Hartford Eyesore: Banner draws attention to building best demolished
Hartford Courant Editorial
May 27, 2010
Photographer Joe Standart's "Portraits of America" project, seen in Hartford storefronts and on its streets, graces the city with striking images of local people. But we almost wish the exhibit's biggest work — a 40-by-60-foot banner — hadn't been draped across the front of the dilapidated embarrassment known as the Capitol West building, seen by thousands of highway drivers daily from I-84.
The banner beautifies the Myrtle Street wreckage — a sometime home to druggies, vandals and at least one corpse — but unfortunately also calls attention to it.
We can't speak for the 160,000 people per day who pass Capitol West, perched above the Asylum Street exit, but locals have become inured to the would-be apartment building, blocking it from their minds as they do their ugliest piece of outdoor furniture.
If calling attention to Capitol West (and other vacant heaps) with a startling photographic exhibit would lead quickly to its demolition or its revival, fine. But we doubt it. Time goes by. Reports that city hall is talking to its owner circulate periodically. Nothing happens. Time continues to go by.
Nothing says urban decay like the Capitol West building and its sisters in misery, the Maharishi's vacant Clarion Hotel on Constitution Plaza and the aptly nicknamed "Butt Ugly" building at 1161 Main St. Its formal name is the H.P. Davis building.
Ah, yes, Hartford's architectural calling cards: the exquisitely detailed State Capitol, the electrifying Colt dome — and the "Butt Ugly"?
Actually, the last shall be first when it comes to city redevelopment plans. Because the city is strapped and can do only one project at a time, and because the Davis building would be the cheapest to buy, the "Butt Ugly" will be the first to be demolished and the property redeveloped.
But when? Well, the city hopes a deal can be closed by the end of the year. What's another six months when we've waited for more than a decade?
A timetable for the resolution of Capitol West's fate is less clear. In the meantime, how about covering it completely with "Portrait of America" banners?
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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