BRISTOL – Renaissance downtown’s marketing arm took a very defensive move on Facebook this week. The page is mostly used as a public relations tool with positive comments. That wasn’t the case in a recent post. The Council recently gave the developer more time to figure thing out. Here is the post in its entirety.
“We keep hearing about a “scaling back of the downtown plans” and that all Renaissance wants to build now is a 100+ unit apartment building as if there is nothing else they want to build. This is not factual, nor the case, at all.
The downtown plan is still intact as you remember it – mix-use, retail, piazza, residential, the whole nine. However, the potential order in which the buildings are to be built will likely need to change, due to certain economic realities. Investors want to see a “market prover” that shows Bristol is ready to support the product, and they feel more confident with the mostly residential building going up first. Even with that, there has been talk of needing assistance to jumpstart that building. We are confident from the response we have heard, that this first building will demonstrate success, and when that happens it will open up conventional financing for subsequent buildings that investors are skeptical on, but we’re boldly confident exists. We have a chance to prove something. After Barley Vine was rejected for their initial loan because of skepticism over whether the product would be supported, they came back and proved it successful.
So while this scenario is a potential economic reality we face, it does NOT mean the plan is being scaled down as has been misreported and misinterpreted.
And while the building is mostly residential, with some small retail, this is a brand spanking new apartment building the likes Bristol has never seen with amenities like in-apartment washer/driers, a fitness center, community & events room, and amenities that will appeal to a class of person that WILL still get to experience the great places right within walking distance like Barley Vine, Firefly Hollow Brewing, Artist Tree Tea House, 457 Mason Jar, Parkside Cafe, Milestone Restaurant, Razzleberries, Crystals Diner, Vivaldi’s, a Grocery Store, Bracket and Memorial Blvd and essentials like a bank, dry cleaner, and salon right across the street, and more.
Also, lost in this discussion is that there are other investors waiting in the wings to potentially take up and occupy vacant space on Main St in anticipation of people moving into new apartments. This would be new retail that pops up because of a new critical mass of folks living downtown (residential building), that currently doesn’t exist. On top of that there are game plans in motion to recruit retailers into these spaces as well, specifically in response to the prospects of the mostly residential building going up first. We cannot discount and devalue the great things around the area that exist now with just an empty parking lot as Depot Square, and so much more will naturally be invested into the surrounding area if we can stimulate those desolate Depot Square grounds. This is the very nature of urban economic development.
Here’s another point we’ve seen of concern in building residential first. Our response is that one of the leading urban retail economic development experts in this country, Kennedy Smith, whom Renaissance has worked with, and her colleagues have a saying. “Retail ALWAYS follows rooftops (housing, apartments, etc), and NOT the other way around.” Meaning retailers set up where there is a critical mass of people because that is opportunity to them. Remember when we tried to lead retail first with the Mall without a critical mass?
And when the first building is developed, and it fills up, we can prove Bristol is ready for a boom, and everything else in the plan can blossom into fruition from there. We are confident this will happen, and when it does downtown Bristol will get on the track to Rising like never before! Your passion and energy will continue to inspire this transformation and we look forward to seeing things move forward in a fashion that works for all!”