The Army Corps of Engineers gave a presentation to the Mayor, members of the Planning and Zoning, Inland Wetlands, Conservation Commission, and Common Council, and about a dozen members of the public on Tuesday evening. Diane McCartin, project manager for the Armed Forces Reserve Center, introduced the environmental specialist working on the permit process, and the designer and the architect for the AFRC. Each of them spoke for about 15 minutes.
It was an informative and professional presentation by a group that had clearly put a lot of thought and resources into making this project successful. There were many questions from Commissioners and members of the public, which the team of specialists and architects handled very well. Although the Corps will not be submitting anything for approval at city agencies, these plans and their presentation
surpassed virtually every other application I have seen come before Inland Wetlands or Planning and Zoning.
The AFRC is currently under construction on Smith Street at the former Cucia Park. This construction will impact 1.6 acres of wetlands, and to receive a permit for this, McCartin's team was required by the EPA and the Corps' environmental division to purchase and permanently protect 40 acres of land in the same watershed. Members of the Inland Wetlands Agency were astonished at this ratio of mitigation to destruction. McCartin explained that the Corps no longer uses a simple ratio, but rather looks at what is needed to replace the functions of the wetlands being damaged. The Corps' plan to preserve 52 acres on Boardman Lane, removing invasive species, enhancing the riparian zone, and permanently protecting as open space the upland area which drains into the wetlands.
The AFRC is designed as a long project parallel and adjacent to I91, in order to minimally impact the wetlands along Sawmill Brook, and the associated pond visible from Smith Street. The primary building, which will house offices, classrooms, storage, and an exercise gym, will be 4 stories tall, and visible from Smith Street. Behind this building will be parking for 300 cars and motorcycles, and further back will be a vehicle repair and maintenance building wit
h a classroom and some offices. Visitors, workers, and soldiers will typically park between the two buildings, and then walk into the main entrance, which faces the parking lot.
The AFRC is being designed to achieve certification as a 'green' building, according to the lead architect for KBE, which is designing and building the $52M project. The Army appears to be sparing few expenses to achieve this. There will be five storm water detention basins, capable of holding a 100 year storm. The largest of the basins will drain through a cascade channel, dissipating the flow of rainwater. There will be a 40 kilowatt photovoltaic solar panels, solar heated hot water, and a 10,000 square foot green roof.
The Architect said that the building will look familiar to Connecticut, using the "New England vocabulary of brick and precast concrete, with metal trim."
DeRita Construction is currently grading the site, in anticipation of pouring the cement footings in early June. Peter DeRita said that approximately 120,000 cubic yards have already been removed, and about 800-900 truck loads leave the site every day, transporting dirt to sites on Ken Dooley Drive, Middle Street and a site in Cheshire.