Bridgewater mulls village center upgrade

The town of Bridgewater may soon embark on a project to enhance vilage center business opportunities and make it more pedestrian friendly. August 2014
The town of Bridgewater may soon embark on a project to enhance vilage center business opportunities and make it more pedestrian friendly. August 2014Norm Cummings

Could the beautiful, old girl soon be getting a makeover?

The town of Bridgewater is taking a close look at its village center and developing a plan to revitalize its downtown.

The creation of an overlay district within the Village Green zone is being considered within which professional offices, a bed and breakfast, antique shops and other low-impact businesses could exist.

The Planning & Zoning Commission would create a Central Village District that runs from the cemetery along Main Street (Route 133) to Warner Road, just before Burnham School and the firehouse.

"It would allow a restaurant, bed and breakfast, professional offices without spot zoning," said First Selectman Curtis Read. "It would create a revitalized downtown area with improved market value for the historic buildings there."

Leo Null, the planning and zoning chairman and a town selectman, noted this is all in the preliminary stages.

The commission will expects to begin intensive study during its September meeting, with an eye to hold a public hearing for resident input.

"I'm very positive about this," Null said. "I'm trying to bring some economic potential to the downtown. We're looking at the business possibilities as having limited parking."

"There would never be large retail development with paving for parking in the front," he cautioned. "That would never be allowed."

"Our concern now is the vacant spot in the Bridgewater Village Store where the bank pulled out," Null said. "We'd like to see that site stay viable, with a restaurant able to go in with the store and post office."

A $400,000 federal transportation improvement grant was turned down Friday by Read with the Board of Selectmen's approval.

The funds would have paid for 80 percent of projected sidewalk and street improvements.

However, the selectmen have not given up on the first phase of creating a loop of sidewalk -- starting at the fairgrounds, along Main Street, Center Street and around the corner, up Clapboard Road to Hut Hill Road.

"Any way we slice it, the town would have to come up with $100,000 toward the project," Read said, "and we have other priorities right now. We can do the job on our own when the time comes."

The original planning for the sidewalk and street improvements had been done in 2007 by the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials (HVCEO), of which Bridgewater is a member.

In March, Read learned the federal funding for the project had been approved. It soon became apparent any work would be two years away and the town would have to supply the initial $100,000.

"I let the state Department of Transportation and HVCEO know Friday," Read said Monday, "and the engineers that were designing the project."; 860-355-7322