The Boardman Interview: Former Mall Site

January 1, 2018

Prior to the development of the Bristol Centre Mall its location was a myriad of wooden taverns, retail stores and apartment buildings. Under the guise of an urban renewal program, the buildings were all demolished making the area look like downtown Beirut before there was a downtown Beirut.

Construction of the Bristol Centre Mall began in 1964, but it did not open for another six years. Plagued by problems from the onset it always struggled.

In the mid-1970s, I was introduced to the Bristol Centre Mall.

During the 80s, we hung out, but by the 90s, we each made new friends, and went our separate ways. It happens – don’t judge; we’ve all been there.

In the early 2000s I was surprised to see it was still hanging around, and not surprised to learn of its demise in 2005.

Recently, I caught up with the former mall site now called Centre Square. For the purposes of this interview it will be referred to as the Former Mall Site.

It was a cold, late afternoon as we spoke under a gray lifeless sky where the mall once stood. Lake-effect snow soon developed, but other than to turn up our collars and maneuver our way through our coffees, we paid no attention to winter’s bluster.

Boardman:
So, Bristol Hospital is developing a medical building on the site, are you excited?

Mall Site:
Does Hillary Clinton have a paper shredder? Yes of course I am excited! However, I am also cautious and have reason to be.

Boardman:
Let’s discuss.

Former Mall Site:
Do you mind if I smoke?

Boardman:
Do you mind if I spit?

Former Mall Site:
You haven’t changed.

Boardman:
Nor have you.

Now then. There were numerous owners.

Former Mall Site:
In a word you could say that. There was the original owner Bristol Central Realty Co., who ran out of funds before we opened so we went through foreclosure. Then we had Wadhams and May, Allen Heflin & Associates, Bristol Associates.

Boardman:
That’s quite a few.

Former Mall Site:
I ain’t done.

Boardman:
Of course. Continue.

Former Mall Site:
William Brown and Maureen Brown, Hartford National Bank via foreclosure, Mario Ottaviano and Michael Tehrani.

Boardman:
Wow I thin—

Former Mall Site (interrupting):
Reed Properties and wait for it…the City of Bristol.

Boardman:
Right tha—

Former Mall Site (interrupting):
But there were lots of “developers” like Mo Epstein, Max Borghesi, “Renaissance Downtowns” and several others.

Boardman:
Of cour—

Former Mall Site (interrupting):
Then there were the name changes. Bristol Centre Mall, The Mall at Bristol Centre, Depot Square – whatever it is now.

Boardman (through clenched teeth):
Stop…interr…upting…me.

Former Mall Site:
When did you get so testy?

Boardman:
When did you become an (Expletive deleted)?

Former Mall Site:
Please continue.

Boardman:
You have identity issues.

Former Mall Site:
Wouldn’t you?

Boardman:
Why did the mall struggle and ultimately fail?

Former Mall Site:
Major body blow was the state did not build Route 72 to downtown as was proposed, and four shopping plazas were developed on Farmington Avenue shifting the economic center thus making an isolated mall a wasteland.

Boardman:
What does the future look like there Nostradamus?

Former Mall Site:
That’s funny.

Boardman:
Thank you.

Former Mall Site:
I said that’s funny. Not that you’re funny.

Boardman:
Continue. (inaudible)

Former Mall Site:
What was that?

“(crosstalk)”

Boardman:
You were saying.

Former Mall Site:
They need to attract existing, successful Bristol businesses like they did with Bristol Hospital. Bristol Hospital ain’t sexy but it has a built-in audience – sick people, so it won’t be a ghost town like the mall was. That needs to continue. Piazzas and the Olive Garden that’s just silly talk.

Boardman:
Can that plan be executed?

Former Mall Site:
Maybe. From the beginning the mall lacked funding and vision; it was political, there was infighting and then the economic landscape changed. I predict the infighting will continue and developers will make promises and predictions that are not realistic like humans are known to do.

Public opinion will be all over the place, and the politicians and their parties will fight over control. The previous mayor got the ball in scoring position, and it will be up to the current mayor to score the touchdown. So, I ask you: Does it matter who scores the touchdown as long as we score the touchdown?

Boardman:
No cert—

Former Mall Site (interrupting):
Exactly! But we both know politics and how the world works. Consequently, they will quibble over the narrative just like they did in the 1960s and 70s. You wait and see. The Bristol Centre Mall is a cautionary tale told from the past to the present and the future. But hey what do I know?

