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MichaelQReilly

A Few Thoughts on the State of Hartford

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Greetings all,

I've been a reader of this forum for the past six months or so and have decided to begin posting. I'm a huge fan of the city of Hartford and of old cities in general. I currently live in Glastonbury, which is great because rt. 2 takes me right into downtown in a matter of minutes.

As a kid my impression of the city was based soley on the civic center as that was the only reason for going into the city. But as I got older I got to know the city and its neighborhoods alot better. I worked at the learning coridor and go out socially in Hartford all the time and have really come to apprecite all that the city has to offer.

In my opinion the big things like Adrian's Landing have done alot for the city and it is so different than it was even a few years ago. I think that, now, one of the biggest things that Hartford can do to continue its upswing is to concentrate on the little things. In no particular order, here are some little and relatively inexpensive things that can be done to improve the city:

1. Encourage the creation of high quality private schools in the city. This isn't a voucher arguement. I taught at a magnet school and believe in them. That said, there is a certain segment in the suburbs who would love to live in Hartford, but doesn't want their kids to have anything to do with the Hartford school system. A high level private school would offer those parents another option for thier children and encourage them to live in the city. It might also help retain some young professionals when they want to start families.

2. Induce Aetna, the Hartford, Travelers, Phoenix, Hartford Hostpital, St. Francis, and Trinity to offer incentives to thier employees to live in the city. I'd be interested to hear some ideas on how to do this.

3. The beerfest at the Statehouse has been a huge success. It is really a great gathering place. How about a wine fest? Perhaps the regional market can be convinced to sponsor a regional farmers market at the square.

4. Fight like hell in favor of the plan to tax surface parking at a higher rate. This will encourage building and infill.

5. Some kind of digital signs on the interstates advertising events at the Bushnell, Civic Center, Meadows, etc. would be great. I don't know how many times a great event has come and gone without getting nearly enough publicity.

6. Support the idea for a CBD authority that was discussed in the Hartford Business Journal.

None of these things are particulaly expensive. But all will go a long way to improving the liveability of the city which is the next great challenge that the town faces.

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Welcome to UP. You make a lot great points in your post!!! :)

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Greetings all,

I've been a reader of this forum for the past six months or so and have decided to begin posting. I'm a huge fan of the city of Hartford and of old cities in general. I currently live in Glastonbury, which is great because rt. 2 takes me right into downtown in a matter of minutes.

As a kid my impression of the city was based soley on the civic center as that was the only reason for going into the city. But as I got older I got to know the city and its neighborhoods alot better. I worked at the learning coridor and go out socially in Hartford all the time and have really come to apprecite all that the city has to offer.

In my opinion the big things like Adrian's Landing have done alot for the city and it is so different than it was even a few years ago. I think that, now, one of the biggest things that Hartford can do to continue its upswing is to concentrate on the little things. In no particular order, here are some little and relatively inexpensive things that can be done to improve the city:

1. Encourage the creation of high quality private schools in the city. This isn't a voucher arguement. I taught at a magnet school and believe in them. That said, there is a certain segment in the suburbs who would love to live in Hartford, but doesn't want their kids to have anything to do with the Hartford school system. A high level private school would offer those parents another option for thier children and encourage them to live in the city. It might also help retain some young professionals when they want to start families.

2. Induce Aetna, the Hartford, Travelers, Phoenix, Hartford Hostpital, St. Francis, and Trinity to offer incentives to thier employees to live in the city. I'd be interested to hear some ideas on how to do this.

3. The beerfest at the Statehouse has been a huge success. It is really a great gathering place. How about a wine fest? Perhaps the regional market can be convinced to sponsor a regional farmers market at the square.

4. Fight like hell in favor of the plan to tax surface parking at a higher rate. This will encourage building and infill.

5. Some kind of digital signs on the interstates advertising events at the Bushnell, Civic Center, Meadows, etc. would be great. I don't know how many times a great event has come and gone without getting nearly enough publicity.

6. Support the idea for a CBD authority that was discussed in the Hartford Business Journal.

None of these things are particulaly expensive. But all will go a long way to improving the liveability of the city which is the next great challenge that the town faces.

I brought up number 2 as an idea in the past, I think it would be a great way to get people invested into the city. No idea how to do it. I'm the big dreamer here, not the nuts and bolts guy....

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I brought up number 2 as an idea in the past, I think it would be a great way to get people invested into the city. No idea how to do it. I'm the big dreamer here, not the nuts and bolts guy....

