Social network assists downtown rebirth
Bristol Rising in Connecticut is one of the most comprehensive small city redevelopment plans in the US.
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This past August in Bristol, Connecticut, 15,000 people attended a “pop-up piazza” — a festival on the site of a planned downtown public space. Across the street, a new café and art gallery more recently opened, followed by a pool hall. An alehouse is planned.
This spurt of energy and excitement is unusual in a Connecticut city with a once-thriving downtown now marred by vacant buildings and too many parking lots. Bristol was the victim of a devastating 1955 flood, even more damaging urban renewal, and a changing economy. But residents are gung-ho about revitalizing the core of this suburban city, population 61,000 — the home of ESPN. In October, city council approved a revitalization plan to build as many as 3,500 new housing units downtown along with substantial retail and office development.
The development, on scattered underutilized sites around the 400-acre city center, could bring an estimated 2,200 construction jobs, 2,400 permanent jobs, $103 million in annual income, and $17 million in annual city revenues.
The Bristol Rising plan focuses on eight districts and 30 sites with significant development potential. Bolstered by market studies, developer Renaissance Downtowns is starting with rental units and focusing primarily on mixed-use loft construction to attract