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Metro Center Shopping Complex


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Metro Center For Whole City

November 17, 2004

By TOM PULEO, Courant Staff Writer

Glenn E. Geathers started out promoting plans for a shopping complex in Hartford's struggling Clay-Arsenal neighborhood. Along the way, he made the development a career.

On Tuesday, 10 years after it all began, he stood outside the brick facade of the $4.5 million Metro Center complex and called it a symbol of the area's rising fortunes.

"It's Hartford's time," he said from the southeast corner of Main and Pavilion streets just north of downtown. "This is the way we will capture this city, one house, one block, one neighborhood at a time."

More than 200 residents and merchants showed up for the midday celebration of construction progress at the site. The long-awaited complex is expected to open in the spring of 2005, reshaping a hard corner of urban ground that has been vacant since 1973.

The complex will include 40,000 square feet of retail space anchored by the city's first Midland Farms supermarket and its third Family Dollar discount store.

Other tenants in the fully leased complex will include J Silver Clothing Inc., Super Laundry and a Cingular Wireless store.

The complex is being developed by the three nonprofit entities: Public Housing Residents Going Places Inc.; the Community Development Corp.; and Community Housing Development. Funding comes from People's Bank Hartford, the Connecticut Development Authority and various federal grants administered by the city of Hartford.

In 1994, Geathers took a job with the Hartford Tenants Rights Federation Inc. and was assigned to look into development proposals for the corner lot next to what was then the Bellevue Square housing project, since thinned out and remade into Mary Shepard Place.

He stayed on the supermarket project when he took a job in 2000 with the Hartford Economic Development Commission and has not looked back.

The 2000 Census suggests that Clay-Arsenal is the poorest neighborhood in Hartford. Hartford's poverty rate is 31 percent, the second-highest among large American cities. But in the blocks around Main and Pavilion streets, the poverty rate is greater than 50 percent. More than half of all households don't have a car, and one in 10 homes don't have a telephone.

But now residents say they will no longer have to take buses across town to get their shoppong done.

"This is something for all the people regardless of where they live," said Kenya Darcel Washington, who spoke at Tuesday's gathering on behalf of the tenants rights federation.

From The Hartford Courant

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