Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

urban designer

HARTFORD - Once (and Future?) Great City

81 posts in this topic

I grew up in the suburbs of Hartford but was a drop-dead supporter of the City and its efforts for as long as I could remember (I used to hum the words of the 1970's TV booster ad, "The Beat of Hartford..." to go to sleep at night). I hated shopping as a youngster, but used to force my mom to go shopping downtown because it was significantly more fascinating than the new mall in my hometown. When I was old enough, I rode the commuter buses to downtown to spend what little money I had in support of what I then perceived were Hartford's struggling merchants and restaurants. As a teenager, I cut my teeth in urban design arguing about "which city was best" with my brothers' who had grown up and moved on to Boston (the argument was not fruitless in my mind then ~ in some ways, it's still not).

A woman I've met just moved to Hartford from Texas. She's very defensive about Hartford, she likes it very much and says that there's much hope that the city has "really turned a corner". She couldn't understand why I was so negative about Hartford. I explained:

Like others who've cared enough and were burned by dashed hopes too many times to count, I too wanted to believe! I wanted to believe that the last corner turned (in 1964? 1969? 1976? 1982? 1996?) really were turns for the better. Hope and goodwill aside, Hartford's fundamental problems of Hartford include:

 Suburban parochialism. This deadly virus pits recalcitrant city against stubborn suburb and shuns regional cooperation and, thus, efficiency of scale;

 An inferiority complex. Being sandwiched between Boston and New York is a plus, not a minus. Imagine Hartford in the middle of the country and suddenly one can see the unique qualities of a place too buried now under the baggage of other places! Couple Springfield and New Haven with Hartford and wholly macaroni, you've got a "great" urban conglomeration of history, museums, higher education, and industry that rivals any of the world's greatest cities;

 Too little emphasis on it's own unique and historic strengths (except for Mark Twain). I'm ashamed that my hometown, the birthplace and home of irreplaceable American greats like Frederick Law Olmsted, Samuel Colt, JP Morgan, Katherine Hepburn, and so on and on and on, pays so little homage to these people. The world should know these names belong to Hartford, not Boston, Hollywood, or New York;

 Failure to think "Big" (The region lost the opportunity to house a brand new Six Flags theme park after a period of childish bickering. The result? Six Flags went 3 miles over the border into Massachusetts and along with it went the taxes, new infrastructure, and a new attraction with international exposure. Meanwhile, Connecticut gets stuck with the traffic leading to the "Six Flags Over New England" theme park);

 Failure to utilize unique local resources. (The Indians who have built the biggest casinos in the world an hour from Hartford's front door but are treated like vermin. In this vein, I'm no supporter of gambling, but if you've got casinos, use them to help build a critical mass of travel and entertainment); and,

 Failure to follow-through. The theme park is a great example. The Hartford region liked to call itself the "Gateway to New England". A way to build upon that theme would have been to work with Six Flags Corp to build a park that would include New England-oriented experiences in addition to the regular cadre of rides and such;

 Transportation myopia. The Charlotte region (not much larger than metropolitan Hartford) is building a mass transit system that will include an extensive greenway, paratransit, bus rapid transit, light rail, and commuter rail network in addition to vehicular byways. In Charlotte, they've decided to tax themselves before the problem becomes much worse, but critically, they've put the egg before the chicken and heed the first lesson about the growth of cities: development follows transportation.

I remember the Hartford of G. Fox and Co. (once the largest department store in New England), Sage Allen, Christmas lights on Constitution Plaza among crowds of people any night of the week (not the scattering of people on weekends). For better, or worse, the economic powerhouse that was Hartford manifested by what my father called the "(Pratt and Whitney) Aircraft Traffic Jams" at 3:00 pm, followed by the "Insurance (Company) Traffic Jams" at 5:00 pm. I remember when some of the largest, most respected, banks in the US had their headquarters in Hartford (Connecticut Bank and Trust, Hartford National, Society for Savings). This city once had it's own stock market!

Other cities, like Detroit and Cleveland have fallen ~ hard ~ but none have fallen from so high a place to one so low as Hartford. I want to believe that it's finally hit the bottom. In the meantime, I peek in every once in awhile and pray a little. I'm reluctant to hold my breath. Still, I long for the day when I can look my brothers' in the eyes and say, "see, Hartford is better than Boston"!

