Downtown Public Safety Complex Good For Residents, Development
June 08, 2009
Construction has finally begun on Hartford's new public safety complex on High Street across I-84 from downtown, and that is good news on several fronts.
Bringing the police department back to the center of the city corrects a head-scratching mistake made 35 years ago, when the department was moved to a difficult-to-reach building in the North Meadows, near the landfill. The move took advantage of city-owned land and assumed most police work would be done by radio-dispatched cars.
But as Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts put it, the department needs to be in the community and accessible to the public. At present, some people have to catch two buses to get there. By the same token, police officers need to be in the neighborhoods and on the streets, not driving back and forth on the highway.
The city did the right thing by preserving an 1891 school building, which also served for years as the city board of education headquarters, for the complex. This Romanesque brick building can be the centerpiece of a Victorian revival of the area north of the highway, an area that was cut off by the disastrous decision to run I-84 through downtown.
Such a revival could reconnect downtown to the Albany Avenue commercial corridor, the restored historic homes on Belden Street and new housing on Main Street. Artfully bridging the highway would make downtown bigger and give it more possibilities.
The $75 million project will provide hundreds of construction jobs, be built to LEED silver standards for environmental sustainability and be powered by a fuel cell, making it one of the greenest restoration projects in the area. It will give the fire department needed administrative space. It is to be completed in April 2011; let's hope it's finished ahead of schedule.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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