NEW BRITAIN - What was once the former site of Mitchâ€™s Place, still remains a vacant space waiting to be reimagined.
Community Mental Health Affiliates bought the building in December for $549,000 with the goal of housing, under one roof, several outpatient programs and administrative offices, but the project is now not expected to be get underway until next year.
Some 125 to 150 employees are expected to staff the medical building, including physicians, nurses, social workers and administrators.
CMHA operates clinical and family services and residential, outpatient and intensive programs at nearly a dozen sites throughout the state Connecticut.
CMHA officials plan to form a committee to offer advice and suggestions on the build-out of 227 Main St.
The president and CEO of CMHA, Raymond Gorman, said he is looking for representatives from the city, local merchants and city residents to be part of the committee.
â€śWe really want this to be embraced by the downtown community, we think we have a lot to offer downtown,â€ť Gorman said.
The expectation is that the two-story building will have two or three retail shops on its lower level and administrative offices and additional meeting space on the upper level.
Gorman said possibilities for the retail space include a bike shop, pharmacy, a packing and shipping store and a cellphone outlet. Whichever they turn out to be, he wants them to be something that will help revitalize downtown and draw more foot traffic to the area.
The president of the New Britain Chamber of Commerce, Tim Stewart, said heâ€™s looking forward to CMHAâ€™s move.
â€śItâ€™s great having someone coming into that space. Itâ€™ll bring an influx of 100 plus people each day, itâ€™s great for commerce. (CMHA) is welcomed downtown,â€ť he said.
Stewart mentioned that some area business owners expressed concern over CMHAâ€™s move because of the sort of clientele it might bring downtown, but he assures that it will not be a problem.
â€śTheyâ€™re not bringing all other facilities (to Main Street). It will largely be like their headquarters on John Downey Drive,â€ť he said.
CMHA began consolidation in the spring by moving services at its office building on 125 Whiting St. to its office on 55 Winthrop St. Gorman said CMHA is still in the process of relocating services from the Winthrop Street office to its John Downey Drive site.
â€ś227 Main Street will be a game-changer,â€ť said Gorman. â€śWeâ€™ll be moving out of leasing to actually owning.â€ť
The price tag for the renovation of 227 Main St. is expected to be $6 million to 8 million. The renovations are expected to take 18 to 36 months, Gorman said.
Construction was expected to begin sometime this year, but the communications manager at CMHA, Amy Ogle, now says it will start in January with a completion date sometime in 2019.
Since the state still does not have a finalized budget, CMHA is calculating how much money it will need to raise and or borrow to bring the project to fruition without immediate help from the state.
â€śWe know we wonâ€™t get money from the state. We need to reduce costs,â€ť Gorman said.
By consolidating its properties at one central location, Gorman said CMHA will be able to save on reoccurring expenses such as snow removal, maintenance and parking.
Gorman said the money saved can be put to better use by investing in clients and staff.
Gorman said some organizations opposed their move to Main Street, but he is hoping to work with them so it can be everything people want the space to be. He said he hopes CMHA can be a significant player in revitalizing downtown New Britain, and wants to be embraced by the downtown community.
â€śWe think we have a lot to offer downtown,â€ť Gorman said.
For the last few months, CMHA has worked with Melissa Kalinsky of the Artistsâ€™ Co-Op to secure artists to create paintings, photographs, graphic design and murals for the entrance facing Main Street.
Gorman said CMHA will continue to use artwork in the windows, having already planned something for Halloween and Christmas.
CMHA is also planning a $3 million project for 26 Russell St. Gorman said, since it also owns the neighboring property at 16 Russell St., the plan is to demolish both buildings and rebuild the social rehabilitation and vocational program.
Angie DeRosa can be reached at 860-801-5063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.