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CT Construction Digest Thursday October 14, 2021

How a New Haven development project is transforming part of the city

Mary E. O’Leary

NEW HAVEN — The new construction will make it clear you are now in an urban center.

And, among other things, the new intersection there will feature the first protected bicycle/pedestrian intersection in the state, said Donna Hall, the project manager for Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the massive infrastructure undertaking.

The changes also mean there will be a connection to the Hill from downtown on South Orange Street for the first time in an estimated 60 years.

Phase 2 of the Downtown Crossing, which is reclaiming multiple acres of developable land, is transforming the area.

The work will take the very busy highway traffic flowing from Interstates 91 and 95 into the city, with a high priority for protection of its pedestrians and cyclists.

Hall said this transition zone will be marked by a “robust program of landscaping and lighting” — visual clues that traffic is entering an urban grid.

There are very wide crosswalks adjacent to clearly marked bike lanes with multiple safety islands at the intersection itself. Pedestrians will push the button for a walk signal to the first island and then push a second button for a signal to finish crossing.

Hall said the new infrastructure will allow the growth of the business district to include the medical district, as well as the harbor, Long Wharf and Union Station.

Phase 1 was the build-out of 100 College Street, while Phase 2, in addition to upgrading the intersection, paves the way for construction of 101 College Street, another major biotech building with space for start-ups and programs to prepare students for jobs emanating from the research there.

Hall said the revamped roadways will also enhance and enable development of the former Coliseum site at the corner of South Orange Street and South Frontage Road.

The new crossing will have the same number of lanes that residents are used to at such major arteries as Elm Street and Church Street, she said.

The project manager said the new intersection is expected to become the main pedestrian connection to Union Station, which is a major train and bus hub.

Another important element is creation of bioswales at the intersection that will deal with the stormwater runoff for the area, much of which was visible this week with more extensive landscaping in the near future.

Members of the New Haven Development Commission toured the intersection with South Frontage Street this week. Hall said the last of the pavement markers are being put down and the last traffic signal needed is on its way. The progress report was given to the commission as it is one of the entities that approves projects that are part of the Downtown Municipal Development District.

The new route to Union Station at the site goes past the art installation by Sheila de Bretteville on Union Avenue. The underside of a bridge is painted blue, evocative of the water, while spotlights shine on the sidewalk at night, triggered as pedestrians walk by.

Called “Lighting Your Way,” passersby become, in a sense, part of a performance, Hall said. It also plays up urban infrastructure as art.

Across Union Avenue on the other side of the overpass there was a chain link fence that has been pulled back to reveal landscaping and granite cobblestones.

Hall said the changes have transformed the space, particularly at night.

There is a new addition to Columbus Avenue with its wide bikeway, but, most noticeable is its direct connection to the train station.

The previous abrupt ending of the street added to the isolation of the former Church Street South housing complex, razed after decades of deterioration and now awaiting a new chapter.

“This will be well discovered once the intersection is open,” Economic Development Administrator Mike Piscitelli said.

Hall said the traffic analysis of extending Columbus Avenue showed much heavy traffic will be removed from other congested streets downtown. She said it is also another way to get on the highways rather than South Frontage Road.

Piscitelli said the next big piece of infrastructure the city hopes will qualify for federal funding is a pipeline to take the pressure off stormwater runoff at Temple Street to the Metro North railyard.

A new neighborhood is growing up around the area with 587 apartments finished or in progress in developments by Randi Salvatore, all of which are starting to rival the new density at Wooster Square.

There also has been work The done on Phase 3, which is construction of 101 College Street by developer Carter Winstanley, who also built 100 College Street.

Hall said South Frontage Road has been raised about 7.5 feet, which sets the elevation for a bridge that will go over the service drives to Temple Street on the other side. The actual construction of the bridge and raising Martin Luther King Boulevard will be Phase 4.

The recent work has created some stress for motorists, as, in order to raise South Frontage Road for future construction of the bridge, a detour was set up in June. Drivers coming down South Frontage must turn right onto College Street, then left onto Congress Avenue and right onto Lafayette Street.

On Phase 3, Hall said the contractor, Manafort Brothers Inc., was ready to put the pavement down at the site, but United Illuminating decided at the last minute to put in a duct bank so it won’t have to dig up the area in the spring.

