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CT Construction Digest Tuesday July 5, 2022

Manafort Leads Way On $48M I-691 Project in Connecticut


The rehabilitation of I-691 in the Meriden, Conn., area, which began in September 2021, is continuing with resurfacing, bridge upgrades and drainage and guiderail replacement.

Manafort Brothers of Plainville, Conn., is the lead contractor for a project with a budget of $48,865,177 that is planned for completion in August 2023. The project is entirely state funded, according to Josh Morgan, Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) spokesperson.

According to CTDOT, the project will be completed in four stages. In 2021, work was completed on the eastbound portion of the highway (Stage 1 and 2) with work this year focusing on completion of the eastbound and westbound sections (Stages 3 and 4).

"All stages have had the existing roadway overlay removed," CTDOT reported. "Concrete repairs have been completed on the eastbound section and are under way on the westbound section. The concrete patches currently visible are areas the contractor has removed and replaced the failing concrete substructure. Once the sub-slab concrete repair and drainage work are completed, the contractor will pave the roadway."

Currently, crews are repairing pipes, installing light pole bases on the westbound section and conducting tree clearing on the eastbound section. Next, they will trench and backfill the westbound section and install conduit, according to CTDOT.

Justin Gill, Manafort's program manager, said the company has completed 28,000 linear ft. of drainage pipe cleaning, 7 mi. of pavement coring, 5.5 mi. of milling to remove existing hot wax asphalt and expose the existing core pavement, bridge deck rehabilitation on four of 15 structures, parapet modifications on six of 15 bridges, 8,000 linear ft. of haunch removal and 3,000 linear ft. of drainage pipe installation.

Crews currently are working on concrete pavement repairs, bridge deck rehabilitation, trenching and backfilling for illumination, bridge end block reconstruction and large diameter drainage pipe reconstruction, he added.

When asked if there are any problems with the job, Gill said, "One of the challenges has been the quantity of concrete pavement repairs was estimated in the contract and in the field, we have experienced a significant increase in concrete repairs necessary to rehabilitate the Portland Cement concrete basis. To mitigate the impact on the schedule we have increased resources by about 30 percent."

Construction equipment Manafort Brothers is using on the job includes Caterpillar M322D excavators, ProAll Mobile concrete mixers, Freightliner Impact Attenuation trucks and triaxles, a Caterpillar AP1000 asphalt paver, a Caterpillar 64 double-drum roller, a Bomag 284 double-drum roller, a Wirtgen 220 milling machine and EZ Drill Multi-Gang drills.

Subcontractors on the project include Tilcon Connecticut, New Britain, Conn.; The Quaker Corp., Plantsville, Conn.; Santoro Inc., Newington, Conn.; Safety Marking Inc., Bridgeport, Conn.; and ETC Electrical, Southbury, Conn.

"The purpose of the project is to improve travel conditions and increase safety for all users along I-691 from Meriden to Southington," CTDOT reported. "The need for the project includes addressing the poor condition and continued degradation of the roadway, making critical repairs to the bridge infrastructure and completing safety enhancements including improved signage and new guardrails."

Work will continue into the fall of 2022, but since much of the work is weather and temperature related most of the remaining work will be placed on hold this winter and resume in spring 2023. CEG

focus on future of shuttered Bridgeport coal plant

Brian Lockhart

BRIDGEPORT — Even as the city seeks to promote its harborfront as an entertainment district with events like live music and luxury boat shows, visitors cannot miss a blemish from its gritty industrial past.

The shuttered coal plant in the South End, recognized by it’s red-and-white striped smoke stack, ceased operations a year ago but still looms over the landscape that has in recent years been upgraded with a new marina, seafood restaurant and an amphitheater drawing big name performers.

And while it will be years before the prime piece of real estate will be similarly transformed, there was a significant development recently in that effort. U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., announced that the local regional planning organization — the Connecticut Metropolitan Council of Governments — was awarded $300,000 in federal funds to help plan for the site’s future.

And that, plus an additional $100,000 MetroCOG received as part of the plant closure agreement between the city and owner PSEG, should fully fund that project.

“We believe this will be enough money to have a comprehensive study of the (environmental) abatement/remediation needs and market analysis to provide development alternatives,” Matthew Fulda, the regional group’s executive director, said in an interview.

The coal-fired facility was closed as part of a deal PSEG brokered with former Mayor Bill Finch’s administration and concluded under current Mayor Joe Ganim. In exchange, city officials agreed to support PSEG’s construction of a gas-fired power plant next door which went online in 2019.

In spring 2021 PSEG subdivided that 60-acre property with the intention of putting each plant on the market. And this past February the company announced that a deal to sell the gas-fired plant to subsidiaries of ArcLight Energy Partners Fund VII had closed.

