CT Construction Digest Wednesday July 15, 2020
Emily M. Olson
WINSTED — The Planning & Zoning Commission Monday granted a special permit to the town and school district for renovation and new construction at the now-closed Mary P. Hinsdale Elementary School, including restoration of the natural flow of a brook that flows through a culvert under a portion of the building.
The commission had no discussion on the application, and passed the motion unanimously, then voted to hold a public hearing on the plan Aug. 24.
The permit approval is another step in a long process for the Hinsdale School project.
Residents approved the $17.43 million school renovation plan in a referendum in September 2019. Officials focused on the Hinsdale School instead of renovating Batcheller Elementary School, with Superintendent of Schools Melony Brady-Shanley noting last year that Hinsdale is more structurally sound and in a preferable location.
The plan includes adding a new play area and 7,700 square feet of new classroom space; removing an original portion of the building to eliminate the culvert that runs under the school; and replacing sidewalks, paving, curbing, ceilings and floors that are in poor condition.
The Hinsdale School was closed in 2016, after Winchester public school district was put in the hands of a state-appointed receiver, Robert Travaglini, in 2015, appointed by state Department of Education Commissioner Diana Wentzell. The receiver took over duties handled by the Winchester Board of Education and then-Superintendent Anne Watson, as well as a variety of other administrative responsibilities and working with staff and educators.
Travaglini decided to close Hinsdale after the 2016-17 school year. He said at the time that the decision would save the district approximately $340,000 per year, and cited concerns about health effects stemming from the brook that runs under the building. A plan to divert that waterway away from the school was put in place as part of the renovation plan.
That same year, Travaglini resigned from the post for health reasons. Former Shelton Superintendent of Schools Freeman Burr replaced him to oversee day-to-day activities in the district in October of that year.
Winchester schools exited the receivership in 2017. Not long after that, the school board decided to conduct its own research on the shuttered Hinsdale School, including finding cost estimates for renovations and improvements; conducting a public survey; and holding community forums. Members said at the time that they felt the decision to close the circa-1950 building was done without adequate research. A school building committee also was appointed.
The school board and building committee are awaiting word from the state on when funding will be awarded for the project. In October 2019, Brady-Shanley received a letter from the state confirming the project to renovate the Hinsdale School will be placed on the priority school list. The letter was from the Department of Administrative Services, which said the list will be sent to the governor’s office by mid-December.
“Having (the state) visit the Hinsdale School, support our building plan, and commit to putting our renovation on the state’s priority list for the governor’s review and approval is great news for this much needed project,” building committee member Tony Sandonato said in a statement. “Our committee hopes ... (the state’s) support will help expedite our building timeline.”
Such decisions have been on hold since the pandemic closed the state in March.
The Gilbert School
The school plan was complicated in 2019 when the Gilbert School Corp., the semi-private high school that provides education to Winsted students in grades 9-12, took action against Winchester Public Schools in a request involving about five acres behind the Hinsdale School where the playground and athletic fields are located.
Two parcels were deeded to the town by the Gilbert Corp. in 1944 and 1955. The deed requires the town to use the property “for school purposes.” Because the land no longer was being used properly, Gilbert officials said, it should revert back to them.
At that time, Gilbert School Corp. asked the town to “provide a quit claim deed (to Gilbert) in exchange for a lease.” The lease, according to the letter, would cost the town $1 a year for use of the property for up to 35 years.
In response, Winchester town attorney Kevin Nelligan said “the two deeds do not require the town to transfer the property back to Gilbert.”
If Gilbert were to take back the land, officials said at the time, the entire site plan for the Hinsdale renovation would have to be redesigned.
The Gilbert School Corp. filed a civil suit in April 2019. Brady-Shanley said Tuesday that she could not comment on the suit because of ongoing litigation.
More than 2 miles of major road in Stratford to be resurfaced
STRATFORD — More than two miles of Main Street (Route 113) will be resurfaced starting next week, according to the state Department of Transportation.
The work — planned between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sundays through Fridays — is scheduled between July 19 and Aug. 14.
The project consists of milling and resurfacing 2.29 miles of Route 113.
Motorists can expect lane closures on Route 113 from just north of the driveway to Sikorsky Memorial Airport to Route 1 (Barnum Avenue).
Traffic control personnel and signing patterns will be utilized to guide motorists through the work zone.
The milling segment of the project is anticipated to be performed July 19 through 29.
The resurfacing segment of the project is anticipated to be performed Aug. 2 through 14.
Traffic volume on Route 113 ranges from a high of 15,800 vehicles a day near Stratford Town Hall to around 9,000 vehicles a day near the airport, according to DOT’s traffic monitoring data.
According to the State Highway Log, Route 113 was created in 1932, originally running from Stratford Point to downtown Stratford and then to Shelton along the current route of Route 108.
In about 1940, it was extended west along the current route into Bridgeport. In 1944, it was rerouted to the north of Sikorsky airport (along Access Road), with the southerly alignment becoming Route 113A, but was returned to its current route in 1947 (Route 113A was deleted).
In 1952, it was extended north to the Shelton town center via the Huntington Turnpike. In 1963, Route 108 was extended south along Nichols Avenue and Route 113 was rerouted east to its current route, over a former section of Route 110.
This northernmost portion of current Route 113 was the original southern end of Route 8 prior to the construction of the expressway.
Manafort Brothers Inc. established as one of biggest contractors in New England over course of 100-year history
Over the course of its 100-year history, Manafort Brothers Inc. has established itself as one of the biggest contractors in New England.
