story & photo by Pamela Johnson, Bulletin Publisher
A dozen or so state and local officials and members of the business community gathered recently for a symbolic ribbon-cutting ceremony. On Nov. 1, the group, which included Dep. Secretary of Housing & Economic Development Tom McGourthy, State Rep. Mike Soter, Town Administrator Denis Fraine, DPW Director Don DiMartino, Town Planner Jim Kupfer, Planning Board Chairman William O’Connell, Rob DeMarco of Campanelli Development, Kien Ho of Beta Group, Inc., and others, gathered at the intersection of Maple Street and Mechanic Street (Rte. 140) to mark the completion of the extensive realignment of that major intersection.
“I’m really excited to see this completed,” said State Rep. Soter, who started working on the project as a Selectman. “This has opened a gateway to business in this town. It signals that Bellingham is open for business.”
The realignment of the corner, which better facilitates truck traffic and movement through the intersection, was a collaboration among the state, the town and Campanelli Development Corporation, a third-generation commercial real estate, construction, development, acquisitions and management company that built the Campanelli Business Park at Maple and High streets. The state awarded Bellingham an economic development grant of close to $1.7 million, the town contributed $200,000 for the engineering design, and the $700,000 balance was paid by Campanelli.
Dep. Sec. McGourthy noted that there is fierce competition for economic development grants. “We received $220 million in requests; we had $80 million to award.” He continued, “This is an exciting project, which builds on the potential of this area with its proximity to downtown and the [Forge Park] “T” station. We’re happy to partner with the town to improve the basic infrastructure that is crucial to development. Congratulations to the town of Bellingham for visualizing this project, which will unlock economic development opportunities in town. We didn’t see it, but you did.”
Campanelli’s Rob DeMarco agreed. “We never would have invested $30 million [in the industrial park] if this intersection project hadn’t happened,” said DeMarco, who also thanked the Planning Board, the Conservation Commission, Town Administrator Denis Fraine and Town Planner Jim Kupfer for their assistance with the project. “This is our 13th business park in the state,” he noted. Interestingly, DeMarco’s grandfather was one of the four brothers who founded Campanelli and developed the Wethersfield subdivision off of North Main Street in the 1960s.
Fraine praised Kupfer and the Planning Board for working to balance the town’s needs with the needs of the developer/project, noting that Maple Street now has over one million sq. ft. of industrial space. “I have the easy part. I get it set up and then say to Jim [Kupfer] and Don [DiMartino], ‘Here’s the money; now make it happen,’” he laughingly noted. “And it all came together on time and on budget.”
Sen. Fattman noted that it was good to see all parties—state, town and business—working together, in contrast with the federal government, which he called “a disaster.” “I’m happy to be part of it. It’s great working with Mike Soter.” To which Soter responded, “The Senator and I have a lot of things cooking.”
Hmmm. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.