PSEG this week had little to say about the future of the coal facility, which has yet to be offered for sale, other than it “is investigating the best and most economic future use of the site.

“We want the site to be an asset to the Bridgeport community and look forward to working with the city, the Connecticut Metropolitan Council of Governments, the South End Neighborhood Revitalization Zone (a community organization) and other stakeholders during this process,” concluded PSEG’s statement to Hearst Connecticut Media.

“It’s obviously hugely valuable land and really important,” Himes said, noting the proximity not only to attractions along the harbor but to Interstate 95. “That could be some of the most valuable land in Bridgeport.”

He added, “I will take a real interest in this. We need to make sure, ultimately, whether it’s done through the city or private developers, that it ends up being one of the high-traffic crown jewels of the city.”

Fulda called the property “a significant development opportunity within the city.”

“It’s a prime location given its direct access to the water and downtown and transportation nodes,” he said. “We’re very excited to get the ($300,000) award.”

Fulda said MetroCOG will now move ahead, through a selection committee that will likely include representatives from the city, PSEG and others, with soliciting consultants for the environmental clean-up and reuse study.

$6 million redevelopment of old Middletown skating rink could be done by 2023

Erin Kayata

MIDDLETOWN — A highly anticipated private-public partnership at 545-47 Main St. that will bring residential units and business space to Middletown could be complete as soon as next summer.

Developer and Middletown native Jerome “JR” Hargreaves said construction on the project, approved late last year, will hopefully begin in July and be completed in 12 months. However, the start date depends on building material availability, something that already pushed back the timeline on the project he hoped to start last year.

“Hopefully, next summer, we have a beautiful space for not only Middletown, but the state to enjoy,” he said. “We’ll have some cool small businesses involved.”

Hargreaves said he initially hoped to kick off the project sooner. Delays were in part due needing time to seek grant sources for the work needed on the former professional building/roller skating rink, as well as some structural issues he uncovered in the building.

On top of that, inflation and fluctuating material prices slowed the process as well as increased the cost. Originally estimated to cost $4.1 million, Hargreaves said the project will now cost closer to $6 million to do all the work required, which will include restoring the building’s exterior and making it more energy efficient.

“What’s great about this project is, it’s a public-private partnership,” he said. “The state and city have been really supportive ... That’s helped us with inflation, materials ... it’s given us time to lock in on what we want to do ...

“I feel good about the overall project and everything we’ve talked about,” Hargreaves added. “There’s still an opportunity to do everything we want to do.”

But, in the time it’s taken to get materials, Hargreaves said he was able to tweak and improve the design. That allowed him to reconfigure the design and add an eighth unit to the residential portion on the second floor, an addition to the original plan of seven income-restricted units.

Tenants will enjoy residential amenities, including a rooftop deck, fitness room, yoga studio, and designated space for remote work and learning.

“Us slowing down and spending more time on the design helped us,” he said. “If we rushed, I think we’d have seven units right now.”

The project will also have 12,000 square feet of lower-level program and office space for “disadvantaged entrepreneurs.” Hargreaves said he envisions having digital media area for the lower level of the front building, and is considering having either short-term or permanent business spaces in the back.

While he said it’s too early to say what businesses will be there, he’s already identified a few entrepreneurs who may want to join the space, including a tea house operating elsewhere. He also envisions community partners using the space for programming.

“We’re working through our design,” he said. “Obviously, everyone has their dream plan, and then you have to kind of come down to reality and see what’s doable. We feel good about the potential partnerships, but I don’t want to say anything right now.”

Bobbye Peterson, acting director of Economic and Community Development, said ideas include tables for businesses outside the building, with retail and food vendors inside. There’s also been discussion about having wellness practitioners in the front portion of the building.

Part of Hargreaves’ plan also included a nonprofit organization occupying the part of the space. He said a family foundation led by he and his wife, Faraneh Carnegie-Hargreaves, will use a portion of the facility.

Carhar Philanthropies will offer wellness and educational programming run by Hargreaves’ wife, a chiropractor and acupuncturist. Meanwhile, he’ll run a sports, business and education component.

Peterson said the public-private partnership is funded in part by state and federal dollars, including ARPA funds and Urban Act money, which require lots of reporting and planning to use. She said the city is working closely with Jerome Carnegie-Hargreaves to help move the project along.

“It’s an exciting project for Middletown,” she said. “We’re all excited about the vision JR laid out. It’s going to be a real wonderful addition to that neighborhood and block.

“He’s done an excellent job leveraging funding streams ...” Peterson explained. “JR’s vision for the project is really inclusive of the community ... Every factor he plans to include is with an eye to the community.”

How should Norwalk redesign the Yankee Doodle parking garage?

Abigail Brone

NORWALK — The city is seeking the public’s input on renovation designs for the Yankee Doodle Garage.

