Park Street in Hartford, the city's and the region's Hispanic retail corridor, has not been known in recent years as a late-night hub of activity.
But thanks in large part to a string of period streetlamps that have been installed on both sides of the commercial strip from Park Terrace to Main Street, Park has become so much more inviting to stroll through that businesses, mostly restaurants, are once again operating late into the evening.
Police theorize - sensibly - that lighted streets deter crime and reduce fear. And it was never more apparent than at around 10 p.m. on a recent Sunday, when a passerby counted two bodegas and six eateries, including the new El Mundo pizza shop, still tending to customers.
The lights are part of the almost-finished $6 million first phase of a streetscape project that includes repaving, designs for slowing traffic, trees, signs, benches and sidewalks resurfaced in decorative stone. Video surveillance cameras and new building facades will be part of the second phase, which has so far acquired $1 million in state bond funds. The total cost of phase two is estimated at $4 million.
New housing in the surrounding area has also contributed to the expanding number of pedestrians venturing onto Park Street at night.
Among developments either completed or under construction in the neighborhood are the rehabilitation of 13 vacant buildings for rental housing along Zion Street and federally funded renovations in Mortson/Putnam Heights, Cityscape Homes, Park Terrace II, Washington Court and the Park-Squire-Wolcott apartments. Also in the works is the $64 million Plaza Mayor proposal to build two residential towers, a Spanish-style public square and lots of retail at the gateway on Park and Main streets.
What's missing are major cultural and entertainment attractions and upscale dining experiences that will draw more visitors from beyond the Park Street area.
One of the most discussed possibilities is the conversion of the former Lyric Theater on Park and Broad streets into a library/cultural center with performance and exhibition space. But the nonprofit Broad-Park Development Corp., which owns the building and has artist's renderings of a makeover, has yet to generate sufficient funds for the project.
Also under consideration is a catering hall as part of Plaza Mayor.
Park Street has the lights. It will soon have the cameras. All it needs now is more action
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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