenants need parking and struggle to find it. She also worried about gentrification.
The proposal now goes to the City Plan Commission before coming back for a vote by the BZA in September, as it does not meet in August.