MERIDEN — The Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission voted 4-0 earlier this month to approve Phase I of the Harbor Brook project that stretches from the Amtrak bridge to the Cooper Street bridge.
City Engineer Brian Ennis explained to commission members that the project runs through city-owned properties and three buildings known as Hanover Towers and impacts seven acres of property.
“This is in two phases,” Ennis said. “The first part is construction of the two bridges. The second part is the actual channel work.”
The project will impact a parcel between Cooper Street and Hanover Street and will tie into the city’s linear trail. The trail will run along the brook behind Factory H and up to Butler Street where Butler and Hanover connect. It will continue to run along Hanover Street and meet at the Meriden Green. The project will also ready the parcel for a proposed skate park on the site.
Part of the work includes demolishing the former Castle Bank at 100 Hanover St. The city received a demolition grant to raze the building and interior cleanup began this month. The demolition is expected to start next month.
The demolition will pave the way for deepening and widening the channel of Harbor Brook that flows under the former bank. The section of the brook is a significant choke point that permits water pooling on Hanover Street and Cook Avenue.
“That is one of the bends that causes the back up. By taking it out we'll be lessening the curve,” city Economic Development Director Joseph Feest said in May.
The project entails creating wetlands, changing watercourses, two bridge replacements, associated channel work and excavation, and some utility work for displaced water and sewer lines.
Elsa Loehmann, Fuss & O’Neill’s project engineer and lead designer, described the project as a “Flood Resiliency Project,” designed to reduce flooding and flood risk to the neighborhood with ecological restoration.
Loehman told commissioners the channel has been straightened over the past 200 years due to industry and there are invasive plantings. Large sections of the brook are covered by concrete pads and there is no connectivity to the wetlands and floodplain.
According to meeting minutes, the brook between the Cooper Street and Butler Street access drive will be moved to the east away from the former Factory H building site, which is currently undergoing voluntary remediation with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
An area adjacent to the brook will be replanted as a riparian meadow habitat, to be mowed by the city once a year in October to help contain invasive growth and prevent growth of woody species.
In the upland area closer to Cherry Street, conservation wildlife seed mix will be planted as well as ornamental tree plantings, which will provide a visual barrier between the Cherry Street residences and the linear trail.
The first phase will focus on the bridge replacements and utility improvements for Harbor Towers. All channel, floodplain, and trail work will be done during the second phase and the layout, grading, and drainage plans were displayed.
There will be limited access points at Cherry Street and off of Butler Street for the channel work, with additional temporary access near the Butler Street bridge and on Hanover Street.