Renaissance Downtowns was designated by the City of Bristol as Master Developer for the Revitalization of Downtown Bristol Project in May of 2010. The City was looking to turn Bristol’s downtown into a thriving destination place once again, starting with development of the former Centre Mall site.
Selected as Master Developer on the strength of their holistic approach to development, Renaissance viewed downtown as a whole, not just Depot Square as the end all be all. Thus, the project only begins with Depot Square, which will anchor the City’s center and revitalization efforts, with the goal of encouraging opportunities beyond the Depot Square site for further development and business growth, creating a vibrant, walkable, contiguous experience throughout the entire downtown.
To kick off the revitalization efforts, Renaissance has planned an innovative mix-use development (retail/residential/office) for Depot Square. At this time 1000 units of residential and 180,000 sf of retail and commercial space are programmed for this site alone. With residential, the ideas is that people living in the multi-story New England style buildings will create baseline sustainability for retailers on the ground levels, along with a ‘feet on the street’ element that begets vitality and safety. The idea of mixed-use is not a new invention. It is the essence of truly great downtowns where there are so many resolutions of activity (live, work, shop, play, learn) in one relatively concentrated place, that the area is constantly animated.
Community as source of ideas
The unique thing about Renaissance’s development model is the openness toward community involvement. The term is crowdsourced placemaking. The notion of sourcing ideas from the ‘crowd’ (i.e. community) to then create the place, making us all a part of the development.
By having a constant conversation with the community, the developer can gauge what the community wants, and build that element (like the overwhelmingly popular public piazza), or attract/recruit a business to open what the community desires. In this case, a craft ale house called Barley Vine opened on Main Street because an entrepreneur was inspired by the community’s response for craft beer.
The revitalization of downtown Bristol will ultimately center on the concepts of smart growth and green building design, utilizing a fully comprehensive approach to redeveloping downtown. Overall, the downtown revitalization represents a triple bottom line philosophy of social, economic and environmental responsible development that will provide significant benefits to the entire Bristol community.
At this early juncture, it is impossible to state exactly what the downtown revitalization will eventually entail. The rationale for this is the desire for Renaissance Downtowns at Bristol to work with the City and the community to create a SHARED VISION for the redevelopment that reflects the desires and wishes of the City and the community. While it is important to meet the needs of the City and its residents, it is just as important to design a redevelopment plan that will meet the needs of the market to ensure a sustainable project that will become an economic driver for the community for years and decades to come.