The rear portion — the auditorium — of the dilapidated, city-owned Lyric Theater was bulldozed last weekend. It was a sorry wreck and probably had to go, but it didn't have to come to this. The Lyric, an iconic neighborhood theater, was the victim of inertia.
One of the potential gems that could have crowned the rebirth of Park Street was permitted to crumble instead.
Other cities have done something original, visually arresting and culturally useful with grand old buildings like the Lyric. Hartford could have too, if city officials and developers had acted early enough.
But under many years of city control, the Lyric deteriorated due to neglect, a fate currently suffered by too many other large buildings around this town. That's the Hartford way: Pretend it's not there. Temporary patches on the Lyric's roof in recent years were not sufficient to stem the decay.
A nonprofit developer drew up plans for the Lyric — a branch post office, a cultural center — but money could not be raised to make it happen.
Yes, it would have been difficult to find the money, but nothing is impossible if leadership in both the public and private sectors is entrepreneurial, purposeful and daring.
A second opportunity remains.
Can't some community use of the front part of the Lyric — the portion on Park Street that housed the theater's ticket office and a rehearsal hall and small stage upstairs — be made?
The city and its consultants should decide, without letting decades lapse, whether that's possible and get to work.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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