BRISTOL - Bristol Hospital has agreed to sell two downtown buildings to a New York-based development company that will provide temporary housing and job placement services to veterans.
“It’s exciting to do something more for veterans,” Bristol Hospital President and CEO Kurt Barwis said, adding that hospital officials have talked extensively about what more could be done for veterans in the area.
Barwis said hospital officials are “still on the fence” about whether they want to invest and partner with Lockwood Development Partners, LLC., which has agreed to buy the Funck Building, at 238 Main St., and the Eagle Building, at 222 Main St., for just over $1 million.
“They’ve offered it,” Barwis said.
Regardless of whether they decide to partner up, the hospital president added, Bristol Hospital has “offered to provide healthcare services if they’re needed.”
Lockwood Development Partners, which has offices in New York City, Chicago and Miami, has done similar projects in other parts of the country. Charles Everhardt, an executive at the development company, said Lockwood works with communities to identify specific needs of its veteran population. Education and job placement appears to be Bristol’s biggest need, he said.
The facilities in Bristol will provide dormitory-style housing and programs aimed at helping veterans transition from service in the military to entering the workforce, Everhardt said. The specific programs and services are still being worked out, but the Lockwood executive said the company typically tries to help veterans who underwent “on the job training” in the military become certified or licensed in their area of expertise.
For example, a veteran who provided medical care to soldiers while serving may not be recognized as someone qualified to do the same thing in the workforce. Lockwood works with the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to get them certified to be able to use the skills they learned in the military in the workforce.
“Everyone values what veterans bring to the workforce,” said Justin Malley, executive director of the Bristol Development Authority. “What a great asset to this community.”
“They’ve said they want to help,” Everhardt said of Malley and other city officials.
“It really is going to be a partnership,” Malley added.
Some of the funding for the project will come from tax credits designated for buildings that are part of the National Register of Historic Places, Everhardt said. Malley added that the city’s Tax Increment Financing program may also apply to the project.
Lockwood is hoping to begin renovations of the Funck Building, which will provide temporary housing, around June 2020. The Eagle Building will be operational and providing services before then, Everhardt said. He added that it’s still too early to tell how many units will fit into the housing facility. There’s roughly 50,000 square feet between the two buildings, according to Malley.
Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu noted that Bristol is the perfect place for something like this, as it has the second largest veteran population in the state. She also said it’s another example of an “underutilized downtown building coming back online.”
Beyond just helping veterans, Everhardt said, the program will bring anywhere from 50 to a couple hundred jobs to Bristol from the operational needs of the facilities.
Hospital and city officials said Everhardt, since this project was first discussed, has been very transparent about Lockwood’s intentions. He has also paid a number of visits to the area to ask questions and work with city officials about the specific needs of veterans.
Bristol Hospital has already started relocating services that were provided in both the Funck and Eagle buildings.