The past couple of years have seen a tremendous amount of positive activity in regard to the redevelopment of Depot Square and Bristol’s downtown. Led by Master Developer Renaissance Downtowns and the Bristol Rising crowdsourced placemaking community initiated by CSPM Group, key approvals and rezoning efforts are complete, positioning Bristol’s downtown for transformative development.

From Ryan Porter, project manager for Renaissance Downtowns, “It’s been gratifying working with such a great community and a municipality that gets it. The Bristol Rising community’s response has been overwhelming in what has been one of the most transparent redevelopment efforts in this country’s history, a tradition we will work to continue with this column. This three-way collaborative was highlighted during the approval processes, which has led to the implementation phase of the project, and brings us to today.”

Renaissance has been working diligently to put the final pieces together in anticipation of the upcoming groundbreaking by finalizing financing for the initial phase of the development.

When Renaissance Downtowns was designated by the City of Bristol as Master Developer, numerous milestones were established for this public/private partnership. Due to the excellent working relationship between Renaissance Downtowns, the municipality and the Bristol Rising community, the initial concept planning and zoning milestones were achieved at an extraordinary pace. This accelerated process led to the approval of an engineered Site Plan for Phase 1 in February of 2013, along with the recent completion of the new McDonald’s in a manner that is consistent with the overall goals and objectives of the public/private partnership. Porter adds, “I have never before seen a municipality move the ball forward as has been done here, and as a result of the City’s desire to see progress occur, revitalization efforts are 6-8 months ahead of schedule.”

Renaissance is presently in discussions with multiple regional/national development firms as well as foreign and domestic private equity financing sources, demonstrate the economic viability of downtown Bristol in regard to innovative, mixed-use development. The overwhelming number of signed letters of interest from both local and regional residents expressing a desire to move into the new development downtown continues to assist those efforts.

On the community side, Bristol Rising has been programming and conducting innovative events and initiatives which have already added vibrancy to and awareness of downtown. They are currently working to improve the existing downtown business landscape by offering the power of crowd to businesses, the latest being the opening of 457 Mason Jar, a southern cuisine cafe. Every little bit is helping the overall cause in showing Bristol as a place that desires a walkable, vibrant center of commerce and social activity. This is proven by new entrepreneurs stepping forward each month expressing interest in opening businesses downtown.