Poor Timothy Mather Allyn is rolling in his grave. It's a safe bet Allyn, who served as Hartford's mayor in the mid-1880s, wouldn't care much for how the western end of his eponymous street has changed since his day.
Leaving Union Station by the front door, visitors to Allyn's city might naturally scan the eastern skyline to see what the town offers. But a gigantic billboard looming at the corner of Allyn Street and Union Place so overshadows its surroundings that it all but obstructs views of the city's church spires, office buildings and the Capitol itself.
On one side of the double-barreled assault is an ad with the cherubic father-son legal team of Appleton and Appleton. But on the billboard's other side is the VIP pleasure warehouse. From its high perch, a Brobdignagian brunette peers down, looking far more Satanic than erotic. You couldn't really blame an out-of-towner from turning around and hopping back on the bus.
This is a shameful use of a key corner lot. As with so much downtown real estate, the parcel is wasted on surface parking and inappropriate marketing.
The city may garner some revenue but is missing a much larger opportunity. If only some enterprising developer (whose ego was in check) could see the potential for a corner lot in the epicenter of the city's transportation and entertainment district and put an attractive commercial building there.
That way, visitors arriving by bus or train might find a good cup of coffee and check their e-mail at an Internet cafe, eat ice cream on a patio, view some art, or buy a paperback and a magazine for the ride home. You know, the sorts of things people do in real cities.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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