Today, still dreaming of returning from "exile" to help Hartford, I am sharpening my skills in one of the newly emerging major US cities of the Southeast. As a city planner and urban designer, the spirit of Hartford's own great Frederick Law Olmsted as my guide, I work to make Charlotte what I wish I could give Hartford.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


Yes, New England needs you...particularly Hartford ;) . I think you could start right here and show people why Hartford is a desirable urban area to live.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

monsoon:

I work (as a city planner and urban designer) in Charlotte to help the effort to ensure that Charlotte does not make the same mistakes as Hartford.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Many people don't realize it, but New England has had an amazing revival over the last 40 years. Certainly Maine, NH, Boston and Providence have all improved a lot. Hartford city has a ways to go, but the Hartford metro looks good. The small physical size of the city is probably its biggest obstacle. Still, with Andrian's Landing and other developments it seems like Hartford is ready to move forward and become a more interesting dynamic city..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually I did not believe that Charlotte really listened that well to its "urban planners" . Almost sounds like a contradiction in terms.

I work in Huntersville which means nothing to people outside this region. When I say Charlotte, I mean Charlotte in the larger context.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I posted about this at SSC, I'll repost that post here:

Hartford really suffers from being off of I-95 I think, also being off the main Amtrak corridor. Many people in New England think of Hartford as the place they get stuck in traffic when using I-84 as a by-pass of I-95. Also, when Hartford is discussed in New England people often remark, "isn't that the city where they roll the sidewalks up at 5pm?" It's also cheifly known for it's insurance industry, could there be an industry more boring for a city to be known for?

But there is hope for Hartford, look to other New England cities like Portland, Providence, and Portsmouth which not too long ago were just as downtrodden, if not moreso, as Hartford. Today these cities are the darlings of the new urbanism movement.

Connecticut as a whole has a huge identity problem. New Englanders in the other 5 states see it as less, New Englandish. It's looked upon as a bedroom for New York, full of Yankees fans that take the train into New England everynight to sleep. In many ways that view is not really all that unfair. The state is dominated by it's suburbs and all the cities in the state are really suffering. There is an amazing class gap between the suburbs and cities. It's mind-boggling how the richest state in the country could have so many terribly performing cities, but that's Connecticut.

The rest of New England is really looking back to it's cities and realizing their importance, from Providence to Burlington, Manchester to Portland, Worcester to Portsmouth, New England cities are bouncing back, but Connecticut's cities are being stubbornly left behind.

You spoke about the casinos. Providence takes full advantage of the casinos when trying to attract people to the city. It's a big part of the pitch to conventions that the casinos are less than an hour away. Sure the money spent at the casinos goes into the Connecticut economy, but those conventioneers are coming back to Rhode Island at the end of the night to stay in RI hotels, and eat in RI restaurants.

What Hartford could become is a hub for a rebirth of Central-West New England. The Connecticut River valley is really a huge untapped tourism area. In Mass. you have healthy small cities in Amherst and Northampton, and cultural and entertainment attractions such as Tanglewood, the Big E, Six Flags... The area of these attractions could be marketed as a region stretching from White River Junction straight down the Connecticut River to New Haven with Hartford as it's big city hub. But in order for a regional plan like that to work, there needs to be a commitment seen from the people in Connecticut that Hartford is an important part of the state's economy, and that money will be spent to improve the city. Without that, the rest of New England will continue to go it's own way and leave Connecticut to it's own devices.

In response to the poll, I voted 'yes.' But it will take a lot of work and an entire cultural change in the entire state to make sure that not only Hartford, but all of Connecticut's great cities thrive.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


The completion of Adreans Landing could have a huge impact on the city of Hartford. But will it be the "magic pill" that helps reverse Hartfords decline?

$870 Million Development Under Way in Hartford

By ELEANOR CHARLES

Published: October 19, 2003

HARTFORD

ADRIAEN'S LANDING, the roughly $870 million riverfront development that was perceived for years as a quixotic idea, is at last under construction in downtown Hartford.

As the centerpiece of a broader plan by Gov. John G. Rowland for sparking a downtown renaissance, Adriaen's Landing replaces a brownfield site with three major components: a convention center, a hotel and a retail-entertainment-apartment complex....

NY Times story

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The completion of Adreans Landing could have a huge impact on the city of Hartford. But will it be the "magic pill" that helps reverse Hartfords decline?

$870 Million Development Under Way in Hartford

By ELEANOR CHARLES

Published: October 19, 2003

HARTFORD

ADRIAEN'S LANDING, the roughly $870 million riverfront development that was perceived for years as a quixotic idea, is at last under construction in downtown Hartford.

