Push continues for boulevard plan in Berlin

Published on Sunday, 18 June 2017 22:29
Written by Charles Paullin

Staff Writer

BERLIN - The town’s Economic Development Department on Tuesday will seek the Town Council’s reaffirmation that construction of a boulevard providing alternative access to the train station area will be included in a request for qualifications on projects related to potential development of the area.

The reaffirmation request comes after Economic Development Director Chris Edge and CivicMoxie, urban planning consultants hired by the Economic Development Commission to conduct a Transient Oriented Development study on the area surrounding the train station, presented their findings at a May 2 meeting.

The findings, presented after three public hearings to gather feedback from residents on what they would like to see in potential development, recommended mixed residential, retail, restaurant and open space for development of parcels 889, 903 and 913 Farmington Ave., which surround the train station.

Development of a restaurant or the like that pays homage to the old train station building, which was lost in a fire and won’t be rebuilt by Amtrak that owns it, were included in the recommendations.

At a May 16 meeting, Edge initially requested an RFQ committee to seek ideas for potential development, based on the recommendations from the TOD study, which included the construction of a boulevard. The council was unsure of the necessity and cost effectiveness of constructing the boulevard, but approved the RFQ request as way to get feedback from potential developers on what they think, as they could be the ones building it, before going even further with the project. The town received a grant to construct a boulevard entrance through the 889 Farmington Ave. parcel.

“We think a boulevard would create greater access to the station and make the area around the station a destination for individuals. This would help any development in that area,” said Edge on Friday.

There is only one access to the train station area, via Depot Road, just east of the Amtrak underpass.

“We can only speculate so much. The private (building) sector would have a better idea,” he added, on how feasible the boulevard would be.

Democratic councilors were also unsure whether to go forward with the process at the May 2 meeting, including or not including the boulevard construction, as development of the area includes parcels 903 and 913 Farmington Ave.. Those parcels were the site for potential development of a $16 million police station before it was voted down by the council in 2016, 4-2, and a $21 million version of the project was voted down at referendum in 2014, 3,445 to 2,118.

The current station, original to the town hall complex, was built in 1974, lacks storage space for records and equipment, and needs private interview rooms, police officials have said.

The RFQs for development would be non-binding, Mayor Mark Kaczynski explained on May 16.

Tuesday’s meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers of Town Hall at 240 Kensington Road.

The council will also discuss other economic development projects and activities in town; debt, capital and fund balance policies; and entering into a Right of First Refusal for the property owned by Esther Woodruff, behind the Worthington Meeting House.

Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or cpaullin@centralctcommunications.com.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Berlin, General News on Sunday, 18 June 2017 22:29. Updated: Sunday, 18 June 2017 22:31.