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Mr. Greenberg's Second Act

January 24, 2006

Hartford and urban planner Kenneth Greenberg have done so well for each other over the past eight years that it's no surprise that the city and MetroHartford Alliance are hoping to hire him again. They want him to identify ways to amplify the current wave of downtown development energy so that investors are encouraged to branch out into nearby neighborhoods and expand the city's revival.

Mr. Greenberg's 1998 "Downtown Hartford Economic and Urban Design Action Strategy," better known as the "Greenberg Plan," became the conceptual blueprint for most of the current revitalization projects in the heart of downtown.

At its core, the 1998 plan called for turning downtown into a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly, 24-hour-a-day hub of restaurants, boutiques, groceries, theaters, new dwellings and art venues. Hartford isn't there yet, but there is considerable progress.

Mr. Greenberg's plan, for example, recommended doubling the 1,600 residents who lived downtown. The city is well on its way to meeting that benchmark thanks to an initial wave of government-subsidized proposals such as Trumbull Centre, the Sage-Allen building and Hartford 21 that primed the pump for an unprecedented upsurge in luxury condominium construction.

Developers took pains to conform their projects to Mr. Greenberg's concept.

He also called for a low-cost shuttle bus linking the Civic Center, Adriaen's Landing and other downtown sites. The state's Capital City Economic Development Authority put a modest form of the line into service last fall.

Among Mr. Greenberg's recommendations was the installation of signs to direct visitors to city landmarks, which has been a success. He also suggested converting one-way streets into two-way thoroughfares but, so far, only Asylum Avenue and High Street have benefited from that idea. Mr. Greenberg also advocates the improvement of sidewalk lighting and the elimination of elevated walkways to encourage street-level foot traffic.

The Toronto-based planner developed a design for the revitalization of Park Street, much of which is underway. He was called in by the development authority to redesign Columbus Boulevard with a center median and fewer lanes to make it easier to walk from the convention center to other parts of the downtown.

One Greenberg proposal that, although approved by the city council, has yet to be fully implemented is a design center to make sure that development follows the city's master plan and to help developers through the permitting process.

Re-engaging Mr. Greenberg would maintain his sense of vision, scale and design that sparked the downtown's revitalization while extending that energy into adjoining neighborhoods.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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