January 8, 2014 01:02PM
By Dan Brechlin
MERIDEN — Trees on the downtown Meriden Hub site were reduced to wood chips Monday morning, among the first steps toward redevelopment of the city’s best-known vacant parcel.
Work at the Hub has been anticipated since the former Meriden Mall was demolished in 2006. Though it has been home to the circus and other events in recent years, the site is needed for flood storage during significant rain storms.
The project is expected to take about 18 months and includes the excavation of Harbor Brook, which runs north to south along the State Street side of the property. Uncovering the brook and excavation will allow for significant flood storage. The Hub site will double as a park with a pedestrian bridge connecting State and Pratt streets, an amphitheater and walking paths. A total of 279 trees and 1,407 shrubs will be planted.
On Monday, a crew from Cornerstone Fence continued putting a chain-link fence around the perimeter of the 14.4-acre parcel. All of the fence poles have been installed and the fencing is up around much of the property.
Inside the fencing, workers from Larry’s Land Clearing removed trees and placed them in a wood chipper. Both Larry’s and Cornerstone are local subcontractors on the project. LaRosa Construction is the general contractor, having submitted a low bid of $13.2 million.
“They’re doing just the basic housekeeping work,” explained Director of Public Works Robert Bass. “They’re taking the trees down and starting some of the general cleanup work.”
Bass said he expects an official final schedule for excavation and redevelopment this week. In the meantime, tree removal will be completed. Curbing and light poles will also be removed.
Redevelopment of the park is being paid for through state and federal funds. In November, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was among those who attended a groundbreaking ceremony.
“I immediately saw the wisdom of this project ... It makes too much sense, quite frankly, and I don’t know why other governors didn’t engage in this project,” Malloy said
State funding for the project was initially approved by the state legislature in 2007, but not released by the state Bond Commission until last year. Malloy chairs the bond commission.
In the coming weeks, Bass said he expects an office trailer to be placed at the Hub. A web camera will be installed so the work can be shown live on the Internet.
LaRosa has been demolishing and removing the former TD Bank building at the corner of State and East Main streets. LaRosa submitted the lowest estimate of five firms for the separate project at $139,000. The building has been demolished and reduced to rubble.