She added that despite this, Manafort is expected to stay on schedule, paving the service roads and opening them and South Frontage Road around Dec. 1.

“It is remarkable. Manafort has been an outstanding contractor to deal with. This has been a real challenge and they have met that challenge,” Hall said.

The Phase 2 contract is valued at $19.6 million with $4 million left to spend; Phase 3 will cost $14.8 million with $4.7 million in remaining work, Hall said.

City engineer Robert Ellis, who is the project manager for 101 College Street, said the main foundation slab for the building has been poured for the 525,000-square-foot facility.

Ellis said 101 College is expected to be a huge job generator for Greater New Haven.

Piscitelli said it is projected to bring over 3,000 people from throughout the state, taking into consideration supply chain investments, hotels, hospitality, the residential developments, as well as the science employment.

The economic development administrator also commented beyond job numbers.

He reflected on the “meaningful nature of the work that will happen in these buildings and the quality of the science both coming out of the Yale School of Medicine and other innovation portals in our community, changing health outcomes around the world.”

Piscitelli said “Robert, Donna and our Traffic Department are like part of an orchestra on this.

“It starts with safety, maintaining safety given it is live traffic, (in the ) middle of a city and then moving from piece to piece,” he said.

New wind farms would dot US coastlines under Biden plan

MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Seven major offshore wind farms would be developed on the East and West coasts and in the Gulf of Mexico under a plan announced Wednesday by the Biden administration.

The projects are part of President Joe Biden’s plan to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, generating enough electricity to power more than 10 million homes.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said her department hopes to hold lease sales by 2025 off the coasts of Maine, New York and the mid-Atlantic, as well as the Carolinas, California, Oregon and the Gulf of Mexico. The projects are part of Biden’s plan to address global warming and could avoid about 78 million metric tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions, while creating up to 77,000 jobs, officials said.

“The Interior Department is laying out an ambitious road map as we advance the administration’s plans to confront climate change, create good-paying jobs and accelerate the nation’s transition to a cleaner energy future,” Haaland said. “We have big goals to achieve a clean energy economy and Interior is meeting the moment.”

In addition to offshore wind, the Interior Department is working with other federal agencies to increase renewable energy production on public lands, Haaland said, with a goal of at least 25 gigawatts of onshore renewable energy from wind and solar power by 2025.

Haaland and Amanda Lefton, director of department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said officials hope to reduce potential conflicts with fishing groups and other ocean users as much as possible. “This means we will engage early and often with all stakeholders prior to identifying any new wind energy areas,” Lefton said in a statement.

Commercial fishing businesses have said planned offshore wind projects off the East Coast would make it difficult to harvest valuable seafood species such as scallops and lobsters. Some conservation groups also fear that big turbines will kill thousands of birds

Biden has set a goal to deploy 30 gigawatts, or 30,000 megawatts, of offshore wind power in the United States by 2030. Meeting the target could mean jobs for more than 44,000 workers and for 33,000 others in related employment, the White House said.

The bureau completed its review of a construction and operations plan for the Vineyard Wind project 15 miles off the Massachusetts coast earlier this year. The agency is reviewing nine additional projects, including the South Fork wind farm near New York's Long Island and the Ocean Wind project off New Jersey.

Vineyard Wind is expected to produce about 800 megawatts of power and South Fork about 132 megawatts. Ocean Wind, the largest project, has a total capacity of 1,100 megawatts, enough energy to power 500,000 homes across New Jersey.

The administration has committed to processing the 13 other projects currently under federal review by 2025.

The ocean energy agency has said it is targeting offshore wind projects in shallow waters near Long Island and New Jersey. A recent study shows the area can support up to 25,000 development and construction jobs by 2030, the Interior Department said.

Heather Zichal, a former climate adviser to President Barack Obama who now leads the American Clean Power Association, a renewable energy group, said Biden’s goal for offshore wind was “ambitious but achievable.″ Wind power is an essential part of the goal to reach 100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035, she said.

In a related announcement, the Energy Department said it is spending $11.5 million to study risks that offshore wind development may pose to birds, bats and marine mammals, and survey changes in commercial fish and marine invertebrate populations at an offshore wind site on the East Coast.

