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Town Awarded $1.3 Million for Additional Streetscape Work in Collinsville

June 8, 2016 Business, Community, Government No Comments
A portion of Phase 1 Collinsville Streetscape. Photo by John Fitts

A portion of Phase 1 Collinsville Streetscape.
Photo by John Fitts

By John Fitts 

The town learned Wednesday that it had received a $1.3 million state grant to continue Collinsville streetscape improvements.

“I was very pleased to learn that Canton was awarded this grant,” said first selectwoman Leslee Hill. “We have heard from merchants and residents alike who are eager to see the completion of the second phase of this project. I am grateful to our town planner, Neil Pade, and his staff, who have worked tirelessly on this plan.”

Before the town can formally accept the grant, it does need approval from the boards of Selectmen and finance and electors at town meeting. The funds could not be diverted to other projects.

Last summer, the town completed the first phase of the streetscape project, which included lighting, a complete revamping of the ‘Town Hall’ parking lot, plantings, benches, crosswalk and sidewalk improvements, street paving and more.

In all, that project was $500,000, $387,000 of which came from a Connecticut Main Street Investment Fund Grant and the balance from Local Capital Improvement Program and town pavement management funds.

As part of that process, Kent and Frost Architecture created a master plan for improvements throughout downtown.

Pade feels that the master plan, the town’s willingness to invest some of its own funds and the positive outcomes of the first phase put the town in a great position to receive the funds.

“That is something that put us in a positive situation to receive this award,” Pade said.

“It’s a great opportunity for the town,” said Chief Administrative Officer Robert Skinner. “Phase 1 was a success and this would give us an opportunity to continue that success.”

Pade cautioned that pricing is based on those initial Kent & Frost estimates so the town must prepare a final plan to get updated construction prices. The hope, however, is include construction in the following areas.

  • Main Street from Front Street to River Street
  •  River Street from Main to Bridge Street Bridge Street from Main Street to River Street
  • Market Street and North Street
  • The Green

Pade also said the goal is to connect business on Main and River streets to people who use the river and the Farmington River trail, provide more organized parking, implement more accessible recreation assets, add additional signage, improve pedestrian and bike access, improve sidewalks, and support future redevelopment in Collinsville (Stay tuned for upcoming announcements about the town’s efforts to support the latter.)

The public will have the chance for input prior to any additional improvements, town officials said.

Reaction to the grant on Wednesday was mixed. Several comments on facebook were critical of the funding, citing economic struggles in the state or other needs. Some residents said the money should be used elsewhere although town officials said this funding can not be diverted to another source.

Although a few remained concerned, reaction from the merchants Compass was able to initially able to catch up with was generally positive.

“I think the improvements were great,” Crown and Hammer owner Lisa Maurer said. “I think it’s really been good for the town.”

Some feel the changes should help direct visitors to the businesses on upper Main Street and River Street. While just a short distance away, many who utilize the Farmington River Trail and the river for recreation never venture that far.

“Hopefully it will make the village look like it has one business section,” said Village Sweet Shoppe owner Shirley Scarpino. “We’re still battling that here on River Street. Hopefully that’s going to help that.”

Carol Ackerman at Carol and Company, at 107 Main Street is even closer to the hub of activity but said that, even so, many come to town often and haven’t discovered the business.

“After 13 years we still get people saying how long have you been here,” she said.

“The wayfinding (signage) aspect will certain be very helpful,” she said.

Ackerman also feels that a completed projected will present a more cohesive downtown.

Economic Development Agency chairman Bob Bessel agreed the next phase in the streetscape project will help present the town as a whole.

“We know it’s going to help extend the success of downtown Collinsville to the merchants up Main Street and down River Street who once they are discovered, will enjoy quite a bit of success,” Bessel said.

David Szydlo of Creative Kitchen and Bath said the roadways could certain use improvement but he wasn’t convinced the streetscape will translate to more visitors. He also felt Collinsville has really missed much of its best opportunities for economic vitalization and added that many people and the state are struggling economically. Main Street has been slow, he said.

“I don’t think it’s going to bring any more people into town,” he said. “I think it’s pretty much hit its peak.”

While exact details and a timeline for the streetscape extension need to be worked out, town officials also said next spring would be the earliest chance for construction.

On Wednesday, several merchants agreed to weigh in on the news.

The funding was announced by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office Wednesday as part of nearly $11 million in funds for 20 Connecticut projects. The grants come under the state’s Responsible Growth and Transit-Oriented Development Grant Program, which is administered by the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) and relies on a combination of funding from the Responsible Growth Incentive Fund and the Transit-Oriented Development and Pre-development Fund, according to the governor’s office.

“Investing in transportation is critical.  Transportation and the future of our economy are fundamentally linked.  Our focus is on not only improving overall quality of life for residents in these areas, but also encouraging economic development by making our towns and cities more accessible,” Governor Malloy stated in a submitted release.  “These grants will help us take another step towards making our state more competitive.”

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