MERIDEN — Every day during his lunch break, Jacky Lin watches the dump trucks, front loaders and excavators as they move, sift and dig dirt at the Meriden Hub site across Pratt Street.
“It’s going to be a park,” Lin said from a table at Wa Wah Kitchen. “It’s going to bring more business. It’s going to bring a whole bunch of people who are going to bring their kids.”
Lin, whose cousin owns the Chinese restaurant, said the family plans to open an ice cream shop when the Hub work is complete.
Firefighters at the Pratt Street station watch the construction from the second-story dining room through large windows that give them a view of the ever-moving trucks and piles of dirt.
“It reminds me of boys playing in a sandbox,” said one observer walking near the site.
The former home of the Hub shopping plaza and Canberra Industries is being prepared for remediation, flood control, and a park. It’s a slow process that required demolition and asphalt removal before identifying and containing the contaminated soil.
“It’s almost like peeling an onion but all the layers are different,” said Sean Moore, president of the Midstate Chamber of Commerce, who has a bird’s-eye view of the progress from his Colony Street office.
Moore has been involved in the project since its inception. He explained that once the demolition of the Hub and the bank were finished, the next step was removing tar from the parking lot. Under the tar was a foot or more of processed stone. Workers also had to capture and contain previously identified areas of contaminated soil. These are secured in tarps and surrounded by Jersey barriers, he said.
The contaminated soil will be removed and taken to a site in North Haven. The trucks are also removing the remaining chunks left over from the Hub foundation.
“It’s a sorting process,” Moore said. “While the Hub building was gone, the foundation wasn’t. They have to take it apart, layer by layer. It does appear to be proceeding on schedule.”
John Scarfo, assistant project manager with LaRosa Construction Co., said the project is moving along on time.
“Right now we’re getting rid of the buried demolition debris,” he said. “In the next few weeks we’ll be ready to dig in.”
Digging in means uncovering Harbor Brook, which runs below the Hub site. Workers will create a detention channel designed to hold 15 acres of water that has been backing up onto State and Pratt Streets for decades. Uncovering the brook is part of flood-control plan that includes rebuilding culverts and bridges.
With the tar removed, a small pond formed on the Pratt Street side of the site after recent heavy rains. Moore said that with the tar removed, the Hub site is starting to do what it was intended to do, and is acting like a sponge to soak up water.
The channel will be 12 feet deep and 8 feet wide at the bottom, funneling upward to 40 feet. The channel will flow the length of the site and will be lined on each side with decorative stone.
LaRosa has until July 2015 to complete the work. Plans call for landscaping and an amphitheater in the northwestern corner of the site.
“So far, everything is looking good,” he said.