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beerbeer

A vision for Hartford; eight priority projects to create vibrancy. (very long)

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This is my version of the six pillars with the caveat there are eight projects listed. They include residential, entertainment, transportation infrastructure and culture. They are listed in priority order based on impact, achievability and cost.

I do not see this as “revitalization” as I believe Hartford is already vital city with numerous assets. Rather these projects are meant to take the city to the next level. The goal is to create a vibrant core with enough critical mass to propel the city forward for decades.

1) 101 Pearl Street renovation. A bustling Trumbull Street corridor would do wonders for image of the city. This street has an arena, two theaters within a block, access to the park, excellent restaurants and lots of housing. In short, everything a city dweller or visitor could ask for. Turning the dead corner at Trumbull and Pearl into apartments would give the city the kind of pedestrian traffic and 24-hour activity that would make Trumbull Street the place to be. This does not to have to be an “A+” project. A solid “B” accomplishes the goal of creating enough activity to be the catalyst for more.

2) Bradley International Airport. The airport is the single most important economic engine in the state. For national and international business the ability to connect to the rest of the country and world is an absolute necessity. They cannot grow without it. The DOT has proven they cannot run the place. Under DOT control, Hartford stagnated while commercial aviation in the rest of the country sprinted ahead. The new private board is a step in the right direction. Its first order of business should be to address the lack of a European connection. That’s critical for Hartford’s global success.

3) The Sonesta Hotel conversion. This project fixes a 60-year old mistake, the lack of housing at Constitution Plaza. The proximity to the riverfront begins the process of reconnecting residences to new park system. While in itself, this project does not have the critical mass to support local businesses and amenities, as a first step, hopefully followed by housing on the Broadcast House site and at Front Street, it can help reignite the relationship between the city and the river.

4) Washington- Rochambeau National Park. One of the most important events in the founding of the United States, the meeting of the French and American commanders took place at the Hartford State House. They planned the Yorktown Campaign in two meetings, one at 800 Main Street and a second in the Webb Home in Wethersfield. These meetings led to the American victory over the British and secured American independence. In a city filled with historic and cultural treasures, ignoring this seminal moment in American history is a travesty. These sites among the most meaningful in the nation and deserve national park status and dollars.

5) The conversion of the I-84 aqueduct to a tunnel. This would affect multiple projects. It expands Bushnell Park to the west adding acres to the downtown park. It connects downtown to Asylum Hill making the city more walkable and opening areas for commercial and residential development. The plans also call for a parking garage near the train station. Increased parking near the train station, while it seems like a small amenity, would allow more employee parking for west downtown businesses and support the growth of the entertainment district near Union Street.

6) The upgrade of the XL Center. A new arena would be vastly superior but this is Hartford and the leadership and vision needed to propel such a project are nowhere to be found. This arena was built in the early 70s. It is not the profit center it needs to be to compete with arenas around the country. Seating is limited. The concourses are too small. The luxury boxes are too few and misplaced. The utilities are obsolete. This venue is the sporting and entertainment locus of the state. When it thrives the city is alive. A first class refit could make the XL Center viable for 20 more years.

7) The iQuilt. This is more important as a measure of the private sector and government’s ability to work together than for its impact on the city. Planning and executing this project can serve as a way of doing business for years to come. Green spaces will make the city more attractive. Pockets parks are wonderful amenity for residents and visitors. Attaching them is a good way to increase pedestrian traffic through the city. Adding a water feature to Bushnell by restoring part of the Park River is a nice way to help the park reach its full potential. This is a nice to have, not critical, amenity for Hartford.

8) The Griffin Line. As I have previously mentioned, Bradley International is the single most important economic generator in the state. Connecting downtown to the airport with safe, reliable, fast public transportation makes the city more accessible and gives the airport an easier path to growth. Whether the Griffin line is high-speed rail transit, which best serves the purpose or is merely an extension of the new bus line, the connection is important. In addition, a transit corridor between downtown and Bradley would serve to spur economic development in communities all along the line. Development along this corridor would also take some of the pressure off the west of the city by making the north side of the city a more attractive place to live and work.

Edited by beerbeer

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Quote Beerbeer

1) 101 Pearl Street renovation. A bustling Trumbull Street corridor would do wonders for image of the city. This street has an arena, two theaters within a block, access to the park, excellent restaurants and lots of housing. In short, everything a city dweller or visitor could ask for. Turning the dead corner at Trumbull and Pearl into apartments would give the city the kind of pedestrian traffic and 24-hour activity that would make Trumbull Street the place to be. This does not to have to be an “A+” project. A solid “B” accomplishes the goal of creating enough activity to be the catalyst for more.