As the centerpiece of a broader plan by Gov. John G. Rowland for sparking a downtown renaissance, Adriaen's Landing replaces a brownfield site with three major components: a convention center, a hotel and a retail-entertainment-apartment complex....

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/19/realesta...;partner=GOOGLE

Thanks for the update Scott.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Random, personal, thoughts on Hartford...

I grew up in the suburbs of Hartford - a drop-dead supporter of the City and its efforts. I used to force my mom to take me shopping downtown (versus the new Mall in my town) and when I was old enough, rode the commuter buses to downtown to spend what little money I had to support the city's merchants. I cut my teeth arguing about "which city was best" with my brothers' who had grown up and moved on to Boston (it wasn't fruitless in my mind then ~ in some ways, I still see the potential).

A woman I've met just moved to Hartford from Texas. She's very defensive about Hartford, she likes it very much and says that there's much hope that the city has "really turned a corner" this time. She couldn't understand why I was so negative about Hartford. I explained:

Like most others who have lived there and who've have been burned too many times to count by broken promises and dashed hopes, I WANT to believe! I want to believe that the last corner turned (in 1964? 1969? 1976? 1982? 1996?) really were turns for the better. I wish it were so simple but the fundamental problems of Hartford do not include a lack of hope or goodwill support!

The problems facing Hartford include:

Suburban parochialism too eager to squash regional cooperation;

A complex about being sandwiched between Boston, MA and New York (someone compared the Hartford region to the Springfield, MA region recently. Has Hartford really fallen that far?!);

Too little emphasis on it's own unique and historic strengths (except for Mark Twain). For example, Frederick Law Olmsted, one of Hartford's greatest natives, is honored in Massachusetts by a National Historic Site!!! JP Morgan? Samuel Colt?;

Failure to think "Big" (The region lost out on a brand new Six Flags amusement park when they fought and bickered about petty things. What happened? Six Flags went 3 miles over the border into Massachusetts and along with it went the taxes, new infrastructure, and a new attraction with international exposure. Meanwhile, Connecticut gets stuck with the traffic leading to the Six Flags Over New England theme park);

Failure to utilize unique local resources. (The biggest casinos in the world are an hour from Hartford's front door but are treated like vermin. In this vein, I'm no supporter of gambling, but if you've got casinos, use them to help build a critical mass of travel and entertainment); and,

Failure to follow-through. The theme park is a great example. The Hartford regions liked to call itself the "Gateway to New England". A way to build upon that theme would have been to work with Six Flags Corp to build a park that would include New England-oriented experiences in addition to the regular cadre of rides and such...

I remember the Hartford of G. Fox and Co. (once the largest department store in New England), Sage Allen, Christmas lights on Constitution Plaza among crowds of people any night of the week (not the scattering of people on weekends it attracts now).

For better, or worse, I recall the economic powerhouse that was Hartford manifested by Pratt and Whitney "Aircraft Traffic Jams" at 3:00 pm, followed by the "Insurance Company Traffic Jams" at 5:00 pm. I remember when some of the largest, most respected banks in the US had their headquarters in Hartford, Connecticut Bank and Trust, Hartford National, Society for Savings...and most people took the Hartford Times in the afternoon.

Detroit and Cleveland have fallen ~ hard ~ but none have fallen from so high a place to one so low as Hartford. I wish I could believe that it's finally hit the bottom...in the meantime, I peek in every once in awhile and pray a little, but I won't hold my breath anymore. And, I have to admit it's delusional, but there's a bit of me that still dreams of a day when I can look my brothers' in the eyes and say, "see, Hartford is better than Boston"!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i too live in the suburbs of hartford, except a little farther out than you (im guessing you lived in manchester? the mall thing tipped me off) but the problem is that hartford is a place where people go to work, but nobody lives there, its basically deserted after the work days over, crime,drugs, and gangs have taken over, there are nice parts, but its pretty bad, they need to bring more attraction to the city and get people (with money!) to move there,

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

my mom used to tell me stories of how she and a friend took the bus to downtown hartford and shopped for clothes and that girl crap and how now theres not much commercial development there any more and that manchester has alot of the stores and malls now, hartford needs to build something to put them on the map, maybe a sports team thats succesful!?!? :P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


 Transportation myopia. The Charlotte region (not much larger than metropolitan Hartford) is building a mass transit system that will include an extensive greenway, paratransit, bus rapid transit, light rail, and commuter rail network in addition to vehicular byways. In Charlotte, they've decided to tax themselves before the problem becomes much worse, but critically, they've put the egg before the chicken and heed the first lesson about the growth of cities: development follows transportation.

