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Can Hartford Succeed?

Can Hartford Succeed and Emerge from the Morass??   38 members have voted

  1. 1. Can Hartford Succeed and Emerge from the Morass??

    • Yes
      23
    • No
      8
    • Maybe (Go to Next Poll
      7

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10 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.

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I agree Hartford has seen better days but it definitely has improved like most big cities and will continue to do so. I think you have a point about attracting people to the city with its history but it has a violent reputation to overcome before that will happen.

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Scott: Thanks for the input! I'm glad that this site exists... I'm Charlotte now (as a planner and designer) to help these folks avoid Hartford's mistakes. I have tried, but you know the truth, I can't stand to see Hartford sink any lower and I know that (against the negatives) I have too little "power" to make a difference. Hartford desparately needs a person like Hugh McColl (Bank of America president and his impact on Charlotte) to force decision makers in Hartford make difficult choices.

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Scott:  Thanks for the input!  I'm glad that this site exists...  I'm Charlotte now (as a planner and designer) to help these folks avoid Hartford's mistakes.  I have tried, but you know the truth, I can't stand to see Hartford sink any lower and I know that (against the negatives) I have too little "power" to make a difference.  Hartford desparately needs a person like Hugh McColl (Bank of America president and his impact on Charlotte) to force decision makers in Hartford make difficult choices.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree with this. We need what Ted Turner is to Atlanta, or Trump to New York, or Bill Gates to Seatle.

Maybe just maybe it will be me. :whistling:

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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"!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

What a great, and spot-on, post this was... I wonder if this poster still checks in?

- Garris

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Hartford currently is succeeding, and will continue to succeed. The sky is not falling...

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Hartford currently is succeeding, and will continue to succeed.  The sky is not falling...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Damn right MadVlad. Hartford is succeeding right now. Some of us can see it already and some may have to wake up one day and realize it but the reniassance is in full swing. All people have to do is come here and really look around. And I mean really look around, throw your pre conceptions and old perceptions out the window, and look again. I feel that I can already state emphatically that HARTFORD IS BACK!!!!

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Hartford is one the best mid-size cities in the country. It's economic power and cultural treausres are the envy of cities of much larger size. It has an amazingly rich history and equally amazing future ahead of it.

The author of ths thread is an idiot just for posing the question.

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Hartford currently is succeeding, and will continue to succeed. The sky is not falling...

I couldn't agree more. Every new person I see visiting Hartford or walking their dog around downtown for example on a weekend for example I see to be Hartford inching closer to success. The projects happening will just help to have Hartford leap into success as even though Hartford 21 for example isnt finished there are more and more people downtown during times when there usually werent many.

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Absoslutely!!! Hartford is on track to succeed. No question in my mind. I travel inside the city a lot and I can see major things happening all the time.

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