/quote

Looks like you will get your wish on this one. seems like 212 Apartments, and 24K SF retail and office/professional space.

Would love to see a dentist open up downtown.. life would be so much easier for so many office workers... It would have to be a good dentist mind you, a first rate shop. and a Hartford health office.

Quote Beerbeer

2) Bradley International Airport. The airport is the single most important economic engine in the state.

/quote

I agree. I think the best way to make the airport thrive is to have a direct rail link to the airport. Making it easy to get to the airport is essential! With easy transportation access, an international flight will be sustainable, and even thrive...

I think we also need a cross country flight again

LAX, SFO or maybe seattle would each be great and allow CT business travelers to more easily get to Asia.

Quote Beerbeer

3) The Sonesta Hotel conversion. This project fixes a 60-year old mistake, the lack of housing at Constitution Plaza. The proximity to the riverfront begins the process of reconnecting residences to new park system. While in itself, this project does not have the critical mass to support local businesses and amenities, as a first step, hopefully followed by housing on the Broadcast House site and at Front Street, it can help reignite the relationship between the city and the river.

/quote

With Sonesta, AI Tech Center and Front Street Phase II all in play, Not to mention UConn moving to 200 CP and the state possibly buying CT River Plaza, it seems the plaza might finally reach its potential.

4) Washington- Rochambeau National Park. One of the most important events in the founding of the United States, the meeting of the French and American commanders took place at the Hartford State House. They planned the Yorktown Campaign in two meetings, one at 800 Main Street and a second in the Webb Home in Wethersfield. These meetings led to the American victory over the British and secured American independence. In a city filled with historic and cultural treasures, ignoring this seminal moment in American history is a travesty. These sites among the most meaningful in the nation and deserve national park status and dollars.

I agree on embracing our history. I have seen some improvement here with Wethersfield adding dark history tours and the Twain house doing simular to breath some life into history. More importantly, Some progress seems to be happening with Colt development and therefore the colt national park.

your idea is great however and it would be interesting to see how something like that would have to be developed.

5) The conversion of the I-84 aqueduct to a tunnel. This would affect multiple projects. It expands Bushnell Park to the west adding acres to the downtown park. It connects downtown to Asylum Hill making the city more walkable and opening areas for commercial and residential development. The plans also call for a parking garage near the train station. Increased parking near the train station, while it seems like a small amenity, would allow more employee parking for west downtown businesses and support the growth of the entertainment district near Union Street.

I think this is damn near my #1. having been involved in the process, I see the end result as an incredible opportunity to fix many of the DOT errors from the past.... next step is bury I-91 :)

6) The upgrade of the XL Center

I almost stand in the camp of..... keep it crappy or build a new one... I dont want to dump money into a toilet. The NHL is a mess right now.

I say we keep the crappy XL center for like 5 years but set a plan to build a new ne in 2018 to open in 2020. even if just for UCONN, we need a NEW arena.

I do however think the city should build a AAA quality baseball field N of I-84 tomorrow and bring the rock cats to Hartford. for $20-$40 Million investment you get way way way more visitors in a year than an Arena. And I hate baseball. so as purely a return on investment, I want this bad for the city. UConn could even use it for the CWS regional playoffs and stuff.

8) The Griffin Line.

different approach than I would do. because I am not certain I would use that line, instead I would do a spur off of the main NH-H-S commuter line making the airport equally accessable from the South and the North. It would be new track from Windsor along 20 through the terminals and in a loop back. Either way we agree with the main sentiment.

Let me add one too....

9) Pratt, Main, Asylum Surface lot.

While I am psyched about the various projects proposed in Hartford right now, I still think many people will feel unsafe in downtown until a significant building (or two) are built on this surface lot. I would love to see two buildings ontop of a significant parking garage. One a resicential building with retail closer to Trumbull st, and a nice mixed use office building on Main Street. Ideally, this would the a Company HQ and have a little Pizzazz. Maybe Cigna, or even SS&C some day... I see this as unlikely, so more realistically I could see another residential building here possibly with a hotel component. It all seems very expensive... so very unlikely. But since many of the items on your list are already seeming likely, I would just see how those do, then do a hard push for someone to "go big" on this location.

Gotta add another minor one

10) Move the bus stops so that most pickups are near the train station and not between the Old Statehouse, UTC, Travelers and the Wadsworth. Nothing better than loiterers making people feel uncomfortable... Seriously its just a bad look for the city. I love that people use the busses, but we dont need all those pus stops right there, move some down to the train station, and that way it will work better when the commuter rail and busway are both running.

