BRISTOL BOROUGH >> A row of boarded up homes on Elm Street is slated for demolition this winter as part of a redevelopment project moving forward on Elm and Chestnut streets.
Through a partnership between the borough and the Redevelopment Authority of Bucks County, more than 50 homes on the two streets are slated be torn down and then redeveloped.
The homes are located behind the former Mill Run mid-rise and within view of the iconic Grundy Clock Tower.
The Bristol Borough Council on Jan. 11 formally accepted a grant for $50,000 from the 2021 Municipal Grant Program to be used by the RDA for the demolition work.
“Bid documents have been prepared to take down Elm Street. We’re hoping that Elm Street will be demolished by March,” reported Council President Ralph DiGuiseppe. “I don’t know what the cost is going to come in at, but we do have $50,000 to put toward the project. If it comes in at $75,000, if it comes in at $100,000 that money will have to be paid by the borough.”
Bids will be advertised by the RDA and will be due by Feb. 10. The RDA is expected to approve a bid at its Feb. 19 meeting with demolition in late February and March.
After the 10 homes are demolished the land will be graded and seeded.
“There will be grass right up to the curb. We’ll have another open area for anybody to use,” said DiGuiseppe. “We don’t know what we’re doing with it yet,” he said of the land.
Meanwhile the RDA is reaching out to the five owner-occupied properties left on Chestnut Street to see if they are interested in selling.
“The RDA is going to try to work out an agreement. Maybe they don’t want to sell. If they do stay, the RDA is going to take everything down around them and just fix the sides of their buildings,” said DiGuiseppe. “We’re not forcing anyone out. It’s their property. I said that from the beginning. I would never force anyone out.”
The boarded up homes on Chestnut Street will be the next to be demolished by the RDA.
In November, council voted 7 to 1 to approve a cooperation agreement with the RDA to redevelop the Chestnut and Elm neighborhoods.
Under the agreement, the borough transferred more than 50 properties it has acquired over the years to the RDA. The RDA is now negotiating demolition contracts, pursuing acquisition of remaining properties, soliciting developers interested in redeveloping the land and seeking out grants for infrastructure work.
For years, the borough has been buying up properties on Chestnut and Elm, a neighborhood that had seen a higher crime rate and where homes had fallen into disrepair, with hopes of one day redeveloping the neighborhoods and returning them to the tax rolls.
In other action at its Jan. 12 meeting, council approved the purchase of replacement police radios at a cost of $89,776, a new bucket truck with plow and salt spreader at a cost not to exceed $150,000, a new police patrol vehicle at a cost of $52,326 and replacement radios for the Bucks County Rescue Squad at a cost of $75,000.
The majority of the capital purchases will be paid for with grant money awarded to the borough through the 2021 Municipal Grant program, which is funded by revenue from Parx Casino in Bensalem.
For the bucket truck, the borough has received a $101,000 grant through the Municipal Grant program. The difference will be paid by the borough.
The borough will be donating its existing truck to the Bristol Borough School District, along with a salt spreader and plow. “They will be fully equipped with a plow and a salt spreader,” said DiGuiseppe. “I know they are very happy about that.”
Parking Lot Grant
In other news, Councilman Lou Quattrocchi thanked State Senator Tommy Tomlinson and State Rep. John Galloway for securing a one million dollar grant to improve the Mill Street Municipal parking lot and for riverfront park improvements.
“This is state money specifically for riverfront communities. We were lucky enough to be a major recipient of the money,” said Quattrocchi. “I’d like to thank Council President DiGuiseppe, Manager James Dillon and Gilmore Associates for their work on this.”
The funding will be used to remove and install a new stormwater system with a bulkhead to alleviate flooding issues; remove and replace pavement throughout the parking lot; replacing the curb throughout the lot; installing new lighting for the parking lot and park; installing new landscaping; and constructing a restroom facility.
With completion of this project, approximately 25,000 square yards of parking lot will be paved, 40 new inlets and 1,200 feet of new storm pipe installed, 15 light fixtures and bases will be installed, and 14 new trees will be planted within islands in the parking area.
Grundy Clock Tower
DiGuiseppe also reported that he will be talking with Fred Baumgartner, the owner of Grundy Commons, about what it would take to keep the iconic clock tower lit longer at night.
“Mr. Baumgartner keeps it on for about an hour. I think there’s a cost issue involved with this,” said DiGuiseppe. “Maybe he can change it to LED to save money or put some type of meter on it to see how much it’s costing. There are people who would be willing to contribute. It’s a landmark. We’re going to find a way to keep these lights on,” he said. “Maybe we can increase it to two hours a day.
“But to me, it’s a landmark,” said DiGuiseppe. “That light has always been on and a flag flying. I’d like to talk with Fred and see if we can work something out.”