To me, the easiest way would seem to be to have those places buy and then fix up real-estate and sell/lease/rent it to thier employees at a discounted rate. Or another idea would be to underwrite cheap loans to thier employees who want to invest in the surrounding neighborhoods. The only real arguement that I can conceive of against doing something like this is that none of these organizations (except maybe Trinity) have any involvement in things like this and thus would need to bring on people with the know how to do it. The potential benefits of doing this, however, could be huge. They would get: happy employees, revenue generating properties, less of a need for parking, and increased real estate values. Considering the money that all of these institutions have poured into differnt types of community outreach, I am shocked that they haven't done something like this already.

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Maybe all of the corporations could chip in to build a nice new tower and sell the units to employees at a discounted rate. Not that that would ever happen.

I truthfully think incentives for state employees to live in Hartford should be standard practice.

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To me, the easiest way would seem to be to have those places buy and then fix up real-estate and sell/lease/rent it to thier employees at a discounted rate. Or another idea would be to underwrite cheap loans to thier employees who want to invest in the surrounding neighborhoods. The only real arguement that I can conceive of against doing something like this is that none of these organizations (except maybe Trinity) have any involvement in things like this and thus would need to bring on people with the know how to do it. The potential benefits of doing this, however, could be huge. They would get: happy employees, revenue generating properties, less of a need for parking, and increased real estate values. Considering the money that all of these institutions have poured into differnt types of community outreach, I am shocked that they haven't done something like this already.

I'll mention Yale's homeownership program in New Haven again which has been active for more than 10 years. The university gives money towards a down payment to employees who buy in certain areas. It sounds pretty simple to implement. I can't believe Aetna hasn't done it.

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I like that redevelopment idea. Reprice the market! I also a big fan of larger parks. Like maybe gutting the area of woodland-farmington-sigourney-asylum and turning it into a park. Or maybe the abandoned area of Hawthorne-laurel-forest into a sculpture park. I know in St. Louis, the areas around a large park (forest park) are in HIGH demand.

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How about vouchers from the employer that landlords can then claim reimbursement on....

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1. Encourage the creation of high quality private schools in the city. This isn't a voucher arguement. I taught at a magnet school and believe in them. That said, there is a certain segment in the suburbs who would love to live in Hartford, but doesn't want their kids to have anything to do with the Hartford school system. A high level private school would offer those parents another option for thier children and encourage them to live in the city. It might also help retain some young professionals when they want to start families.

I like this idea. Right now the only private school located within the city limits is Watkinson School over the west end near the West Hartford line. Watkinson is a smaller private school but is actually known nationally for its Learning Skills Program and is a founding member of the National Coaltion of Essential Schools. All of the other well known private schools (KO, Loomis, Avon Old Farms, Miss Portters, etc) are all in the suburbs. A private school like this more in the city - like private schools in Manhattan could possibly be an intresting addition to the city - something many cities like New Haven, Providence and even Boston dont have....I think

2. Induce Aetna, the Hartford, Travelers, Phoenix, Hartford Hostpital, St. Francis, and Trinity to offer incentives to thier employees to live in the city. I'd be interested to hear some ideas on how to do this.

Someone already mentioned the Yale program so I wont again. But I will say that it doesnt have to be a university that gives incentives to live in the city like Yale did. It can be major city companies like Travelers, AETNA, Phoenix, etc.

5. Some kind of digital signs on the interstates advertising events at the Bushnell, Civic Center, Meadows, etc. would be great. I don't know how many times a great event has come and gone without getting nearly enough publicity.

We already have all these obnoxious road signs along I-91 for example so why not use them to there best and make them advertise and inform people about Hartford instead of places outside of Hartford

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It can be major city companies like Travelers, AETNA, Phoenix, etc.

A perfect place to would be some of those houses on Asylum Hill that someone pointed out in another thread.

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As I've said, to me the next great challenge for Hartford is livability. People who are thinking about Hartford need to see it as a viable place to live. The grocery store addition has been huge. Here are some more random thoughts on improving livability in the city:

1. Someone mentioned building a new park. That is a good idea. But at the same time, Hartford already has some tremendous parks. Bushnell, had parts of it not been taken, would be in the class of the Boston Common or other great city parks. As is, it is still a gem in downtown that needs to be marketed more, with things like the old time baseball games that they have down there. The other parks just need to be kept clean and secure so that people use them. Riverfront Park's growth has been a great example of this. I went there for the 4th once when I was younger and the place was quite dodgy. Now, its really been turned into an asset. Also when I was young, I used to golf with my Grandfather at Goodwin Park. When I recently drove by a year or two ago it seemed to be in pretty bad shape. Get community groups involved in maintaining and reparing the parks. Maybe some sort of special real-estate zone can be established around the parks that provides some kind or benefit or tax abatement in exchange for volunteering to work in the parks.