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Thanks for the comments.  Yep, the I-84 redo would be a great for the city. I may have it a little low because of achieveablility and cost. Love to see it happen.

 

I agree that the surface parking lot on Main between Asylum and Pratt represents both a problem and opportunity for the city.  Without a credible proposal on the table, it is more wish list than priority project right now.  No question, if there was ever a location for a signiture building in the city. That's it.

 

On the Griffin Line. I have worked on both the Washington Metro system and the VRE commuter rail line (akin to what is being proposed in Connecticut).  With the heavy rail cars (pulleded by locomotives) that VRE  used, they serviced 5,000 to maybe 15,00 a day.  The Metro (which is high speed tranist) could service 600,000 a day.  Also, every Metro station produced a commercial boom around the station. Commuter rail with its much larger footprint did not have the coorsponding increase in stores, restaurants and appartments that sprung up around high speed transit. Obviously, I am a big fan of high speed transit, nothing has a more positive impact.  Busways? Not a big ecomonic generator or much of anything really.

 

I really hope you are right and they begin the Sonesta conversion in Q1. That would be a real shot inthe arm.

Edited by beerbeer

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Thanks for the comments.  Yep, the I-84 redo would be a great for the city. I may have it a little low because of achieveablility and cost. Love to see it happen.

 

I agree that the surface parking lot on Main between Asylum and Pratt represents both a problem and opportunity for the city.  Without a credible proposal on the table, it is more wish list than priority project right now.  No question, if there was ever a location for a signiture building in the city. That's it.

 

On the Griffin Line. I have worked on both the Washington Metro system and the VRE commuter rail line (akin to what is being proposed in Connecticut).  With the heavy rail cars (pulleded by locomotives) that VRE  used, they serviced 5,000 to maybe 15,00 a day.  The Metro (which is high speed tranist) could service 600,000 a day.  Also, every Metro station produced a commercial boom around the station. Commuter rail with its much larger footprint did not have the coorsponding increase in stores, restaurants and appartments that sprung up around high speed transit. Obviously, I am a big fan of high speed transit, nothing has a more positive impact.  Busways? Not a big ecomonic generator or much of anything really.

 

I really hope you are right and they begin the Sonesta conversion in Q1. That would be a real shot inthe arm.

 

I think its totally achievable (I-84) Mainly because something has to happen and 90% of the funding will be federal.  and even more so because the projected cost of the better plans is on par with the projected cost of a simple replacement.

Add to it the cost savings generated by the elimination of the rail viaduct and realignment that it really is doable in a perfect kind of way.  but I hear ya, we will see right?

 

The griffin line... I guess I kind of misunderstood you there.  I would love to see high speed metro because like you I firmly believe in it.  There is usually some development along commuter rails, but nothing like there is on a metro.  Problem is though, that I could not see Hartford or the State having the stomach to make something happen like this.

I will take this one further....  IF there were to be a metro, it would need to connect downtown Bristol to Downtown Hartford, then on to the airport.  This would create an appropriate ridership base as well as connect the airport to downtown and the commuter line.

 

The larger system for me at that point would be to maintain the NH-H-S Commuter line as regional rail with the high speed inter city  trains as planned.  More locally, the metro would be as stated from Bristol to Downtown, the Griffin line and one to downtown Middletown.  Lastly there would need to be a spur east of the river, but I am certain that this would be extremely expensive and hard to design.  so would wait a long time before happening.  a later expansion would be from Bristol to Waterbury, and then possibly North into downtown Springfield.  But again the population is not here really, nor is the density (other than Briston to Hartford)

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I think a lot of what Hartford will be in the future will have to do with UConn.  The XL center has only the Whale as a tenant right now.  I'd love to see the NHL but it wont happen.  It would be cool if the Arena football league or Indoor Lacrosse came in.  But with only the Whale, the XL center is going to depend on UConn, and not only basketball but hockey as well.  The team begins to play in the Hockey East conference.  These games will draw larger crowds and will likely bring Frozen Four games to Hartford.  And with a new arena, we would likely get NCAA bball tournament games again - mens and womens.  We cant depend on the Big East for the women anymore.

UConn W.Hartford is moving downtown so this is a plus and hopefully will help the campus and city grow together with facilities and residences.  

One of the most important upgrades the city could make would be to make it easier to get to and from Uconn from downtown.  This is where I think any western rail project should focus - INCLUDING the Boston to DC HSR.  It should go from Providence, through Storrs and then downtown.  BUt until this happens, at least a local rail that helps get the students back and forth easier.

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