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Coltsville Suffers Setback In Bid To Be National Park

By MARK SPENCER

September 23, 2010

HARTFORD The drive to designate the former Colt factory complex as a national park suffered what supporters called a minor setback Wednesday when a bill that would have formally started the process failed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill, introduced in April by U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, would have established several criteria for the Coltsville industrial village to become a national park. A member of Larson's staff said Thursday that he intends to reintroduce the bill as soon as possible, perhaps before the end of the year.

The bill came to a vote under a abbreviated procedure that required two-thirds approval, but failed with 214 "yes" votes and 174 "no" votes. Larson's office said the bill probably will be brought to a vote next time under a procedure that is more time-consuming, but requires a simple majority to pass.

Connecticut's entire Congressional delegation supported the bill and Larson blamed Republican political maneuvering for its defeat.

"I am disappointed that in today's hyper-partisan atmosphere in Washington we can't even get agreement to create a national park to preserve one of our nation's and our area's most important historic manufacturing sites," Larson said in a statement. "This legislation was supported by the Republican governor of our state and a bipartisan coalition of local officials."

Sarah Barr, director of communications for Hartford, said work will continue on plans to develop the site.

"This is a delay, not a defeat," she said.

Plans call for a mixed-use development at the 260-acre site, including a museum featuring historic firearms that supporters say would be a major tourist attraction.

A study released late last year by the National Park Service determined that Coltsville was a nationally significant site, qualifying it to become a national park. But the study said there were feasibility issues, in part because the site is caught up in a complex maze of liens and debt.

City officials have said those issues are being addressed. Hartford-based CG Management Co. last month took over as developer of the Colt Gateway Redevelopment project, continuing work that had started under Los Angeles-based Urban Smart Growth.

CG Management announced last month that the Capitol Region Education Council, a Colt tenant for eight years, had leased an additional 50,000 square feet for a magnet school, part of its Greater Hartford Academy for the Arts.

Lawrence P. Dooley, principal of CG Management, said he was confident Coltsville will eventually become a national park. He said it took two tries to have Coltsville named a National Historic Landmark.

"You just keep pushing at it," Dooley said.

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.
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