2. The city needs to do all that it can to get a small theater or cabaret downtown. I've never been to the Webster because I've never really liked any of the shows they have there. I have, however, been to the comedy show at City Steam many times. The success of these places shows there is a market for what they offer. Missing out on Toad's was a crime. The city really needs a place for up and coming bands and such downtown, maybe the old civic center basement can be converted for this use? If I have to go out one more time and listen to a bad cover band I will scream.

3. Pass an ordinance or do whatever it takes to get the last remaining skyways out of Hartford. All these things do is allow people to avoid normally interacting with the city and intimidate pedestrians who have to walk below them. My main target is the one between the Civic Center and the Hilton. The other ones are the ones on the Travelers building. That is a bit more tricky since you want Travelers as an ally, not ticked off at you. But at all costs, the skyways must go.

4. Pass another ordinance, this time requiring parking garages to have commerical space on thier ground floor. I believe this is exactly what was done with Hartford 21. The Learining Coridor made a half-hearted attempt at doing this. The problem is that parking garages, no matter how new or well designed are no-man's-lands for pedestrians. Take, for example, the Morgan street garage. Its new and looks about as well as a parking garage could look. But I would never walk past there unless my car was parked there.

5. Maybe something like this exists already, but if it does, I don't know of it. Get the proprietors of the restaurants and bars throughout the city to establish a group or committee that can work for their common good. They can advertise, produce those tour books with coupons that you always see in hotels, stage joint promotions, etc.

6. Hold an annual design forum for the city. Bring developers, urban planners, architects, engineers, and civic leaders together for a big discussion on what to do with the city. Give a prize to the person with the best presentation. It may become someting that could eventually become a prestigious forum where the best and brightest come to present ideas. At the very least, if just one project for the city grows out of these forums then they are worth it.

Like my other thoughts, the thing that I find very apealing about these things is that they cost taxpayers very little but have the potential to pay big dividends for the city and community. I will be back with some more ideas when I have some. Until then, I appreciate everyone's comments.

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What Mayor Perez should do TODAY to improve the city

1. Have a news conference encouraging owners of surface to parking lots to develop them. He should have a plan for them. The parking lot at the corner of Main and Asylum would be easy. The owner was given a few years 5 years ago to build Renaissance Place. He was allowed to tear down the Main Street market for that. The city should put big signs up that say "Develop this lot" call 860 543-8500 (city hall's #)

2. Enforce the blight ordinance downtown. Vacant buildings downtown should be fixed up. THe butt ugly building, the eyesore on Myrtle overlooking 84, the two buildings on Elm Street near the rotary, etc. The mayor should personally call these owners and ask them to do their part in the renaissance of the city.

3. The Greenberg plan. Implement it! The city spend $250,000 for it in the late 90s. He urged eliminating the one way streets downtown, and wider sidewalks, among other things. He also said the parking lots near the park should be developed. Get the owner of the lot where the Statler Hilton was to build something on it, or at least landscape .

4. Parking. All parking downtown should be hourly. If people want to come into the city for lunch or dinner they should not have to pay an event rate. If the parking lot owners won't play this game, then the city should build another garage downtown and put them out of business with fair parking rates.

5. Make the city more walkable. Some of the downtown sidewalks are attrocious.

6. From what I understand the mayor has a pretty savvy development director: John Palmieri. Problem is the mayor insists of getting involved in some deals, (WFSB, ING, etc.) which is why they have gone sour. Remember what Russ Fingold said about dealing with the mayor. The mayor may have made with progress with schools and some other issues, but with downtown development he hasn't real attracted anything. THe state is responsible for Sage ALlen, Adriaen's Landing, and the Civic Center.

