Downtown Bristol 'eyesore' to get a makeover
After five years of waiting, the Town of Bristol Planning Board is fed up with the "eyesore" lot at the intersection of Thames and State streets.
When developer Jim Roiter, owner of 423 Hope Street Redevelopment LLC, proposed adding an amenity deck to an already existing two-story parking deck on the property, planning board members gave him an earful.
"We don't know when you'll put up that other building and we don't want to look at that empty lot for who knows how much longer," Board Chairman Jerome Squatrito during a meeting Sept. 10.
"We get that you want to beautify your property, but first you have to beautify Bristol."
The deck would feature a 4-foot deep swimming pool, cabana space, changing rooms and a small walking space - all surrounded by a green, stockade fence.
Five years ago, Mr. Roiter was given the town's blessing for his Belvedere at Bristol project - a luxury condominium campus that called for the renovation of three existing buildings into private residences. An old hotel on Hope Street was one of them. The buildings are located on Hope and John streets, with a two-story parking deck behind the Greek revival building accessed via John Street.
Phase three of Mr. Roiter's project was the construction of a building along Thames Street at State Street, which would provide for 10 residential units located on the second floor, and three retail units on the first floor.
While Mr. Roiter managed to complete the first two phases of Belvedere at Bristol, he has yet to break ground on phase three. Instead of a luxury condominium complex gracing Thames Street, passers-by are viewing an unkept grassy lot, some of which is partitioned off with a wobbly, somewhat broken, wooden fence.
"I am sensitive to know it's an eyesore," Mr. Roiter told board members. "But there was no reference or requirement to plant or beautify that area. I shouldn't be chastised for not having kept it up."
"I want to make it clear that if it were a requirement, I did not run away from it or ignore it. The requirement wasn't there."
When the economy took a nose dive, Mr. Roiter told board members he was unable to secure financing to build phase three.
"We cannot build a spec residential property because there is no financing available," he said. "I have every bit of intention to build that phase three, but I have to do it on a sound, economic base. I have invested $20 million into this project."
"I think your residents deserve phase three to be built, then you can have your amenity deck," board member Mike Rossi shot back. "(This proposal is) absurdity. What else are you going to ask for?"
Mr. Roiter presented plans to beautify the corner lot to the board, and to the town's Historic District Commission. But the plans on paper meant little to Mr. Rossi.
"That landscaping should have been done five years ago," he said.
The board moved to approve the amenity deck with a condition that the certificate of occupancy be withheld until the corner of Thames and State streets was beautified. The deck would be finished near the start of summer, Mr. Roiter said, at which time he hoped to be back before the board with plans to build phase three.