By Terence Elton
BRANFORD: “Make no little plans” was the advice of American architect and urban designer Daniel Burnham. His point was that in order to make communities more livable and to have the future we desire, good planning is critical.
Branford believes Burnham would approve of its approach to development. As a town, Branford considers such plans as more than an exercise, devoting time, energy, resources and much thought into its planning efforts, and then uses those plans to move the town forward.
This is evident as the town works to dovetail its Transit Oriented Development Plan, completed last fall, with efforts currently underway on its decennial Plan of Conservation and Development. Neither is produced in order to just check the box and then filed away until the next time; rather they are intended to be effective tools for the town to plot its course for the next decade.
Both planning projects involved forming a steering committee of local experts, engaging the services and expertise of a planning consultant, and collecting extensive community input through charrettes and listening sessions. The end result is a document that will provide a clear path to the future the community desires, just as Burnham said.
Earlier POCD’s paved the way for brownfield development at the former MIF and Atlantic Wire sites along the Branford River, called for the expansion of the neighboring train station, and replacing the Amtrak bridge over Rte. 1.
Today the Anchor Reef complex and the Stony Creek Brewery have replaced MIF, Atlantic Wharf is slated to replace Atlantic Wire, the train station has doubled its parking, added bike racks, and expanded with a new platform on the north side of the tracks served by a new commuter “kiss & ride” drop off.
The Amtrak bridge was completed; a new rail span was put in place, clearance was increased for vehicles on the Rte. 1 corridor, and additional turn lanes were put in for better access to and from I-95 at Exit 53 as well as the intersection with Rte. 142 and its entrance to the BranHaven Plaza retail center.
Once a plan is completed, the town then uses it to forge and nurture productive relationships with land owners, developers, architects, utility reps, contractors and the myriad others involved in development.
The town recognizes that one key to success is to communicate early and often. The land-use departments regularly hold “early plan review” meetings designed to identify early on where a proposed project may need attention.
It’s also the town’s practice to schedule inspections for necessary permits, approvals and COs so all goes as smoothly as possible, especially with major projects. This all falls under having a solid relationship that helps the project move forward and succeed.
Evidence that this approach is a sound one can be seen in a number of recent development projects:
- American Polyfilm’s new state-of-the-art manufacturing center;
- Artis Memory Care’s new 60 bed health facility – its first in the northeast;
- Defibtech’s moving its manufacturing operation to Branford;
- The arrival of biotech FreeThink Technologies;
- The expansions of both Ancera and sema4, Mt. Sinai’s new identity as a for-profit entity.
And in the pipeline are a number of new, approved projects, including the “Atlantic Wharf” TOD project that is to be launched along the Branford River, and a new boutique hotel in the town center.
Following Burnham’s advice to “Make no little plans,” Branford’s approach has proven to be sound: Develop the best plans possible and forge solid partnerships for their implementation and application. It’s this approach that has helped various industry segments, including biotech and manufacturing, to “Discover Branford.” Mid-way between Boston and Manhattan, Branford is a gateway to New England and a portal to the New York market by rail as well as by its direct access on the I-95 corridor, and only minutes to I-91 into northern New England.
Coupled with the lowest taxes on the shoreline, Branford offers an enviable quality of life with twenty miles of shoreline, forty miles of hiking and biking trails, a half dozen parks, two town beaches, a state boat launch, numerous marinas and yacht clubs, nationally ranked restaurants, and a robust art & music scene.
To discover more about Branford and for assistance in finding a site that meets your needs, go to www.branford-ct.org.
Terence Elton is special projects manager for the Town of Branford.