“When my grandfather started the business in 1919, it was called New Britain House Wrecking Company,” Jon Manafort said of his grandfather, James Manafort.
Originally, the family-owned company focused on taking buildings apart and selling the materials. In the 1940s, brothers Anthony, Frank, John and Paul Manafort Sr. took over the company and started using more mechanical tools and equipment like cranes.
The brothers officially changed the name of the company to Manafort Brothers in 1946. Another two decades passed until the third generation of the family took over - Jim Sr., Frank Jr. and Jon Manafort.
Under the leadership of these three in the 1960s, Manafort Brothers continued to expand its focus to construction work including concrete, civil and utility, demolition, abatement and remediation, highway and bridge, nuclear decommissioning, rail and mass transit.
While the company is now just over the border from New Britain in Plainville, it remains involved in the city and the family’s legacy of good work in the area continues.
When COVID-19 hit, the company took extensive measures to keep their employees working, and safe. All of their employees must follow the CDC guidelines for personal hygiene, and their protocols are updated weekly. Currently, only Manafort employees are allowed in their offices and at their sites. While employees are in the office, they practice social distancing and are conducting business over the phone and through emails.
For more information on Manafort Brothers, go to www.manafort.com or call the corporate office at 860-229-4853.
DOT repairing bridge carrying Vauxhall Street Extension over I-95 in New London, Waterford
State Department of Transportation crews started on Monday a maintenance project that entails steel repairs and spot painting of the bridge carrying Vauxhall Street Extension over Interstate 95.
The work will take place through Aug. 21, according to DOT.
Work hours are 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., DOT said. Motorists can expect left lane closures on I-95 north and south in New London. In Waterford, work will take place I-95 south between exits 84 and 82 and north between Exit 82 and South Frontage Road.
“Motorists should be aware that modifications or extensions to this schedule may become necessary due to weather delays or other unforeseen conditions,” DOT said. “Motorists are advised to maintain a safe speed when driving in this vicinity.”
Simsbury retirement community readies $68M expansion
McLean, a nonprofit 125-acre continuing care retirement community in Simsbury, is readying a $68-million expansion that would see its portfolio of independent living units grow by nearly half.
With the help of a pending tax-exempt bond issue by the quasi-public Connecticut Health and Educational Facilities Authority, McLean Affiliates plans to build 55 new independent living units, as well as a gym, art studio and other amenities in a new 124,000-square-foot building with underground parking on its 75 Great Pond Road campus, according to a preliminary offering memorandum released July 10.
McLean would also build a new bistro and dining room with a patio overlooking the adjacent Hop Meadow Country Club, an exclusive members-only golf course owned by a related trust called the McLean Fund.
The retirement community currently has 88 independent living units -- a mix of apartments, villas and cottages. When construction is complete in 2022, that number would increase by 43, to a total of 131 independent living units, as McLean aso intends to eliminate some of the existing cottage units, bond documents say.
The 55 units to be constructed include mostly one-and two-bedroom units with an average size of 1,242 square feet. Monthly fees would average $4,184, which would come on top of a one-time, potentially refundable entrance fee averaging nearly $278,000, according to the memorandum.
McLean also has future plans for a second expansion, which would contain 50 or more new independent living units. Those plans are not part of the pending bond issue, however, and McLean said it doesn’t yet have a timetable for that phase.
Bullish on CT, Georgia developer eyes vacant Berlin Turnpike site for $16M townhome complex
After building single-family homes for a decade in the south, Atlanta developer Harold Foley considered several major Northeast markets to accelerate his business.
He ended up choosing Connecticut.
“This goes back to 2012 when I also looked at New York City, Philadelphia, Boston,” Foley said. “I was attracted to the Northeast in general.”
In recent years, Foley has cut the ribbon on two, 40-unit multifamily housing developments in Waterbury with a combined $26.2 million price tag.
Foley said his group is in the early innings of filing a proposal with the town to redevelop the vacant 11.4-acre property at 2180-2176 Berlin Turnpike.
He plans to begin the approval process sometime this summer, seeking backing from the planning and zoning and inland wetlands commissions. Peter Gillespie, Wethersfield’s director of planning and economic development, said the zoning commission recently reviewed Foley’s initial plans and is expecting an application to be submitted soon.
Town records show Foley has control of the site under a contract with the current owner, Turgeon Priscilla L/U, and plans to purchase the L-shaped property sometime in 2021. The site has an appraised value of $101,400, according to the town assessor’s office.
According to conceptual plans, Foley is eyeing a similarly sized development with a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units ranging from 900 square feet up to 1,300 square feet.
The townhomes would be nearly evenly spread between five separate, brick-exterior buildings accompanied by 5,000 square feet of commercial and 1,500 square feet of community space with fitness, office and computer areas. It’s not yet clear which type of retail or office tenants would be sought for the larger commercial space with visibility to the well-traveled Berlin Turnpike.
Preliminary blueprints could change depending on architecture and town input, said Foley, who is planning to invest approximately $16 million to acquire the land, prep the site and construct the living units. The COVID-19 pandemic could also impact plans and an undetermined construction timeline.
Four miles south in Berlin, Executive Auto Group CEO John Orsini is building a 72-unit apartment community and adjoining 18,000-square-foot mixed-use building at 196 Berlin Turnpike.
The Wethersfield development will be similar to some of the other 25 or so properties Foley said he has rehabilitated or built in Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Connecticut.
HF3 has informed town officials it has financial backers that will support the 50-unit development. It may also seek state historic tax credits to spur the project.