Bristol makes out maritime center wish list


The town will soon put out for bids the design-build project for the proposed maritime center on Thames Street.

The capital projects committee met at the old armory building last Friday, to discuss the verbiage needed for a successful RFP.

"I would be good to put out there what we're looking for but also do it a la carte, so if the bids come back high, we can take things out as needed," said committee member Susan Rabideau.

In August, the town was awarded an $861,028 Boating Infrastructure Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for repurposing the Downtown Naval Reserve Armory building into a municipal maritime center. The acquisition of the grant was made possible by a 2012 feasibility study conducted by students at Roger Williams University through the university's Community Partnership Center.

The town must match the federal grant in the amount of $896,180. The total project cost, which the students prepared, is $1,757,208.

"We're still sorting through what we want the maritime center to look like," said Diane Williamson, Bristol's Community Development Director. "I think our biggest thing will be getting (the building) up to code."

The armory was built in 1896 for the Bristol Naval Reserve Torpedo company of the Rhode Island Militia. It was used in the 1920s by the Coast Artillery and the National Guard.

After the 1938 hurricane damaged the building, a new armory was built on Metacom Avenue. The Thames Street building was then bought by the town and used as a community center up until present day.

"A full valuation of the structure will be assessed by the town for the pre-bid hearing," said committee member Bill Goneau. This will help those bidding for the project to determine the scope of work needed.

On the third floor of the building, the original exterior stone was exposed among large wooden beams. Most of the space is cluttered with countless Halloween decorations, dating back to when the Parks and Recreation Department held its own haunted house.

The third floor also serves as storage for the former Bristol Mustangs football league mementoes.

The committee toured the former Coz Cafe, which is where the committee would like to relocate the boiler and utilities to. The floor would need to be reinforced, Mr. Goneau said.

Where the utilities currently are would serve as a laundry room, offering a handful of coin-operated washers and dryers for visiting boaters' use. Separate showers and bathrooms would have to be installed, for male and female use.

"I don't think we would need more than four showers, total," said Ms. Rabideau. "Newport has four each, and while they're used frequently, no one is waiting in line for a shower."

The committee suggested that a wall be constructed where the indoor basketball court starts. That space would be finished as part of the RFP, but its use would remain open for future potential business ventures, like an aquarium or fish market.

The space currently occupied as the assistant harbor master's office was designed as a lounge area in the students' plans, but committee members decided that should be moved to a more open space, near the where the kitchen currently is.

"I think this is about as secure a room as you're going to get, and it should probably stay as the office," said Mr. Goneau.

The town is expected to publicize a pre-bid hearing sometime in late January, with an official bid opening in February.









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