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Town Council Opts to Seek Redevelopment of Bristol's Downtown Schools

Community development director is drafting an RFP for all or some or a combination of the former Walley, Byfield and Reynolds schools.

Reynolds School. Credit: W. Rupp
Reynolds School. Credit: W. Rupp

A request for proposal for the redevelopment of the former Walley School in Bristol did not draw much interest. So the Town Council decided last week to make a pitch for the redevelopment of three of Bristol’s downtown schools: Walley, Byfield and Reynolds. 

“I think the Town Council will entertain just anything they get for the three buildings,” said Diane Williamson , Bristol community development director. 

“All or some of the school buildings or any combination thereof,” Williams said.

All of the buildings are within a stone’s throw of each other on High Street near the Town Common. Walley is empty. Reynolds houses the Bristol Theater Company. Byfield is the home for the Community Strings Project, several other artists and a book maker and photographer.

“We’re not pushing anyone out,” Williamson emphasizes. “We’re absolutely not. We love our current tenants.

“In fact,” she said, “I want to make it clear that we would like the current tenants to submit proposals. We want to keep who is there in the buildings.” 

Williamson said she has just started to draft a new RFP for the three former schools.  Her goal is to have it done by the end of this month. 

The town is particularly interested in public/private partnerships, Williamson said. 

“It’s all about supporting the community,” she said. "These are wonderful assets.”

Williamson said the Town Council seems willing to look at just about any redevelopment plan, but “it’s got to be a good fit for the community.” 

“We want to get it right,” she said.

Which means a developer who will put all of the former schools back into productive use with, hopefully, a significant economic impact for Bristol. 

Bristol owns all three buildings and cannot sell them. 

The previous RFP for Walley School included criteria that would show the number and types of jobs created, its ability to draw visitors to Bristol and residents downtown, and the building’s ability to serve as a catalyst for other development.

Expect something similar in the RFP for all three buildings.

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