As the Rouse Company was about to open the Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston in the 1970s, some of the retail space remained unleased. Company officials didn't want to open a half-empty market, so they visited craft fairs all over Greater Boston and recruited crafters to sell from pushcarts, so the space would be full when it opened and the market would project the right image. It worked.
Image is important. The Connecticut Convention Center opened with vacant land across the street, the site of the Front Street development. Although this space will eventually have apartments and retail outlets, the interim image is rather bleak.
But, at last, at Gov. M. Jodi Rell's urging, someone had an idea. When there's a convention in town, have a street fair on Front Street, the street that runs from Columbus Boulevard to Prospect Street across from the convention center.
Officials are trying the idea out this week, yesterday and today, to welcome the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority's Eastern Regional conference. There are tents on the street for food, drink, music and information tables. The program, put together by promoter and former city council member Mike McGarry, will run at lunchtime and after work, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 8 p.m.
The idea is to bring visitors, downtown office workers and residents of nearby Sheldon-Charter Oak neighborhood together, which should be a good way to sell the city. If it works, officials will try it at other gatherings, until construction of the Front Street development begins in the fall. Hartford so often needs good small ideas, and this is one.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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