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Author Topic: Interesting reuse for old newspaper building proposed  (Read 544 times)
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« on: September 01, 2015, 12:52:35 PM »

A company has an interesting proposal to reuse the old Bristol Press building in downtown Bristol, CT.


Old Press building to become 'culinary mecca'

 Posted: Tuesday, September 1, 2015 8:44 am | Updated: 1:05 pm, Tue Sep 1, 2015.

    Steve Collins

    Posted on Sep 1, 2015

    by Steve Collins

BRISTOL – A company is eyeing the former Bristol Press building on Main Street to house round-the-clock kitchen space for everyone from restaurant chains to home cooks.

Its plans call for growing organic vegetables on the roof of the 99 Main St. structure and putting koi ponds in old newspaper production space inside to provide fresh-made fertilizer for the topside plants and a room upstairs where tomatoes could grow year-round.

ThymeShare hopes to have the facility open next spring with five commercial kitchens on the ground floor and a hall where the press used to run every morning transformed into event space for farm-to-table tastings, pop-up restaurants and other food-related delights.

“It has the potential to make downtown Bristol a culinary mecca,” said Bruce Hoffman, its chief operating officer who is investing in the new company along with his wife, Elizabeth.

Justin Malley, the city’s economic director, called it “just a home run,” adding that he’s convinced the way to spur life downtown is by promoting “food and drink” that can attract people to the area.

ThymeShare initially eyed Hartford for its “incubator kitchen” concept – an increasingly popular enterprise that began in San Francisco and has spread east in the years since – but couldn’t find a building that suited its purposes.

Then a Bristol couple, attorney Regina van Gootkin and her husband, Adam, who operates the Onyx moonshine distillery, pointed the Hoffmans at their hometown, where Malley quickly showed them the old Press building, empty since 2009 when the paper moved to its current quarters at 188 Main St.

“I fell in love with the building,” Bruce Hoffman said. “It has a historic presence” and a big, safe parking lot.

The operation wouldn’t use the entire building. The office space near the existing front door and the old newsroom upstairs – all of which has been renovated in recent months – will likely be used for a light manufacturing company now based in Maryland or some other commercial enterprise, according to Vance Taylor, the real estate agent handling the property.

TR Telecom bought the property last summer for $370,000 from the Journal Register Co., a now-defunct newspaper chain that purchased The Bristol Press in 1994 and nearly ran it into the ground before selling the paper, but not the property, early in 2009 to Central Connecticut Communications, its current owner.

The Hoffmans described what they envision for their ThymeShare business during a tour of the site this week.

A new main entrance would be created on the western side of the building, facing the big parking lot that Press employees once used. People would walk in through what used to be the mail room where carriers would collect their bundles and head out to distribute the paper each afternoon.

On the right side, where delivery trucks can pull up, there would be three topnotch commercial kitchens that could be rented out for short or long periods, with staff available to lend a hand. Already, one well-known restaurant group with nine outlets in Connecticut and Massachusetts intends to centralize some of its production there to lower costs and enhance quality controls.

A main corridor would lead into the space where the press used to run – later occupied by a chain of weekly newspapers – that would have tables and seating for up to 150 and contain two more production kitchens.

The on-the-spot gardens would be created on the roof and in the former composing room upstairs, where papers were put together before going to press. The couple plans to knock out a wall so that people on the street or downstairs in the hall would see the plants growing above.

If all goes well, there could also be outdoor dining space where deliveries once occurred in the back, a commercial smoker and other innovations that might attract more of the growing number of food explorers in the region.

Elizabeth Hoffman, the company’s president, said it hasn’t been difficult to sell the concept to investors and others. “Everybody gets it,” she said.

They talked about donating both a fifth of their profits and excess food to local charities, holding free weekly cooking classes for the community, hiring veterans and non-violent people who need a second chance and generally trying to become an integral part of the community they’ve chosen to join.

“This has been a seamless journey for us,” said Bruce Hoffman, a former executive and consultant for a number of major restaurant and other companies who is also a self-described foodie who wants to create something special.

Aside from setting up a small satellite space in Hartford, he said, “we’re not looking anywhere else” except the spot in Bristol.

He praised Malley, Mayor Ken Cockayne and city officials who have worked with him to get the project this far. He said he didn’t run across any of the regulatory or other obstacles that made Hartford a difficult place to open anything.

“The city has just been phenomenal,” Hoffman said. “You feel welcome.”

Standing on the roof of the old Press, overlooking space where mini-citrus trees may be growing a year from now, Cockayne said the ThymeShare concept is an exciting one that may help spur additional growth in the city center.

Hoffman, Malley and Cockayne said they anticipate it will spin off restaurants and trained workers who may well land in the immediate neighborhood, where there’s lots of space and reasonable rents.
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