“Something really fantastic needs to happen here” was the sentiment expressed during the “Greening America’s Capitals” workshops that took place this week. Back in November, I wrote about how this project was responsible for better stormwater management at the State Capitol. This week’s workshops went beyond this, allowing residents and stakeholders to provide ideas about how to improve the area of Capitol Avenue from approximately Sigourney Street to the State Capitol area.
The Wednesday evening “Livable, Sustainable Neighborhoods and the Residential Scale” workshop at the Lyceum on Lawrence Street had a large crowd with representation from the North East, Asylum Hill, SoDo, Frog Hollow, and Maple Avenue NRZs. Also present: David Panagore, Roger O’Brien, and Councilman Painter. Abby Hall, from the EPA, presented information and made herself available for one-on-one discussion after.
It was reported that 35-50 people attended all of the various meetings during the week; many even came to the evening session after being forced outside to walk along the corridor being discussed.
The Greening America’s Capitals project partners the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Transportation to provide capital cities with the services of urban planners and landscape architects. Greening America’s Capitals will be working in conjunction with the iQuilt project to make the Capitol Avenue corridor more “distinctive” and “environmentally friendly.”
To improve connectivity along Capitol Avenue, there was the suggestion of adding greenspaces called BRT Art Walk, Broad Flower Park, Capitol Meadow, Connecticut Square, and SoDo Green. These would incorporate native vegetation, particularly on the State Capitol lawn, which would become a “learning station” about Connecticut’s environment.
Another idea mentioned was that of finding ways to “punch holes” in the yards of those in Frog Hollow. Most of our back yards are paved. This massive amount of asphalt puts pressure on the parks and creates problems with water runoff. Punching through the pavement would allow for water to seep into the ground and not just pool up or run downhill.
The audience was shown slides of what sections of Hartford could look like with complete streets, more vibrant retail, and altered parking lots. The parking lot at the corner of Capitol Avenue and Broad Street was what people referred to when expressing “something really fantastic needs to happen here.” Having spent much time standing at that corner waiting to cross, I can’t say I disagree. There was talk about the need to balance parking with other needs. Unlike other gatherings where people have called to just get rid of lots, they were more interested in adding greenery and removing a few spots.
The Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects were chosen by the EPA to lead this project; they will be creating a report summarizing all of the suggestions made during this week’s workshops and will make their own recommendations for implementation. This report is expected in roughly 30-45 days.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
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