Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
'Streetscape' project moves into final design, won't compete with Parkade

By Kimberly Phillips
Journal Inquirer
April 16, 2007

MANCHESTER - The town's efforts to improve Broad Street will not compete with plans to locate a "big box" store in the Parkade, as engineers reviewing an expected $4.32 million road project also will consider retail plans for the area.

This week, town directors accepted $412,000 in state bond money to complete the third stage of design work on the Broad Street project that would put in new sidewalks, medians, and lighting.

Town Planning and Economic Development Director Mark Pellegrini told directors during a meeting Tuesday that the first design phase included a market study for the area, which noted that "big box" development wouldn't be interested in the Parkade because the parcel is too far from highways.

It recommended mixed use for the lot.

But obviously the market study was incorrect, Pellegrini said, as an application for a 168,634-square-foot concrete block building was filed with the Planning Department in January. The application does not disclose which retailer is looking to move into the building, but industry insiders have confirmed it will be a Wal-Mart.

"That's different, though, than the more physical design of the streetscape," Pellegrini said of the road project.

What's been dubbed the Broad Street "streetscape" project includes reducing the road's width, which now varies between 42 and 48 feet, to a constant 38 feet, installing continuous sidewalks, and putting in a grass strip that snow could be plowed onto.

Medians, dedicated left-turn lanes, brick pavers at three crosswalks, and small flowering or ornamental trees planted in the grass strips to screen overhead utilities also are included in preliminary plans.

Work would not include taking any land from nearby property owners since it falls within the town's right-of-way.

The main effort is to unify the area, Pellegrini noted, and the design contract with Vollmer Associates - which recently was bought out by StanTech - requires engineers to review the "big box" application to ensure the two projects don't compete with each other.

Pellegrini said the streetscape project would not include work on Green Manor Boulevard, the street that bisects the vacant and populated sides of the Parkade, as that's a private road owned by the group that owns the populated half of the Parkade.

Consequently, the "big box" applicant doesn't have plans for Green Manor Boulevard either, Pellegrini said; however, it might be required under zoning regulations to make some improvements.

If the town were to take ownership of the road, he noted, there would be the expense of bringing it up to town standards, so it hasn't been considered.

The third design phase for the streetscape project will take between 12 and 14 months to complete, Pellegrini said, and will take the project to the engineering stage.

Meanwhile, the next step is to secure funding for the multimillion-dollar cost.

"Finding financing may involve all of these sources, including a local share," he said of state and federal grants, and municipal bonds.

In March 2006 the State Bond Commission released $412,000 to the town for the streetscape project's design.

Town leaders, including Pellegrini and retired Town Manager Steven R. Werbner, turned to the town's legislative delegation in 2005, asking for financial assistance with the project since Manchester already is burdened with millions of dollars in bonded funds for other projects.

Initial talks included discussions about putting the overhead utility wires on Broad Street underground, but the estimated cost of about $6.7 million makes it cost-prohibitive.