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CT Construction Digest Tuesday June 11, 2024

Shelton receives $1.6M state grant for Constitution Blvd. West extension

Brian Gioiele

SHELTON — The state is again paving the way to further the Constitution Boulevard West extension. 

The State Bond Commission, at its meeting Friday, approved $1.6 million to support what will be Phase Two of the road's extension. 

The Constitution Boulevard West extension will allow for development of the nearly 70 acres known as the Mas property, which has long been landlocked. The city has already agreed to sell portions to various companies, including Bigelow Tea.  

The city received $5 million from the state in 2022 to complete Phase One of the project, which is already underway. That calls for the connection from Bridgeport Avenue to the Mas property.  

Phase Two is the roadway work through the Mas property. 

“This funding will continue to prepare Constitution Boulevard to be a driver of economic growth, keeping resident taxes low and building a strong revenue stream for further local improvements,” said state Rep. Jason Perillo. “Looking ahead, these improvements will uphold Shelton’s reputation as an attractive location for business development."

Perillo said the collaborative efforts of himself, along with Mayor Mark Lauretti, state Sen. Kevin Kelly and fellow state Rep. Ben McGorty helped lead this latest grant proposal through the Bond Commission. 

“Our Shelton delegation works closely with Mayor Lauretti to speak with a unified voice on behalf of pressing needs,” said Kelly. “These upgrades to Constitution Boulevard — a vital artery for Shelton — will improve safety and help boost the local economy." 

Construction of Phase One of the Constitution Boulevard West extension was expected to begin again in earnest this spring but remains delayed, according to Lauretti, as the city awaits permitting from the state Department of Transportation. 

Mike Kanios, the city’s public works director, has stated the goal is to have Phase One done by the fall, but added that some Phase Two work will likely be done during this time, too. Kanios has stated he expects the entire project to be completed by spring of 2025.  

While stating that costs can fluctuate, Kanios said he believed the $5 million grant would more than cover phase one of the project.  

While the city purchased the Mas property in 1996, it was not until about three years ago that Lauretti presented a vision to the Planning and Zoning Commission for developing the site into a manufacturing hub for the region.  

For more than a year, Lauretti said the city was able to reach deals to sell off sections of the property. The buyer list is headed by Bigelow Tea, which agreed to purchase 25 acres of the property for an estimated $2.1 million for its future expansion.   

The price for the land ranges from $85,000 to $125,000 per acre to various groups for use in industrial and retail capacities.   

The initial two phases of road development are also a step toward connecting Shelton Avenue to Route 8, which is expected to relieve traffic downtown and in Huntington Center. 

“I am grateful for the state's recognition of Constitution Boulevard in Shelton as a Connecticut destination and for their investment in our region,” McGorty said. “With this funding, downtown Shelton will continue to grow and support families, residents and guests to our city.” 

New Britain’s 12-Year-Long Downtown Revitalization Project Nears Completion

Robert Storace

NEW BRITAIN — Twelve years after New Britain launched an eight-phase program to beautify downtown, improve pedestrian and bike access and encourage business growth, the Public Works Department will complete the final part of the project this week. 

The Complete Streets project, the bulk of which covers about four miles of downtown, has attracted over $250 million in private investment with tens of millions more expected, according to city officials. They also noted that the city has invested over $60 million in the project and secured more than $32 million in grant funding.

Public Works Director Mark Moriarty said a major goal of the city was to “have a consistent look. The downtown really seemed kind of mishmash with no cohesion to it. We tried to make it more cohesive and attractive.”

That cohesiveness, he explained, meant using consistent treatment when planting trees, and the types of benches, lighting, and brown brick patterns used. Roads were also narrowed for easier pedestrian crossing and safer bike traffic, he said.

A primary goal of the Complete Streets program was to attract more development to the city, specifically downtown. It’s something Michael Carrier, a lifelong city resident and real estate attorney, said he’s witnessed firsthand.

Carrier, who has represented at least six developers with projects in the city in recent years, said the difference is like night and day.

“The actual [Complete Streets] project has made the entire downtown area not just connected, but more pedestrian-friendly,” Carrier told CT Examiner on Monday. “Decades ago, the downtown was stagnate; we weren’t encouraging development. But since [CT]fastrak and Complete Streets, there have been a lot of opportunities for development.”

