After receiving a $5.5 million grant from the state last week, Connecticut Transit’s abandoned bus depot moved one step closer to transforming into “The District” — a 105,000-square-foot complex that will house a CrossFit gym, cafes and office space to tech companies.
The State Bond Commission approved the grant, which will finance the elimination of pollution from the 470 James St. site. With the multimillion-dollar grant secured, project leaders have enough funds for clean-up and must now obtain aldermanic permission to build “The District” before the $16 million construction begins, according to David Salinas, co-leader of the project.
The complex, which Salinas initially just designed for his tech company Digital Surgeons, now caters to young professionals desiring office spaces replete with amenities, Salinas said.
“I envisioned something that I wanted for my own company,” he said. “The campus is a combination of work and life.”
The old bus depot, which CT Transit abandoned in September 2010, sits adjacent to the Mill River and houses a squat, one-story garage where buses used to sit overnight. Architects in charge of “The District” hope to preserve the depot’s industrial aesthetic, said Kenneth Boroson, whose namesake firm created the complex’s exterior designs.
Boroson added that half of CT Transit’s former building will be preserved, including its brick walls and skylights. Architects will wall-off the demolished side with cement and create a similar two-story building with light-permitting glass walls.
Tech professionals at the complex will have access to recreational options such as kayaking on the Mill River, a CrossFit gym and yoga studios. The centerpiece of the plans is a 15,000-square-foot collection of offices and conference rooms for entrepreneurs and small companies to share, Salinas said. He added that Studios Architecture, the design head for this space, is modeling this shared working space on offices the firm has already built for Pandora and Dropbox.
“The concept is like an ecosystem,” Salinas said. “You come in through the co-working space and grow as large as you want. Once you graduate, there are spaces that range from 1,300 square feet to 13,000 square feet as you take your company from one to 100 to 100-plus people.”
The construction of this project follows a three-decade effort by various developers to revitalize the once-industrial neighborhood surrounding the site, city Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson SOM ’81 said. Housing redevelopments, the addition of East Rock Community Magnet School and new eating options have brought commerce, residents and visitors back to the neighborhood.
“We’re really reusing old factory buildings to connect neighborhoods damaged by highways and development to try to go back to the dynamic community you might have had in 1900 and reimagining it for 2015,” Nemerson said.
Though Salinas said he hopes construction will likely begin by next month, he also noted that the timing of city approval may be unpredictable.
Along with approving $5.5 million for “The District,” the State Bond Commission also approved a $14.5 million grant to fund teen safe space the “Q House,” on Dixwell Avenue last Friday.