The department will spend $2 million on visual surveys and acoustic monitoring of marine mammals and seabirds at potential wind sites on the West Coast.

“In order for Americans living in coastal areas to see the benefits of offshore wind, we must ensure that it’s done with care for the surrounding ecosystem by coexisting with fisheries and marine life – and that’s exactly what this investment will do,'' Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a news release.

Kensington Avenue reopens in Meriden with completion of bridge

Mary Ellen Godin

MERIDEN— Construction of the Kensington Avenue bridge is complete, ending the months-long road closure and detour near the Meriden Mall and MidState Medical Center. 

The delay in reopening the bridge was caused by a traffic signal light in need of replacement. Supply chain issues during the pandemic meant waiting longer than usual for the signal light, said Mayor Kevin Scarpati. 

“I had gotten several phone calls and emails about the delay,” Scarpati said. “The project was done for quite a while before it opened. The issue was the traffic signal. It has taken much longer than anticipated.”

Reopening Kensington Avenue and the intersection was critical for local and state travel, given the resurfacing work on Interstate-691 and resulting detours, Scarpati said. The signal was installed and the intersection opened last Friday. 

The Kensington Avenue bridge spans Sodom Brook and work to replace the bridge and its culverts began in early spring. The work is part of the latest $22 million phase of a citywide flood control project.  

The project’s goals are to reduce the flood plain from 225 to 95 acres, to remove about 150 properties from the flood plain and to protect an additional 50 properties from flood waters. Key aspects include property acquisition, Harbor Brook channel improvements, 12 bridge replacements and flood water detention at the Meriden Green and Falcon Field.

Much of the work has been finished, including deepening and widening much of Harbor Brook and bridge replacements on Cook, Bradley, and Columbus avenues, as well as Amtrak culverts. In progress are bridge replacements at Cooper, Cedar, and Center streets, with future bridge work slated for Hanover Towers, South Butler Street, and Broad Street, plus Mill Street bridge removal.

Cooper Street remains closed due to construction.

“Cooper Street is progressing,” said Howard Weissberg, public works director. “We have the second culvert and the project progressing on schedule. We expect the road to open up in early December.”  

A July downpour tested the work already done to control flooding in the downtown area. City officials said the flooding would have been much worse and lasted longer had there been no improvements made at the Meriden Green and the bridges and culverts. But the work is not finished and they are awaiting funding to begin the next steps, Scarpati said.

Scarpati is seeking re-election to his fourth consecutive two-year term this fall, running as an independent with the Democratic endorsement. His Republican challenger Elain Cariati said Tuesday she supported the city’s flood control initiative overall and added it was important that the road reopen to traffic around the hospital and a nursing home in the area.

“'With another piece of flood control being done, it's a great thing," Cariati said.

Windsor Locks to get new railroad station; goal is to spur development

Skyler Frazer

Local and state officials unveiled plans for a new, revamped railroad station in Windsor Locks that they hope will spur more development in the area.

Gov. Ned Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz joined Windsor Locks First Selectman Christopher Kervick on Friday to talk about a transit-oriented development project that will revitalize the railroad station on Main Street.

The mixed use development will include a new 500-foot-long boarding platform, traffic improvements, an indoor public market and retail space.

Connecticut Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti said the project will go out to bid next month with construction expected to begin in the spring. The project will last between two and two-and-a-half years, Giulietti said.

Office giant Shelbourne proposes Hartford subdivision to help 1st-time home buyers

Terry Corcoran

Downtown Hartford’s largest commercial landlord, Shelbourne Global Solutions, recently added an unusual purchase to its real estate portfolio.

The real estate giant, which controls hundreds of millions of dollars worth of downtown office space, bought an abandoned building at 25 Cornwall St., in the city’s Blue Hills neighborhood for $175,000.

With the purchase, Shelbourne is looking to help first-time Hartford home buyers, a company official said.

Shelbourne enlisted Lifecare Designs Inc., a Hartford architectural firm, to design a 12-lot subdivision of single-family homes on the 1.1 acres at 25 Cornwall St. The parcel is also bordered by Granby, Sharon and Burlington streets.

“We are looking to provide affordable housing ownership for the community,” Michael Seidenfeld, COO of Shelbourne, said in an email, calling it “a project that helps first-time buyers become property owners.”

