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I've been on vacation down south this week, starting in Richmond, Va, going to Raleigh, NC, and now I'm in Arlington, Va. As I've been going, I've noted some things that these cities have done better, some where we are better, and some common ground. I'll start in the order that I visited:

Richmond: Very similar city, our skyline might be a bit bigger, they have a nice beltway, definitely some more history there, being the capitol of the South in the Civil War. VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) seems to be a factor in the city, and the parts where VCU has a presence seem to be pretty thriving. I was surprised how barren parts of downtown are, vacant storefronts all over, some of the areas looking kinda sketchy to an outsiderlike myself. The city itself is over three times the physical size of Hartford proper, at about 63ish sqm, so the population of 200k+ would be easily attained if Hartford gobbled up a neighbor or two. The burbs around Richmond are nice, I stayed in Midlothian, which I'd compare to Avon, but closer and connected by an expressway and a Berlin Turpike type road. They just got the former Norwich Navigators/Connecticut Defenders AA baseball team, which they renamed the Richmond Flying Squirrels (our sports landscape is definitely better, overall). I looked for the skyway that they have, but the closest I could find were some really high flyovers just south of the city. Not crazy high, but definitely higher than anything we have, not sure what could be done below them other than a nice park or something. A tunnel for I-84 would be much better than one of these, IMHO. The Capitol building is directly downtown, but looks more like the Lincoln Memorial or something, I like ours much better, though it has a better incorporation into the city instead of being in an enormous park.

Raleigh: Home of the former Hartford Whalers, also home to a full wing of my Mother's family. It's about 145ish sqm, and one of the fastest growing metro areas in the country. The Capitol Building, like Richmond, is also directly downtown, but very small and not really very impressive, ours blows it away. It seems to be an odd metro; my relatives really never go into Raleigh proper, they just live in their towns and don't have much to do with the city, despite the fact that they are directly next to it. The city itself doesn't seem to have much cohesion with it's surroundings, and this might be best displayed by the RBC Center, home of the Hurricanes. The arena itself is nowhere near downtown (being 145ish sqm, the city is very expansive), and doesn't appear to do anything for the city. In other words, I can imagine people just going to events and going home, it lends nothing to surrounding businesses, etc, because there are none. It would be like putting an arena in Bolton. Like Richmond, it has a beltway, and even a secondary beltway, though downtown is pretty small, with a few buildings that could rival Hartford's. Driving into the city, I came from the south side, which had a ton of boarded up houses, not a good impression for a city that always seems to end up as "one of the most desirable, best places to live, etc.. etc..". The real benefit of this city appears to be it's close proximity to very high end colleges: Wake Forest, NC State, Duke, and U of North Carolina. To be truthful, I don't see it being any better than Hartford, other than that area.

Arlington, VA: Part of the DC metro, this city seems to be booming with residential (or someother kind of) towers going up all over. It is only 26 sqmi, with a pop just over 200k peeps, and unlike Raleigh and Richmond, seems very dense. I'm staying in an area called Shirlington, which is basically BlueBack Square/downtown WH if it was put where Front Street is (hint hint). Hartford seriously needs to come and look at this area, this is how Hartford should be. Perfect density with a great mix of residential and commercial, there is a library, movie theatre (sound familiar?) and a MARKET! It abuts a nice park that runs along some river, and all I see are pretty hot chicks walking dogs all over the place. Very dog friendly. Take BlueBack, mix it with Evergreen Walk, add lots of residential, plop it in downtown, and voila! You have Arlington. Seems like some College influence, not sure what college though. Highways suck due to DC gridlock, though not as bad as I would have imagined, but I got in a little early, I can imagine it being far worse if I had gotten in after 4PM.

So, here's what I've learned: All these places have better weather, which is probably a big deal. The influence of the colleges is enormous in Raleigh, Hartford should reallhy get it's act together and draw more colleges and expand what it has, it truly is the incubator that runs things in many places (Raleigh, Boston, Philly, etc). All these places boast more people in the city proper, which tells me this is important to some degree,regionalizing and gaining more people should be crucial. If Hartford added WH, EH, Windsor, Bloomfield, and Wethersfield, these would be te numbers: 151 sqmi, 284k people, and would totally not be on any list for "poorest city, most dangerous city, etc, etc...". It needs to create a better density, take lessons from WH and build Blueback Square at Front Street, north of I-84, on the south side of Bushhnell Park, along Capitol Ave, etc. Marketing it's history would do wonders, Colt National Monument (he was mentioned in the "White House of the South" in Richmond), Old Wethersfield, Old State House, Nook Farm all are huge draws if pooled together. New arena = NHL. Their arena is new, but has no cohesion with the city, build one in downtown Hartford, no brainer better situation. Our Capitol is truly impressive, and should be considered a work of art. Some other things go without saying: corruption, selfish territorialism, etc all need to go bye bye, but end of story, I think we could easily blow these cities out of the water, yet we are on par with them...

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Great observations. I pretty much agree with you about everything having been to all of these cities and comparing them to Hartford myself. I think that merging with our neighboring towns would do wonders for our region/city but people in CT simply don't have the balls to pull the trigger on something like that. It would change who we are and how we are perceived nationally overnight though. I definitely agree with that.

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