January 23, 2007
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
People trying to leverage the recent state and private investment in downtown Hartford into a citywide development agenda for the future have completed the second phase of their study - Hartford 2010 - and are presenting their results to the public today.
If the first phase of the project was to define a scope and the third stage will be to execute plan, the second phase has been to come up with big and small ideas to rethink, revitalize, remarket various parts of the city, officials said Monday.
"The major goal remains the same," said R. Nelson "Oz" Griebel, head of the region's MetroHartford Alliance. "What should the city and the private sector be doing to attract additional investment in a way that marries and links the city more effectively with the suburbs?"
To that end, urban planner Ken Greenberg - whose 1998 city study created a discussion about the viability, accessibility and future of downtown Hartford - is in the middle of a 10-month, $250,000 study that will culminate with recommendations on ways to better connect the various development projects in the city with one another, and with the region. The fee is being paid by the city and a broad spectrum of businesses and community organizations.
Greenberg told an audience of financial backers gathered in the Aetna Theater at Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art that the city should focus on what he called "tridents" - places where major streets intersect that once had great character but have since fallen into disrepair: South Green; Terry Square; Upper Albany; Asylum and Farmington avenues; and downtown's Main Street and North Main Street.
Some of the ideas for the neighborhoods are new and some of them simply capture pieces of the work already underway. Some are ambitious, and others less so.
On the smaller side, for instance, Greenberg suggests civic and retail improvements to the Upper Albany area to boost the West Indian cultural emphasis, to create a "village green," improving some traffic patterns and providing incentives to business development.
On the larger side, he sees major opportunities for high-end office, retail, hotel and housing developments in the area of Asylum and Farmington avenues. This neighborhood, along with the one just north of downtown, eventually could be a place for a new arena to replace the Hartford Civic Center, he said.
"If pursued together, and consistently, this set of opportunities really would be a next stage in the Hartford renaissance," Greenberg said. "How this actually turns into reality is the question that's on deck now."
After the public meetings today - at the Wadsworth's Aetna Theater at 8 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. - Greenberg and his team will spend the next two to three months setting an agenda, prioritizing projects and coming up with a marketing strategy.
Some in the audience Monday liked the grand ideas but were curious about the execution. Developer Sanford Cloud Jr. said he liked the vision but wanted to know more about whether the state will contribute funding. Mayoral candidate and State Rep. Art Feltman, D-Hartford, said the state is already suffering from a bit of Hartford-itis and is growing weary of funding major city projects while Adriaen's Landing is still incomplete. Businessman George Scott asked what would happen when private interest conflicted with public vision.
But execution is the subject of the next phase and beyond, Griebel said, the end result of which is clear: "To give us the tools to go out and market the city in a way we've not done before."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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