Keep an eye on downtown Hartford. Its transformation from a 9-to-5, roll-up-the-sidewalks city center to a 24-hour clean and safe neighborhood with a vibrant nightlife is moving fast.
Last fall, property owners voted to organize themselves into a business improvement district that will supplement public safety, cleanliness, landscaping and other basic city services.
Beginning today, a nine-member security unit equipped with police radios, along with a cleaning crew of six manning a power washer, a pickup truck and a litter vacuum, are set to begin working seven days a week. Distinctive blue uniforms will make it easy to spot the BID employees, who also will function as hospitality ambassadors.
Plans also include adorning the district with about 200 flower planters and a marketing campaign that will feature a number of promotional events.
The district, a nonprofit corporation run by a 23-member elected board and Executive Director Michael Zaleski, has a three-year window in which to persuade the property owners that they were wise to add a surcharge to their property taxes to finance the BID.
The surcharge is expected to generate $880,000 a year. At the end of the three years, the BID proposal comes up for a reauthorization vote.
Jerry Hayes of the Phoenix, a member of the BID board, notes that image change is critical to the district's success. "The perception of Hartford is much worse than the reality," he said.
Downtown and the other elements of the district in Asylum Hill and Farmington Avenue should be quite the places in three years, boosting property values, office occupancy and jobs.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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