The city held a public event this week at the parking garage in the Wall Street neighborhood for community members to view proposed paint colors and remodeling of the structure and to discuss what they want to see done with the area.

Nearly two dozen people attended the event with different stations showcasing design options, including a virtual reality headset allowing attendees to visualize the potential garage designs, Norwalk Director of Transportation, Mobility and Parking Jim Travers said.

“We got some good direction from folks that were there to put in place. We are going through some of the notes tonight,” Travers said Wednesday morning. “We heard really the desire to have it look better and the lower level brighter. We are looking at putting a canopy over the entrance and exits and looking at how we increase lighting there. We heard a lot about lighting.”

Two main designs put forward for public opinion both include trimming the concrete ribbing away from the first floor of the garage, brightening and opening the space. The two designs are painting the garage exterior various shades of blue, or painting the building in rainbow colors, Travers said.

With both designs, the garage will receive a power washing before the work begins and removal of the first-floor ribbing, Travers said. There is no cost difference between the two designs, he said.

Also included in the two designs are plans to paint the interior of each level a different color, making it easier for people to remember where they parked, Travers said. The project is expected to cost between $1.2 million and $1.3 million, he said.

“This was most cost-effective. the other ones we were hiding the ribs,” Travers said. “We’re avoiding long-term costs of maintenance for the ribbing and taking advantage of what’s here instead of hiding.”

As the garage, which was constructed in 1975, is somewhat underutilized, closing various parts at a time for construction does not pose a major concern to operations, Travers said.

Having gathered input on potential garage improvements, the city intends to release an online survey next week to finalize design plans, Travers said.

The survey will remain open for several weeks, depending on the rate of public response, and alongside the two paint options include different landscaping and lighting designs to choose, Travers said.

“I think our desire is that we are running through the design process near the end of this year, and we would go out to bid, picking a contractor to start in the spring,” Travers said. “Hopefully, we’ll start construction in the spring and finish in the fall of next year. That puts us in line to what we are seeing for getting the intersection of Belden and Mott done.”

The garage design plans are part of a larger project, presented to the public in mid-June, reinvigorating the Wall Street area, including reconstructing the intersection outside the library and Wall Street Theater, widening the area’s sidewalks and improving the neighborhood’s appearance.

The Yankee Doodle and Wall Street events were designed to involve the public in the decision-making process, city spokesperson Michelle Woods Matthews said.

“The Wall Street kick-off goal was to be interactive with the community, transparent and really engage with them right there and then,” Woods Matthews said. “So, we had the same goals for this event.”

Flyers for the public survey will be posted around the Wall Street area in the coming weeks, along with online outreach linking to the survey.

Centerpiece of ongoing transformation of downtown of New Britain unveiled during groundbreaking

Erica Drzewiecki

NEW BRITAIN – The centerpiece of ongoing transformation downtown was unveiled at a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday.

New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart and city officials joined Jasko Development and the construction team at the future site of “The Highrailer” - a modern, 114-unit apartment building going up at 283 Main St.

“People are going to look at downtown New Britain differently,” Stewart said. “This corner is the piece that will make downtown. It’s going to be monumental and transformative.”

Jasko CEO Avner Krohn was the recipient of many congratulations, as he is also building “The Brit” right next door at the corner of Main and Bank Streets, a 100-unit apartment building. Both developments together will feature over 6,000 sq. ft. of retail space on the first floor.

Krohn has worked closely with Stewart and her father, former Mayor Tim Stewart, on many projects throughout the city for well over a decade.

“He’s got a vision and his vision matches ours and the community of New Britain,” City Economic Development Director Jack Benjamin said of the developer. “Adding more variety to the city’s housing stock drives affordability across the spectrum,” he added.

Several business owners in the downtown district joined officials at the event, excited about the future of their neighborhood.

“I would definitely love to get an apartment here,” said Antonio Gonzalez, owner of The Canna Bio Group at 77 W. Main St. “I was born and raised here in New Britain and my business is right down the street so this would be very convenient.”

Caesar Gahmi, whose family owns Jimmy’s Smoke Shop and the newly-opened Exotic Snacks, will also be looking to move into the six-story building.

“What the Mayor is doing for New Britain is good,” Gahmi said. “It’s cleaning up the streets and improving downtown little by little.”

The Brit and The Highrailer are both expected to be completed in 2023.

Krohn chose the name “Highrailer” to honor the block’s history. Amato’s Toy & Hobby closed earlier this year after 60 years and demolition on the building is already complete. The toy store a Mecca for model train hobbyists.

“A highrailer is a professional train hobbyist,” Krohn explained. “This is to pay homage to the Amato family. CTfastrak is right next door and back in the day there was also a train stop right at this corner. The idea is to have a young, fresh vibe here while bringing in some of the historical elements. We want this to be a full-time place to work, live and play.”