CTfastrak, a regional bus rapid transit system, runs on 9.4 miles of dedicated busway from downtown New Britain to Newington Junction, and alongside the New Haven-Springfield rail line from Newington Junction to downtown Hartford.

Carrier said the development spurt started around 2010 and has been fast-paced ever since.

“I think things started to really take off when [developer] Avner Krohn came into town and saw the value here in New Britain as compared to properties in New York City,” Carrier said. “Once he started [investing], others followed. He has been able to turn around what used to be commercial buildings into residential buildings. The center of the downtown, with the city’s willingness to give tax modifications for development, have made them economically feasible. It works.”

Among Krohn’s most visible developments downtown are the recently completed The Brit, which offers more than 100 apartments with ground floor retail and restaurants, and The Highrailer, a mixed-use project of more than 100 apartments and 5,600 square-feet of retail and restaurant space.

City and regional officials, including Moriarty, Mayor Erin Stewart and Matt Hart, executive director of the Capitol Region Council of Governments, say Complete Streets has changed the city’s downtown in a way they couldn’t have imagined a decade ago.

Stewart said people “absolutely” look at the city in a different way.

“Our streets look cleaner; they have uniformity,” the mayor told CT Examiner. “There is so much that goes along with the overall engineering and design of Complete Streets. It changes your entire outlook on where you are. It makes drivers slow down, makes it safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and has really transformed the image of downtown New Britain.”

Hart called New Britain “a leader,” along with West Hartford, Windsor, Manchester and Glastonbury, in the central Connecticut area for improving their downtowns. 

“What New Britain has done is a tremendous accomplishment,” Hart told CT Examiner on Monday. “We’ve long supported Complete Streets for the purposes of improving safety for all users of the road, as well as for livability. When you look at how New Britain has utilized it as an economic development tool, I think they have had some very positive results over the last decade or so. They truly are a model to the larger region.”

Stewart also serves as chairperson of the Capitol Region COG’s policy board.

Torrington Co. coming down

TORRINGTON – Demolition has started on the biggest and final building on the former site of the Torrington Company.

“We’re about 50% through building one,” Glenn Carbone, operations manager for the property’s owner IRG Realty Advisors, said Monday, referring to a six-story unit on Prospect Street.

Carbone said the entire building should be down by the second or third week of July and the project should be completed by the end of August.

Demo will slow for the next couple weeks, he added, as Manafort Bros., of Plainville, works to protect the adjoining building at 689 Prospect St. before separating the two. The building houses Silgan Dispensing and will remain up. Protections include temporary roofing, dust protection, a temporary wall with industrial grade tarp and putting tarp inside some areas of the building, Carbone said.

He said Silgan has moved some shelving and product, which it is storing in boxes and containers, but the business is still operating.

These two buildings on the former site of the Torrington Company share a wall that workers from Manafort Brothers, Inc. will carefully remove to raze the larger building while keeping the smaller one intact. Sloan Brewster Republican-American

“It’s challenging,” he said. “We’re really kind of walking a razor’s edge now.”

The next challenge will be to separate buildings by taking the walls apart structurally, then building a new wall for Silgan and installing new roofing on the building.

The rest of this week contractors will erect roof protection on the Silgan building.

“Those are the last two (buildings),” Carbone said.

A tiny building that was attached to building one will also stay intact as it contains a small mitigation unit that pulls air from the soil and pushes it through pipes in the ground, purifying it with charcoal filters and a filtration system.

Owned by IRG, a holder of industrial real estate, the property is being demolished with funds from a $2 million grant from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development Office of Brownfield Remediation and Development, said Torrington’s Community Development Coordinator Richard Lopez.

The site is considered a brownfield because roofing on the buildings contains non-friable asbestos, Carbone said. To prevent toxins from getting into the air, roofs are kept wet with a large sprayer when they are being taken down. As far as plans to redevelop the site are concerned, Carbone said IRG does not plan to build any buildings on its own but will instead wait to match specifications of interested occupants.

“We’re just going to entertain some offers,” he said. “As the site gets cleaner and cleaner we’re getting a little more interest.”

IRG is one of the biggest holders of industrial real estate in the country, Carbone said. The company redevelops old mills, transforming them into useful properties. In Ohio, it has put movie theaters and malls where dilapidated buildings once stood.

When asked how the project was affecting work at Silgan, a manager for the company said he was not allowed to talk to media.