$70M complex to spring from former farmland; Riverbridge a mixed-use project.

Position:LOCAL NEWS
 
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Byline: Bronislaus B. Kush

BERLIN - To an area motorist who doesn't keep track of town "happenings," the new Shell gas station and convenience center at the rotary near the Solomon Pond Mall is just an accommodating place to fuel up before hopping onto Interstates 290 and 495.

But to the Senie family, the gas stop, which opened last month, is the first piece of a multimillion-dollar mixed-use project that it hopes to develop over time on the pastoral landscape that straddles the Berlin-Marlboro line.

Yesterday, the Senies, joined by their project managers and state and local officials, among others, held a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $2.4 million structure.

"This is the finest gas station in the state," said Christopher Senie, the president of Riverbridge North LLC.

He said work is scheduled to begin in the fall on another building suited for retail use, which will be constructed nearby.

"Riverbridge" is considered to be one of the town's largest projects ever.

The $70 million complex is to be developed on about 26 acres at the rotary where River Road West, Whitney Road and South Street meet. A conservation restriction prevents any construction on the other 88 acres of former farmland that the developer bought from the Risi family last year.

"We're trying to build a project that fits in with the nature of the town," said Mr. Senie's brother, Matthew, who serves as Riverbridge's general manager.

Matthew Senie said there are ongoing discussions with possible tenants for the next structure.

The Senies are hoping the project, which is intended to be built like a village, will result in 130,000 square feet of commercial space and 115 housing units (apartments and condominiums).

Officials said that 84 units will be set aside for affordable housing

The village is being designed to attract households without children, such as empty-nesters and couples buying their first homes.

There are also plans for a 175,000-square-foot assisted living facility with 90 units.

The complex will sit on meadow-like land and parcels where the Risi family ran various businesses, including a liquor store, a building supply company, and a car repair shop.

Riverbridge, located in South Berlin, is expected to generate 1,683 construction jobs and 440 permanent jobs.

"We are a small family business, and this is the only project we are involved in," said Christopher Senie.

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