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What Mayor Perez should do TODAY to improve the city

1. Have a news conference encouraging owners of surface to parking lots to develop them. He should have a plan for them. The parking lot at the corner of Main and Asylum would be easy. The owner was given a few years 5 years ago to build Renaissance Place. He was allowed to tear down the Main Street market for that. The city should put big signs up that say "Develop this lot" call 860 543-8500 (city hall's #)

2. Enforce the blight ordinance downtown. Vacant buildings downtown should be fixed up. THe butt ugly building, the eyesore on Myrtle overlooking 84, the two buildings on Elm Street near the rotary, etc. The mayor should personally call these owners and ask them to do their part in the renaissance of the city.

3. The Greenberg plan. Implement it! The city spend $250,000 for it in the late 90s. He urged eliminating the one way streets downtown, and wider sidewalks, among other things. He also said the parking lots near the park should be developed. Get the owner of the lot where the Statler Hilton was to build something on it, or at least landscape .

4. Parking. All parking downtown should be hourly. If people want to come into the city for lunch or dinner they should not have to pay an event rate. If the parking lot owners won't play this game, then the city should build another garage downtown and put them out of business with fair parking rates.

5. Make the city more walkable. Some of the downtown sidewalks are attrocious.

6. From what I understand the mayor has a pretty savvy development director: John Palmieri. Problem is the mayor insists of getting involved in some deals, (WFSB, ING, etc.) which is why they have gone sour. Remember what Russ Fingold said about dealing with the mayor. The mayor may have made with progress with schools and some other issues, but with downtown development he hasn't real attracted anything. THe state is responsible for Sage ALlen, Adriaen's Landing, and the Civic Center.

I agree with all of your points. Infill is the single biggest thing that cities like Hartford need to accomplish. The one way streets are a hastle. How annoying is it to head down Assylum toward Main and only be able to turn one way? I actually think the city is doing a decent job improving walkability. A couple weeks ago I walked from Union Station to the new Marriott and it was a pretty nice walk. Widening the sidewalks would help though because we need sidewalk cafes. I can't agree more about parking. I like to walk so I park on street, even if its far from where I'm going. But something needs to be done to break the power of the parking lots in Hartford. The lot between Assylum and Bushnell Park is screaming for a distinctive building to welcome people heading off 84 east to downtown.

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If the mayor wanted to pressure the parking lot owners to develop the lots he would.

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I agree with all of your points. Infill is the single biggest thing that cities like Hartford need to accomplish. The one way streets are a hastle. How annoying is it to head down Assylum toward Main and only be able to turn one way? I actually think the city is doing a decent job improving walkability. A couple weeks ago I walked from Union Station to the new Marriott and it was a pretty nice walk. Widening the sidewalks would help though because we need sidewalk cafes. I can't agree more about parking. I like to walk so I park on street, even if its far from where I'm going. But something needs to be done to break the power of the parking lots in Hartford. The lot between Assylum and Bushnell Park is screaming for a distinctive building to welcome people heading off 84 east to downtown.

I think Asylum is slated to become a two-way street??? It also looks like they are starting the trumbull street improvements, when finished those two streets will add tremendously to the walkability of Downtown Hartford...

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3. The beerfest at the Statehouse has been a huge success. It is really a great gathering place. How about a wine fest? Perhaps the regional market can be convinced to sponsor a regional farmers market at the square.

I've been to several brewing festivals, and they always seem to be big successes. I went to the one in Burlington, VT this summer and it was pouring and it was still packed. People book hotels, eat out, shop, and then go the festival, it's like a mini convention. And I've never seen a problem at any of them. Unfortunately a lot of gov't folks think the festivals attract trouble and discourage them. Strawberry Banke kicked out the Portsmouth Beer Festival a couple yrs ago for nothing. Personally, I think they should be encouraged.

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3. The beerfest at the Statehouse has been a huge success. It is really a great gathering place. How about a wine fest? Perhaps the regional market can be convinced to sponsor a regional farmers market at the square.

Maybe we can have a 3 day event like an annual Hartford Octoberfest?

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Maybe we can have a 3 day event like an annual Hartford Octoberfest?

In Bushnell Park... That would be perfect...

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It might be hard to get employers to encourage workers to live in the city, but they could offer parking cash-out programs and transit passes to atleast encourage some workers to take transit to get to work. Then yet, getting insurance executives onto buses may be a hard sell no matter how much incentive you give them.

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In Bushnell Park... That would be perfect...

I googled Oktoberfest and found multiples cities in the US have annual Oktoberfest. Wonder how to start one. If it is held at Bushnell Park, we just need to kick out the winos so upstanding suburbanites can get, urh, trashed. Probably should fense the pound so people won't fall in or barf in there.