A limited liability company affiliated with Shelbourne bought 25 Cornwall St., in July.

The purchase includes a 7,500-square-foot building with no plumbing or utilities that was last used as a house of worship.

According to an application Lifecare Designs submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission, the building would be razed to make room for the 12-lot subdivision.

Each home would have 1,300 square feet, including 900 square feet on the first floor and a 400-square-foot loft. The homes would also have a one-car garage, a driveway for a second vehicle and sit on parcels of about 4,000-square-feet.

“The subdivision of the subject property into 12 lots for residential development is consistent with the Plan of Conservation and Development and should generally be viewed favorably,” City Planner Aimee Chambers wrote in a Sept. 28 letter.

The single-story property was purchased by SGS Cornwall LLC, whose principal is Bernard Bertram, a managing member of the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Shelbourne. The seller was the Northeastern Conference Corporation of Seventh Day Adventists.

The building was constructed in 1956 by the Tikvoh Chadoshoh congregation, a group comprised mostly of German immigrants who fled Nazi persecution during World War II, and originally used as a Yeshiva and day school for between 80 and 150 students.

The City Planning and Zoning Commission held a hearing on the application Sept. 28 and continued the hearing on Oct. 12. The hearing deadline is Nov. 2.

Waterbury to pay construction consultant


WATERBURY – The Board of Aldermen on Tuesday agreed to pay a consultant to oversee construction and repair projects using an as-of-yet unspecified chunk of $74 million in federal COVID relief funds coming to the city.

City Hall has been allocated $74 million from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. City schools, separately, have been granted $141 million through the “Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.”

The Board of Education signed off last week on the hiring of KBE Building Corp. to oversee its infrastructure spending. On Tuesday, the Board of Aldermen followed suit.

While detailed spending plans aren’t expected until spring at the earliest, officials expect to spend much, perhaps most, of these federal funds on building and infrastructure upgrades.

Mayor Neil M. O’Leary pushed to hire an oversight firm. O’Leary said he wants to ensure spending satisfies federal requirements.

City Finance Director Michael LeBlanc said an audit is expected at some time.

“They will bring resources to make sure the interests of the city are protected from the beginning to the end of the process,” LeBlanc said.

KBE was among six applicants for the job.

The contract charges hourly, rather than a lump sum, with rates for KBE staff running between $88 and $200 per hour. There is no estimate of what costs might tally eventually.

The contract runs to Jan. 31, 2023, but with four one-year options to renew, that can see it extended to Jan. 31, 2027.

The KBE contract was approved in a 10-1 vote, with only Republican Vernon Matthews objecting.

In other business, Matthews was joined by fellow Republican aldermen George Noujaim and Mary Grace Cavallo in opposing a $181,948 increase to a contract with SLR International Corp.

The company designed, and is overseeing, ongoing upgrades to East Main Street between the city Green and police headquarters.

The board’s 10 Democrats supported the amendment. It is the latest of four, which has brought the contract from $543,000 two years ago to $848,548 today.

Reconstruction of East Main Street began two years ago at an anticipated total cost of $4 million. Construction costs jumped to $6.4 million as unanticipated complications drove up the duration of scope of the project, city officials say.

Contractors found pipes, utilities and even building basements in places that were not anticipated, driving up needed repairs and time, according to Waterbury Development Corp. staff.

The project was also shut down temporarily amid the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, out of fear of disrupting water service to the city’s hard-pressed hospitals.

Once the street was opened for upgrade of water mains, the city found corroded lateral lines running to buildings needed to be replaced. The city also added work, replacing a portion of the water main under North Main Street.

Noujaim asked if Milone & MacBroom should have anticipated complications in its bid, and therefore carry excess costs.

Board of Aldermen Paul K. Pernerewski Jr. countered the company made its bid based on information supplied by the city.

“The contractor bid on the job as we described it, but it turns out to be a significantly different job,” Pernerewski said. “Under what theory should the contractor have to pay for it?”

Paving and sidewalk improvements are due to be completed by Nov. 19, said Thomas Hyde, interim director of the Waterbury Development Corp. New seating, lighting, waste receptacles, signs and bus shelters will be in place by Jan. 19. Some plantings will be added in the spring, he said.