Things to Know About the Former Mall Site:
It used to be a mall
Bristol Centre Mall was located in Bristol
The city of Bristol is located in the state of Connecticut

Random Related Things
During the Triassic period there were no buildings on the site
The Triassic period occurred 200 million years ago

Sourcing:
News Bureau Redevelopment Planned at Meeting
Hartford Courant 04 Dec. 1958: pg. 12C
Staff Merchants to Study Proposal For Mall Center Takeover
Hartford Courant 09 Jan. 1968: pg. 8A
News Bureau Centre Mall Reported Bought
Hartford Courant 12 Dec. 1973: pg. 19D
News Bureau Redevelopers Hopeful of Start
Hartford Courant 05 Jan. 1975: 6B1
Susan Howard 4th Set of Owners Undaunted by Bristol Mall’s Dismal Past
Hartford Courant 01 Feb. 1981: pg. C5
James, Sandra New York group agrees to buy mall
Hartford Courant 22 Dec. 1989: pg. 18A1
James, Sandra Reed Properties takes over Bristol Centre Mall
Hartford Courant 3 Feb. 1990: pg. C3B
James, Sandra Bristol mall has varied history
Hartford Courant 8 Sept. 1991: H1B
Stacum, Don Bristol Council Unanimously Turns Down Renaissance Plan
Hartford Courant 2 Jun. 2015: B3

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Renaissance Downtowns to Develop the Face on Mars

May 22, 2016

Face on mars 04 arrows

NASA is making plans to colonize Mars and according to sources familiar with the project Renaissance Downtowns LLC, a Long Island based developer, will be the contractor to develop a portion of the planet. Yup, that Renaissance Downtowns LLC.

Mars with its rocky surface, canyons, volcanoes and red dust covering the terrain, has sat desolate for 4.5 billion years. Critics say now that Renaissance is involved it will remain desolate for another 4.5 billion years.

They are to build the property near the “Face on Mars” with parking garages, pop-up piazzas, cafes, a Performing Arts Center and retail. Lots of retail. “It will be Mars very own version of Blue Back Square,” said a source familiar with the plans.

A major stumbling block however, is the enormous initial investment required to establish the colony and terraform the planet. Renaissance wants a public/private partnership of financing options for Phase I because it proved to be so successful while they were in Bristol.

“Currently it’s all about getting money and then permits, and then food and water and hydrogen and methane, and power and another industrial revolution,” said Bill Doug spokesperson for the project.

He expects Phase 1 construction to begin in 100 years with the development of Downtown Disney or whatever it will be called then.


Community Calendar

November 20, 2015
Community Calendar

Community Calendar

Things to do in Forestville this weekend:

* Friday
Four Horseman of the Apocalypse visit Forestville to see an old friend.

* Saturday
Renaissance Appreciation Day 1PM-1:15PM former center mall site. Reminisce and take pictures. Plenty of parking available.

* Saturday
The Bob Knepper Roman Orgy begins at 7PM. Complimentary Pigs in a Blanket, Swedish meatballs and a meat platter from Nuchie’s for attendees.

* Sunday
Forestville Ice Harvest Festival. The Forestville Tourism Association hosts the Forestville Ice Harvest in Central Square from 3 am to 5 am. Bring your own water and have it frozen by professionals!


Renaissance Appreciation Day!

November 18, 2015
Renaissance Appreciation Day Saturday November 21, 2015

Renaissance Appreciation Day Saturday November 21, 2015

Renaissance Appreciation Day is set for Saturday, November 21 from 1:00PM to 1:15PM at the former Center Mall property!

Now that Renaissance is no longer the developer for the proposed Depot Square, residents have the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments and thank them for the acres and acres of vacant lot that sits in the middle of downtown that they were tasked with developing, but failed to do. Several town council members and Renaissance employees will be on hand to reminisce, sign autographs and take pictures.

Said one resident who wished not be identified, “The cold, empty, barren lot they failed to develop is a testament to the great, vibrant, innovative mixed-use destination of residential, retail, office space, and outdoor amenities that it never became.”

Well-wishers and media are advised to park across from city hall. There is plenty of parking available on the empty slab of concrete which still exists.

I know I will be there and I hope you will too.


Occupy Renaissance

November 13, 2015
17 acres.

17 acres.

Renaissance Downtowns, a Long Island based developer hired to revitalize the 17-acre lot downtown, is being let go by the city due to their lack of progress over the last five years.

However, Occupy Renaissance, an advocacy group for “Renaissance”, wants them to stay and complete the project.

The group, which currently has two members, established an Occupy camp with tents in the offices that Renaissance formally occupied in city hall. While chanting, “Five More Years! Five More Years! Five More Years!” they display signs showing their support.

One supporter simply known as The Duke said, “Renaissance did not think the community was serious about developing the lot. They thought it was a joke so they went along.”

Said the other Occupy member, “Five years is not a long time. Granted there are no shovels in the ground, and they secured no money, no tenants, and no commitments. No one is perfect.”

A spokesperson for Renaissance remarked, “Finally someone gets us.”

Bristol Mayor Cockayne is going ahead with a more economical way to attract tourists and revitalize downtown. He plans to fill the lot with wool spinners from Old Sturbridge Village and make the world’s biggest ball of yarn.

Coming soon.

Coming soon.