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Lyric Theater Renovation Gets a Boost

Andy Hart

January 19, 2012

Frog Hollow is the center of Connecticut’s Hispanic community and the intersection of Broad and Park Streets is the center of Frog Hollow. So it makes perfect geographical sense that this intersection would be the ideal location for a regional center for Hispanic culture.

Fortunately, a vacant building is located just one building away from the actual intersection, the old Lyric Theater on Park Street. The Lyric building has been vacant for several years and the actual theater portion of the structure was torn down in 2010 due to safety concerns.

However, Councilman Luis Cotto said the demolition of the theater, while regrettable, did free up space for parking and the addition of an elevator to bring the building up to code.

Cotto is on a committee which is looking into how best to redevelop the portion of the Lyric that is still standing, as a Hispanic cultural center. Other committee members include Mayor Pedro Segarra, artist Carlos Hernandez Chavez and representatives from the Hartford Public Library’s Park Street Branch, the Charter Oak Cultural Center and Guakia, Inc.

Last week, City Council allocated $4.7 million for facade improvements to 30 buildings along the Park Street commercial corridor; $300,000 of which is earmarked for improvements to the Lyric. The money was provided by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. In addition, Council has allocated $800,000 for the Lyric renovation in the current budget (FY 0211-2012).

Cotto said much of the $800,000 will be devoted to design and assessing the building and what needs to be done to transform it into a regional cultural center. Currently, the Lyric renovation committee is trying to decide whether to renovate the entire building or to leave the facade up, tear down the rest and build a new building. Going with new construction would give designers more flexibility, Cotto said, especially in making sure that the building meets ADA?(Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements.

The other major question is whether the new cultural center will also be able to serve as the new home of the Park Street Branch of the Hartford Public Library, which has outgrown its current space. Ideally, Cotto said, the library would like to have a new branch with 10,000 square feet of space. However, the current Lyric building only has about 11,000 square feet. If a new building is constructed behind the current facade, it might be able to include enough space to satisfy the library’s needs. Based on that scenario, said Cotto, the library would be located in the basement and the first floor and the cultural center would be on the second and third floors.

The other major question, said Cotto, is who will be responsible for managing the cultural center once it is built. He added that this has been a stumbling block for the project in the past. The center might be turned over to a local organization, such as Guakia, Inc., or it might be run by the city. A third option would be some type of partnership.

Conflict of Interest: WFP vs. Taxpayers

“You dance with the girl you came in with” is common sense if you want to continue a relationship. That being the case, woe to the Hartford taxpayers now that the Working Families party, and its ally, the council president, control the council budget-making process through the Operations, Manage­ment and Budget Committee. Let’s face it, the WFP is a union party. Unions started this PAC that now operates as a faux political party (a “party” without town committees, or primaries, or central committees). Unions control it, finance it, and are proud of its “accomplishments”, all union agendas. Proudly progressive, the local WFP elected officials constantly rail at big business and capitalists - who pay a big share of the taxes in Connecticut and Hartford now.

A leading WFP councilman blasts the Hartford for its tax break “They make too much money...” just as one of Hartford’s largest employers gave the city millions and supported millions in local charitable efforts. O.K. WFP chase those nasty capitalists out and get your union bosses to foot the bill.

The real problem is that unions are unions and management is management. Right now, the WFP is management, so what happens when - this year - the city has a significant decrease in income? Taxes go up or services get cut, meaning union give-backs or layoffs. Since “you dance with the girl you came in with”, which direction do think the WFP will take?

In discussion with one WFP councilman, he got very upset with your reporter, “you’ll ruin everything”, he said. Since he doesn’t answer to a town committee, we may be the only ones to question his actions and philosophy.

So, we bet that when the Mayor submits his budget, the city unions will not be happy and they will want a return on their investment. Council President , you are now in a tough spot of your own making. By using the WFP to elevate you, a first time councilman, to top leadership of the council and its most powerful committee (OMB), you will have a choice: turning your back on the taxpayers or “the girl you came in with” the WFP.

Reprinted with permission of the The Hartford News.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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