BRISTOL BOROUGH >> In the wake of its hugely successful Boat Dock project, Bristol Borough is setting its sights on the Mill Street Parking Lot.
Kurt Schroeder, Vice President of Gilmore & Associates, unveiled an ambitious vision in October to remake the parking lot as part of an overall Waterfront Master Concept Plan.
Stressing that the plan is still very conceptual in nature, Schroeder said he wanted to unveil the idea “to get people thinking about and talking about it.”
The overall comprehensive master plan includes “elements we’ve been talking about” for a number of years, including conversion of a portion of the parking lot near where the river meets the Bristol Marsh into green space and event space.
The area is envisioned as having a lawn area sweeping down toward the river anchored by a band shell, a paved promenade, bulkhead wall and a small boat dock at the point where the river meets the Bristol Marsh.
“It would be kind of like an amphitheater where events like the Doo-wop could be held,” said Schroeder, referring to the hugely popular free concert hosted by the borough every September.
“It does take away parking, but we’re hopeful that we can make that up by being more efficient with the way the parking is set up. We’ve even tossed the idea out of stacked parking, like a parking garage,” said the engineer.
“Again, there is no price tag on this,” said Schroeder. “We just threw everything we could think of and talked about for many years onto a concept plan to get people thinking and talking about it.”
Other elements include:
- Boardwalk lookouts over the Bristol Marsh,
- New trail connections to Croydon Woods, the Delaware Canal and the Bristol Marsh;
- Potentially turning one block of Cedar Street and one block of Wood Street into paved pedestrian plazas between Mill Street and the parking lot.
The initial phase of the project includes the widening of Basin Street. The Borough has already applied for funding through the casino grant program to pay for the project.
In response to the plan, Councilman Greg Pezza said there are a lot of ideas in the plan that are really exciting, but said he especially likes the idea of the amphitheater, which he called “fantastic.
“If you think about the foot traffic that Mill Street has gotten from the boat docks alone, I can’t even imagine what that would do in the long run. That would be a tremendous goal to have for that project.
“I know there are monuments in place and things that would have to be handled delicately and appropriately, but I would encourage everyone to keep an open mind about it as we move forward and knowing that it is fully conceptual,” said Pezza.
Council President Ralph DiGuiseppe stressed that the concept is still in its early stages and nothing is set in stone. “But if you’re going to dream, you might as well dream big,” he said.
“There’s a lot that could be done down there,” said DiGuiseppe. “But it always comes down to money. We’ve been very successful in getting money in the past,” he said, noting that the borough has just been awarded $361,000 for a sewer project and another $167,000 for a flood study of Adams Hollow Creek through the efforts of State Senator Tommy Tomlinson.
“The County has been very generous in the past, giving us a million dollars for the docks and other projects,” said the council President, adding that he’s confident that over time the money can be secured through grants and through the borough’s good working relationship with its state and federal lawmakers.
“Everybody says it’s a $10 to $15 million project. You reach for the stars,” said DiGuiseppe. “There’s so much this town can do. As long as you can dream and have the vision we can continue on the same path that we have started.”
Councilman Louis Quattrocchi added, “By having these dreams have certainly paid off in the past. I’d like to thank Gilmore for their input on this.”
Schroeder said there aren’t many clients they would present such a concept to “that we would actually feel confident that it would be built. But you are definitely one of them. So I think this can be a reality.”