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Hartford’s iQuilt: A Big Idea Where Somebody Needs To Step Up

Rick Green

January 11, 2012

I know, oh please another big-ticket let’s-save-Hartford plan. How many you times have you heard this when another cool idea for Hartford floats to the surface — give us money. But the nearly $100 million iQuilt project, a fascinating collaboration between the business, arts and entertaiment communities, has come up with something a little different – bite size, affordable, pieces that add up to a changed city.

What’s needed now is for something real to happen. iQuilt, which links Hartford’s attractions by creating a more walkable city, presents another chance for Hartford.

This time, as iQuilt mastermind Doug Suisman told a packed gathering sponsored by the MetroHartford Alliance Tuesday morning, there’s a chance to get some momentum going by starting with small, doable projects.

We’re talking about building a permanent outdoor skating rink and moving the Bushnell Park carousel near it. Or converting Gold Street into an extension of Bushnell Park all the way to Main Street. It means convicing Travelers, which is planning to renovate and rebuild the square in front of the Wadsworth, to open up to cafes and public spaces. It makes convincing the MDC that bringing water back to Bushnell Park fits into their billion-dollar renovation plans that are already underway.

Some of iQuilt is whacky — free umbrellas and green sneakers for walking won’t light a spark under Hartford — but others aren’t: creating new spaces that people want to be a part of and opening up the attractions like the Bushnell (and Pratt & Whitney!) that remain behind closed doors are a few promising ideas. Plans are underway for something called “Invisionfest”this fall to showcase ideas for Hartford.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, who has staked his administration on small, tangible improvements to the city, told me he’d like to see “a river of ice” in Bushnell, making it the sort of Providence-like attraction that makes a name for the city. He said he is prepared to commit some city money to iQuilt — but others must follow his example.

Suisman, the big thinker from California hired to design iQuilt, went so far as to compare Hartford to Portland, Oregon. But the real issue may not be money for a region rich in history, talent and creativity.

“I only see one significant obstacle: Self doubt,” Suissman said. “Negativity is one habit you should resolve to break.”

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.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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