UI site plan to be downsized before approval

The developer of the former United Illuminating site at 801 Bridgeport Ave. will likely have to eliminate two small retail buildings and add a small public park in the mixed-use proposal.

Based on a draft approval resolution and discussion at the Feb. 13 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, the developer also would be required to look into the feasibility of extending a sidewalk on Bridgeport Avenue all the way to the property's northern border.

Fountain Square LLC has proposed a mixed-use development with 11 buildings on the 19.1-acre parcel at 801 Bridgeport Ave. and Parrott Drive. The proposal includes a 123-room hotel, office building, three restaurants, three retail structures, and stand-alone pharmacy, bank and coffee shop establishments.

The developer has indicated "they are in serious negotiations with tenants for at least four or five of the proposed buildings," including the hotel, pharmacy, "specialty" coffee shop and one restaurant, according to staff.

The P&Z has indicated it will approve the proposal in a slightly scaled-down version, and now is finalizing the specifics. The commission appears likely to approve a nine-building development, but allow the main, large retail building to be bigger to make up for the space lost by eliminating two smaller retail structures.
P&Z Commissioner James Tickey said the two small retail buildings "seemed unnecessary" and getting rid of them should improve traffic flow inside the development. He said adding a public space "adds balance to the development."

Vice Chairman Tony Pogoda said he likes the idea of having "a pocket park," and the expected changes are an improvement.

The small park, to be near Bridgeport Avenue and in the central part of the development, may include benches and tables. The applicant proposed the park following earlier comments by P&Z commissioners in favor of having more open space on the site.

Much of the discussion focused on extending the sidewalk on Bridgeport Avenue in front of the entire parcel. The developer had only wanted to build the sidewalk some of the way, partly due to topography.

Now the developer may have to plan and prepare the entire area along Bridgeport Avenue for a sidewalk, but much of that sidewalk may not actually be built until later to avoid creating what was called "a sidewalk to nowhere."

P&Z Commissioner Mark Widomski pushed for adding a sidewalk along all of Parrott Drive as well. "We're planning for the future, not today," he said.

Chairman Virginia Harger liked the idea, saying sidewalks "enhance a neighborhood," but most commissioners didn't think it should be a priority.

The UI property is zoned for light industrial, which allows for offices, restaurants and hotels but not retail uses or drive-through eateries. The developer wants to create a Planned Development District on the parcel and have drive-throughs at the pharmacy, bank and one restaurant.

Driveways would be on Bridgeport Avenue and Parrott Drive, and a new traffic light added at the intersection of Bridgeport and Parrott. Fountain Square would have more than 600 parking spaces and an extensive interior sidewalk network, connecting to the top of Parrott Drive. The existing UI buildings would be demolished.

The land is on a slope that climbs up to 65 feet higher than Bridgeport Avenue, and the development would essentially be built on three terraced levels, minimizing the need for major regrading.