That's actually in the platform of John Destefano, though I think Rell is also pretty good on mass transit and considering promises are meant to be broken I'd stick with the proven though less ambitious candidate...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's actually in the platform of John Destefano, though I think Rell is also pretty good on mass transit and considering promises are meant to be broken I'd stick with the proven though less ambitious candidate...

Why though? I am fairly confident that DeStafano would be way more effective on this issue than Rell. What makes Rell so great? Maybe I'm missing something. I just think we could do a lot better in terms of Governor.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Why though? I am fairly confident that DeStafano would be way more effective on this issue than Rell. What makes Rell so great? Maybe I'm missing something. I just think we could do a lot better in terms of Governor.

Well.. after the Rowland years when nothing positive seemed to happen, Rell came along and was able to work with the legislature (or maybe it was the other way around, but still) to pass a $2.5 billion mass transportation bill, which includes money for the new haven to springfield commuter line and a study for a new london to worcester line. Remember past politicians, like Rowland and Weicker, who came in promising one thing then as soon as they got into office didn't do what they said they would and in fact did the opposite. I'm for the status quo while we seem to be going in the right direction in some respects.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well.. after the Rowland years when nothing positive seemed to happen, Rell came along and was able to work with the legislature (or maybe it was the other way around, but still) to pass a $2.5 billion mass transportation bill, which includes money for the new haven to springfield commuter line and a study for a new london to worcester line. Remember past politicians, like Rowland and Weicker, who came in promising one thing then as soon as they got into office didn't do what they said they would and in fact did the opposite. I'm for the status quo while we seem to be going in the right direction in some respects.

Well, let's give Rowland some credit. He is the one responsible for the renewed investment in CT Cities especially Hartford. I will always maintain that he did a lot of good for Hartford.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Connecticut has a jobs problem.

Charlotte is not tied in knots by unions like Connecticut is.

What Urban Planner calls the mistakes of the past is merely the fact that Hartford is a mature city that has been strangled by anti-business mismanagement. Charlotte is a pro-business city that has weak unions and anti-union laws in place.

Connecticut has taxed the goose that laid the golden egg nearly to death. Opps, there goes Lego to Mexico.

North Carolina and the rest of the south didn't have any population before air conditioning. So they missed the golden growth of unions in the first half of the 20th century. And since, the south is controlled by the tax-cutting GOP and not the tax-the-rich, punish-the-successful Democrats, that avantage is likely to increase.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Why though? I am fairly confident that DeStafano would be way more effective on this issue than Rell. What makes Rell so great? Maybe I'm missing something. I just think we could do a lot better in terms of Governor.

If DeStafano gets elected, get ready for more taxes and he even admitted this. Maloy is even worse.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Look at Hong Kong 50 years ago as opposed to today. The economic growth and development in that time span is unprecedented anywhere in the world. The reason? An unregulated business climate.

Its simple - the less regulations, the less business law and the less taxes you place on business, the more business is willing to invest and the faster business will grow. When you start telling companies they need to hire unions or pay ridiculous taxes in order to do business in your town, don't be surprised when they head elsewhere.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't get it. Why is this state so hellbent on making it difficult to do business here?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't get it. Why is this state so hellbent on making it difficult to do business here?

If DeStafano gets elected good luck getting a pro team or a new arena. He let the New Haven coliseum get leveled and plans on leaving the city without a arena, let New Haven lose its minor league baseball team, is more in favor of the arts than any kind of sports, has publicly said he is against funding a new arena in Hartford and is all pro Fairfield County. Basically if this guy got elected it would be like having the capital in New Haven or Stamford.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If DeStafano gets elected good luck getting a pro team or a new arena. He let the New Haven coliseum get leveled and plans on leaving the city without a arena, let New Haven lose its minor league baseball team, is more in favor of the arts than any kind of sports, has publicly said he is against funding a new arena in Hartford and is all pro Fairfield County. Basically if this guy got elected it would be like having the capital in New Haven or Stamford.

Fortunately Rell has a very high approval rating and when November rolls around I'm definitely voting for her. DeStafano and Maloy are both jokes as far as I am concerned.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.