Letter: Thames Street development deserves our approval

Posted 3/8/18

We are a lucky community to have the good fortune to contemplate whether or not we want to add a project to Thames Street by having a lively discussion about the ever changing landscape of our …

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Letter: Thames Street development deserves our approval

Posted

We are a lucky community to have the good fortune to contemplate whether or not we want to add a project to Thames Street by having a lively discussion about the ever changing landscape of our downtown area. Some who are opposing this though surprise me.

I understand the Bristolians’ fear of the inevitable change that comes from a quaint town being discovered by outside forces in their generational lives here. I saw this with my own eyes growing up in the small town of Jamestown, R.I., and I have total empathy for their worries.

I am confused though by some of the anti-Thames Street project that Jim Roiter is trying to make happen, because many are business people in the community who own or lease business property in our downtown area, or residents who don’t actually live close to the proposed change.

Jim has taken the time to meet with individuals in the community to explain the project in small groups and hear their concerns. This has been enlightening, as I have seen the plans and they are really beautiful and thoughtful. 

Times change. Thames Street used to be a rough and tumble area “back in the day,” according to some of my dear friends who had the fortune to be part of its fabric from childhood.

We are talking here about a beautiful building that is no higher than Judge Roy Bean. The existing (eyesore if you ask me) parking lot will be perfectly hidden behind the building and it will open up the downtown area to the potential of apartment renters who will live and breathe, eat and shop in our town. To say it is anything other than an economic injection is to be shortsighted.

If you are on the side of open space, I can appreciate the no-building-at-all thought process, but this lot is privately owned. Mr. Roiter has as much right to build on a lot he owns as all residents who own property do.

If you’re on the side of wanting more retail space, rather than or in addition to a restaurant, we must begin to face the harsh reality of the future of retail in our little populated towns. More people shop online and fewer people shop in stores, unless they live in walking proximity or are on vacation. We need to actively come up with ways to fill our town with tenants, or empty storefronts will be the norm, as Fedex and UPS and USPS are now the frequent visitors bringing stores to our homes. Food will follow, especially when driverless cars become reality, whether we like it or not. 

What are we doing to prepare for this inevitable change? Is there a planning meeting to stay ahead of what will be coming? I have lived in Bristol for 26 years, raised my son, opened a business, bought my own property.

I get to wear two hats as I write this, a business owner and a homeowner. What do we want our landscape to look like? So far the town has done a great job ensuring that we stay Americana 101. This project is a good one, and as a community it should be supported.

As a homeowner, I support it because when I walk around town, I like seeing people. People are what keep downtowns vibrant, and the opposite is what we get when we have empty storefronts and lack of people. 

I have looked at the plans, spoken to local residents and business owners and can not see what the negative is. I hope anyone who is opposed to the project has taken the time to look at the plans and asked the questions necessary to make thoughtful decisions and comments. If it is because of its height, this is a change that we cannot overlook — this is the new normal, because flood zones have changed. This is FEMA’s choice, not Jim Roiter’s.

When I first moved to Bristol, the downtown area had the Harriet Bradford. Then it had the purchased-Harriet Bradford, which sat uncomfortably for years, an eyesore way worse, because not only was it on our beautiful parade route, but in the center of our town.

Jim Roiter took a risk and created something really nice compared to what it had been. 

Change is hard, but it is inevitable if we want to continue to have a town like we have in downtown Bristol — filled with walkers and children going to the library; people stopping to chat as they put their letters in the mailbox at the town post office; fishermen and fisherwomen going out on the cold winter days to support their own businesses; along with families going for breakfast at Hope Street Diner and lunch at Bristol House of Pizza.

The main point of difference that makes Bristol Bristol, is community. This is our core, and this is never going to change, no matter how much Thames Street changes. 

This is a viable project that has been thoughtfully prepared and presented, and it is my hope, both as a consumer of services, and a provider of services in the town I get to call my home, that we rise to the occasion and approve it. 

Alayne White

11 Constitution St., Bristol

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