The Courant began its Cranes & Scaffolds
feature on Sept. 13, 1998, shortly after then-Gov. John G.
Rowland laid out his vision for downtown's Six Pillars of Progress.
The idea behind the editorial report card was to track major
projects in the core of the capital city, from housing to parking
to commercial enterprises, in order to spur its hoped-for renaissance.
At that time, skeptics outnumbered believers. Construction cranes
were as rare a sight on the Hartford skyline as whooping cranes.
Today, they are a familiar part of the landscape.
Call us cockeyed optimists, but it seems as if the capital city
has reached that flashpoint where perception meets reality and
progress takes on momentum of its own.
Of the 19 projects receiving
attention in today's report, 16 are accompanied by the symbols
of a running man or a rocket, meaning those projects are moving
along at a reasonable clip or rocketing toward completion.
For the first time ever, none of the projects has been assigned
the dreaded stalled car. Significantly, the centerpiece of
downtown development, the Connecticut Convention Center and
hotel, at the state-subsidized development called Adriaen's
Landing, retires after today from this feature. Stamp it "complete."
That doesn't mean Adriaen's Landing can yet be declared a success.
Front Street, the all-important retail, residential and entertainment
component across Columbus Boulevard from the convention center,
has had a slow start and a checkered history. Its development
is still being negotiated. But it's useful to remember that in
1998, a football stadium was still on the drawing board for that
vicinity. In hindsight, that would have been a huge mistake.
When Cranes & Scaffolds was first published seven years
ago, the Civic Center, called "a monument to frustration" by
The Courant back then, still lacked a buyer. The UConn stadium
at Rentschler Field didn't exist. Housing downtown was practically
nonexistent. The science center was in the doldrums. The Colt
building was falling apart, its blue onion dome peeling and decrepit.
The gleaming Learning Corridor near Trinity College was a vacant
lot. The Belding Theater at the Bushnell was but a sparkle in
the arts community's eye. Capital Community College, which is
already looking to expand its new home in the renovated G. Fox
building, was at the time still trying to decide on a site. All
these projects and more have been realized or are on their way
toward fulfillment. Each quarter, new plans appear at a rate
that seems to be accelerating. Parking, never in satisfactory
supply, is popping up like dandelions in April.
You get the picture. Hartford's dreams are coming together.
Longed-for sounds of construction are now street music to pedestrians
and patrons in the crowded cafes. It's beginning to feel like
a real metropolis. That feeling should intensify as more people
take up residence downtown.
Trumbull Centre has model apartments ready to entice tenants
and retail ready to go. Hartford 21, the apartment tower at the
Civic Center, is rising like a, well, rocket. The SNET apartment
building is lived-in and loved. The Metropolitan on Pearl Street
is being converted to condominiums without public subsidy. High-end
condos are in the works down the block.
Even some of the hoarier projects
listed from the beginning in Cranes & Scaffolds have momentum.
The Center for Science and Exploration, viewed as comatose
not long ago, has a director, a design and a date for a ground-
breaking. The beautiful building at 410 Asylum hasn't progressed
at all, but count that as a blessing: It was doomed to be razed
for parking. Thanks to some nice negotiating by Mayor Eddie
Perez and the property owner, the building is slated to become
The buzz about downtown's new look is a healthy sign of growing
vitality. Although Hartford's star still has plenty of room to
rise, the patient appears to be headed for full recovery.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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