In the 1990s, a minister asked Trinity College President Evan Dobelle how his church could get involved in the city.
"Take care of your corner," Mr. Dobelle advised.
That philosophy has been the underpinning of one of Hartford's most successful neighborhood revitalization efforts, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance, known as SINA, a partnership of Trinity, Hartford Hospital and the Connecticut Children's Medical Center, continues to transform the south-central part of the city.
Formed when blight and crime threatened its neighborhoods, SINA has been the catalyst that has created new housing, economic development, scholarships and — most notably — the Learning Corridor campus.
In the 1970s, SINA helped create a community newspaper and a nonprofit development corporation, both of which still exist. The group broadened its efforts in 1980s and early 1990s to such things as mortgage assistance, youth leadership projects and other programs.
When gang violence and property abandonment in the mid-1990s threatened to undo the gains, SINA responded with a major renewal project, the $112 million Learning Corridor, a campus of four public magnet schools built on the site of an old bus garage.
Now there is a campus setting reaching from Jefferson Street near the hospital to the Zion Street side of the college (and it is one walkers enjoy on pleasant summer days). SINA also has built — and found owners for — 33 new homes in the area, and has another 18 in the works, said executive director Luis Caban.
The organization is involved in everything from streetscape improvements to neighborhood awards. SINA inspired the creation of a similar group in the north side of the city, NINA.
SINA's 30th anniversary is important. Though Hartford sometimes has been vulnerable to the lure of big-bang renewal projects, most real progress comes in smaller steps, over time. Though heads of the institutions — and some partners — have changed, the commitment to SINA has been steadfast. And it has paid off in a better neighborhood for residents, workers, visitors and students.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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