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It might be hard to get employers to encourage workers to live in the city, but they could offer parking cash-out programs and transit passes to atleast encourage some workers to take transit to get to work. Then yet, getting insurance executives onto buses may be a hard sell no matter how much incentive you give them.

Getting people to live in cities is easier than you think. Its as simple as giving people reasons to do so. There are alot of people who would like to live in cities. Not everyone, however, follows through on that desire. There are a variety of factors that cause them to do this. Some are concerned about crime, some about schools, some about cost, access to amenities, or any number of other factors. Most likely it is a combination of these things, with some weighed stronger than others, that cause people who would like to live in a city to chose not to. All that is required is to change enough of those factors so that the balance tips and the person follows through on thier desires.

Take for example myself. I would love to live in Hartford, but I don't for a couple of reasons. The main reason that I don't is cost. I'm not going to pay much higher taxes and insurance rates to live in the city when I can live just outside of it for much cheaper. I would like to be a pioneer, but it has to make sense to me fiscally. Other reasons I choose not to move to Hartford righ now is I'm not thrilled with the state of the schools in the city. I also don't like the accessibility of good stores, meaning I would still need a car, taking away one of the major benefits of city life.

Now imagine that I worked for Aetna and they had a program that allowed me to buy a house in the city at a great price. This savings would offset the increased tax and insurance costs and then some. All of a sudden, one big objection that I have to living in Hartford goes away. Plus I think that if alot of people similar to myself do the same thing, than my other two main issues, schools and amenities, are likely to improve as well. There is a good chance that I would then decide to move to the city.

This isn't the only way to improve the livability issues that I've brought up. Many of them seem to improving in other ways. In downtown high-quality housing is coming on line, good shops are coming, the schools are making some progress, etc. Improving Hartford to where we all want it to be, however, is like rolling a boulder down a hill. Once it gets to a critical mass its going to take off and go faster and faster. We need to do as many different things as possible to get that boulder careening out of control. A housing innitiative by the big companies/non-profits, even if done on a small scale, does one more thing to give the boulder momentum.

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4. Parking. All parking downtown should be hourly. If people want to come into the city for lunch or dinner they should not have to pay an event rate. If the parking lot owners won't play this game, then the city should build another garage downtown and put them out of business with fair parking rates.

There probably are rules on parking that the lot owners are totally flouting. In Providence you are not allowed to have signs with removable numbers for the rates (i.e. you can't have a sign where you can change the numbers and lower or raise the rates as demand dictates). The city doesn't enforce it though, the other night they were charging $30 near the Dunk for American Idol parking. WTF! :blink: Good way to drive people out of the city (litterally).

1. Someone mentioned building a new park. That is a good idea. But at the same time, Hartford already has some tremendous parks. Bushnell, had parts of it not been taken, would be in the class of the Boston Common or other great city parks.

What I've seen of Bushnell leads me to think it is in that league already. The edges probably just need to be developed to get people into the park. Some food vendors would probably help too, is it walkable for office workers to have lunch there?

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There probably are rules on parking that the lot owners are totally flouting. In Providence you are not allowed to have signs with removable numbers for the rates (i.e. you can't have a sign where you can change the numbers and lower or raise the rates as demand dictates). The city doesn't enforce it though, the other night they were charging $30 near the Dunk for American Idol parking. WTF! :blink: Good way to drive people out of the city (litterally).

Nothing is more annoying than making plans to head into the city and then realizing that you are going to get raped to park because there is an event at the civic center that night.

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Nothing is more annoying than making plans to head into the city and then realizing that you are going to get raped to park because there is an event at the civic center that night.

Heh, you mean like when the NCAA tournament is in town? I guess that's one good thing about MSG mishandling the arena, we don't have to worry about events like that and the parking price increases....

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There probably are rules on parking that the lot owners are totally flouting. In Providence you are not allowed to have signs with removable numbers for the rates (i.e. you can't have a sign where you can change the numbers and lower or raise the rates as demand dictates). The city doesn't enforce it though, the other night they were charging $30 near the Dunk for American Idol parking. WTF! :blink: Good way to drive people out of the city (litterally).

What I've seen of Bushnell leads me to think it is in that league already. The edges probably just need to be developed to get people into the park. Some food vendors would probably help too, is it walkable for office workers to have lunch there?

There are already a few food vendors and office workers already walk and eat there at lunch. It could certainly be expanded upon and improved though.

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