Steady transformation planned for downtown’s former Hub

MERIDEN — With fencing up around the Hub, construction machinery and trailers on site and a large mound of asphalt and dirt in the center of the 14-acre site, the public will only have a short wait before the real digging begins at the city’s most well-known downtown parcel.

The $13 million Hub redevelopment project is finally underway after more than 20 years of studies, funding applications and planning. A major component of the project involves uncovering Harbor Brook, which runs north and south across the site. The brook will be realigned slightly to the east and its flood plain will ultimately be reduced by the increased flood storage space created on the site. The flood storage will be created by changing the Hub’s topography, with the area around the brook as the parcel’s lowest point.

The Hub will double as a park, complete with a pedestrian bridge connecting State and Pratt streets and an amphitheater toward the northwest corner. The amphitheater will also double as flood storage space in the event of the brook overflowing. The entire project will be paid for through federal and state funding.

After a long wait for funding, the State Bond Commission approved the first $3.85 million of $7 million in funds to be released for the project in June 2013. With that amount added to other state and federal funding sources, the Hub work could be put to bid and eventually got underway. The city is still awaiting the remaining funding, but have been told they can expect it to come during the 2014 calendar year. Because of the missing funds, pieces of the project like the bridge are not fully funded and had to be bid as alternates, which could be incorporated into the project once the funding is received.

Once LaRosa Construction signed on to be the general contractor for the project, the company began the process of determining a construction plan for the site, getting the necessary permits and insurance required and getting a bond approved.

Clearing the site

In recent weeks, the main focus for LaRosa has been developing the construction plan for the site, according to Director of Public Works Robert Bass. The company has been working with the city and with Milone and MacBroom, the engineering firm that designed the project.

Despite not having a full plan determined, LaRosa was able to begin the “mobilization” process, which includes moving trailers to the site, hooking electricity up to them and preparing for construction.

Over the course of only a few days, a construction fence was erected around the site for safety purposes and trees and shrubs were removed from the site. The removal came at a cost of $75,000, according to the project schedule. At the conclusion of the 18-month project, there will be 279 trees on site and 1,407 shrubs, according to project documents.

After clearing out trees and shrubs, crews began stripping the site’s asphalt and curbing, a cost of $212,000. The pile, which stands in the center of the Hub, is scheduled to be removed by the end of the month. The light poles and their bases were also removed at a cost of $35,000.

In total, phase one of the project will last 136 days, or through the end of June with a combined cost of $1,987,775.

Construction machinery has sat mostly idle for the last week or so, but work is expected to continue in the near future. The area has been hit with several snowstorms in recent weeks, though Bass said continued snow should not have a significant impact on the schedule.

“Snow will have little impact,” Bass said. “The day of the storm, work is not expected to occur and possibly the day after depending on the severity of the storm.”

The heavy construction machinery allows for the snow to be easily moved around on site when necessary. If needed, an allotment of snow can also be hauled off site without adding costs to the project.

In early March, crews will begin the removal of soil and the pile cap, a thick concrete slab that sits on top of the foundation piles toward the center and eastern section of the Hub. Bass explained that the piles were installed to support the former Meriden Mall building. The foundation which is still in place below ground level will also be removed over the course of a month and a half, in addition to the storm piping and the sewer system that runs underground, according to the schedule timeline.

Though the former TD Bank building at the southwestern corner of the property has been almost entirely removed from the site, some utilities for the building are still underground and will also be removed between the beginning of March and middle of April. Between the beginning of March and mid-to-late May, workers will begin sawing the box culvert that the brook runs through and removing the culvert in order to unearth and eventually realign the brook.

Keeping the public informed

An ongoing part of the project that does not include construction is the public information campaign. The city has hired a firm to spread information about the project to keep the public up-to-date. The firm, Newtown-based Vita Nuova, will be paid $4,500 between now and the end of June. A camera is also being installed so that people can view live streaming video of the project.

“It will take several weeks for (the camera) to be delivered followed by installation,” Bass said. “Integration into the city’s website is required and will take some time as well. This is the first time to my knowledge that cameras have been used on a city project.”

Throughout the duration of the project and listed on the schedule is ongoing water handling as the brook is moved, earthwork and grading of the site and erosion control.

The city and Milone and MacBroom will have a better idea in April as to what phase two will entail and a projected schedule of construction, Bass said. It is expected, however, that the full uncovering of the brook, the construction of the bridge and amphitheater, among other tasks, will be part of the second phase. Still seen as an 18-month project, Bass said officials are looking to have the project finished by mid-2015.

dbrechlin@recordjournal.com 203-317-2266 Twitter: @DanBrechlinRJ



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