AP NEWS

A new site for Bassick is floated

May 18, 2019

BRIDGEPORT — Mayor Joseph Ganim is floating a proposal to build the new Bassick High School on an alternate site.

The idea would avoid the need to relocate the Bassick student population during construction but could delay a state approval process that is nearing the finish line.

Ganim said the city is looking at the former Harvey Hubbell property at 1575 State St. that was acquired by developers Gary Flocco and Jeff Ravenstine two months ago.

“We think this is a really good idea to flesh out,” Ganim said Friday afternoon. “Could there be obstacles in the way? Possibly. Would there be changes to work done so far? Yes, but it’s a new option that has come up.”

The 7.9-acre property has been cleared, and according to Flocco is largely clear of contaminants. A 1.5-acre portion of the property has issues and a remediation plan is being worked on, Flocco said.

As the state legislature, this session, considers bonding for the $115 million construction of a new Bassick at its current Fairfield Avenue site, the city school board this week put the wheels in motion to relocate students to the old Harding High School on the East side of town when construction begins.

That news set off alarms for many in the community including City Council Member Eneida Martinez who on Thursday called the move unacceptable.

Martinez said Friday that Ganim’s idea was a phenomenal one.

“The mayor is going in the right direction to cover all areas of concern. I couldn’t be more happy with this proposal which is preliminary right now,” Martinez said.

School Board Chairman John Weldon said the mayor’s office also reached out to him on Friday with the idea.

“I think it’s an interesting concept and I’m very much in favor of it,” Weldon said. “My impression is that it’s very preliminary at this point and that there are still a lot of details that would have to be ironed out.”

Albert Benejan, a parent leader at Bassick, also said he liked the idea even if it adds a year to the new school project. He wants students to stay on the West side and the new site offers the promise of space for athletic fields, something that is lacking at the current Bassick and in the current rebuilding plan.

Efforts to replace Bassick have been in discussion for years. Ganim said the Hubbell property did not come up before because he was told it was not available.

Flocco said he and his partner have been negotiating for more than two and a half years to acquire the property.

“Hubbell was a hard client to negotiate with,” said Flocco. “We closed 60 days ago.”

Flocco described the parcel as high profile, accessible and something that would help rebuild the community. He and his partner also seem interesting in acquiring the current Bassick property should it become available.

“Turning the old Bassick into residential could preserve a historic site,” Flocco said.

School Board Member Maria Pereira, however, contends that there are deed restrictions on the Bassick property that require it to be used as a school. She questioned if the Hubbell site would truly be big enough to support athletic fields and worried about the money already spent on architectural plans for the current project.

“I have questions. I don’t have enough facts to make a decision,” Pereira said of the idea. “Are we taking another eight acres off the tax rolls?”

Negotiations between the city and developer have not yet begun.

“This is just the first day of laying this out,” said Ganim, who said he has also touched base with city council, the city’s legislative delegation and state officials about the idea.

“I know this can add some time (to the project) but it would be well worth it,” Ganim said.

City and school board officials would have to agree and the state would need to agree to the new location.

Ganim said he doesn’t see cost to be a “game changer.” The cost to acquire the property would be offset by not having to tear existing buildings down.

Should it turn into a reality, Weldon said it would eliminate the issues related to relocating students across town. They could stay in the existing Bassick until the new one is built.

It would also, potentially, eliminate the need for the district to hold onto the old Harding building on Central Avenue.

Flocco and Ravenstine say they have done no other business with the Ganim administration but are in the process of building a 157-unit Cherry St. Lofts apartment complex nearing completion along Railroad Avenue.

lclambeck@ctpost.com; twitter/lclambeck