Optimism Reigns in Update on City

This morning Mayor Segarra gave a dizzying account of changes and projects that are underway, from “nodal development” along Albany Ave to the $500,000 that he said has been secured for environmental remediation of the former Swift Factory. The new public safety complex on High Street, which has its opening ceremony scheduled for Wednesday, was called a “catalyst” for the development of North Downtown. By all accounts, Segarra views Hartford as moving in the right direction.

He delivered his speech Tuesday morning at a Rising Star Breakfast, a networking type of event primarily attended by those who work in sectors where suits are required. To that end, the update did not seem overly adapted to appeal to the business world. Notable, however, was the inclusion of ways the City has begun to solve its problems.

Saying he does not want to “micromanage” departments, Segarra announced there would be a retreat this weekend for City department heads so that all roles are clarified. The Mayor said each department “must work at optimal levels,” and some, like the Police and Development, are already doing so. He did not name names as to who inspired this weekend’s retreat, but seemed confident that this would be time well spent.

As to other glitches, Segarra confronted the LSNI troubles briefly, noting the changes implemented in an attempt to improve the tainted initiative.

Among other problems that Segarra named solutions for: the remaining housing projects (Westbrook Village and Bowles Park), littering and illegal dumping, the uphill battle in getting Coltsville status as a National Park, and the perception of Hartford as an unsafe place.

The Blue Hills housing projects’ revitalization as mixed use development — housing, dining, and retail — may involve demolition, the Mayor said. These two housing projects represent 770 housing units, most of which are unoccupied.

To beat back the litterbugs, Mayor Segarra said that around fifty BigBelly Solar trash compactors have been installed around the city, expanding on the initial handful of containers that had been placed in locations Downtown two years prior. In some of the areas that have gained reputations as illegal dumping sites, motion sensor cameras have been installed.

Coltsville, which has received some recognition for its historic status, prompted Segarra to testify before the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Land in Washington, in hopes of it being granted National Park status.

As for the perception that Hartford is an unsafe place, Segarra took a risk by telling a mixed — resident and commuter — audience that the urban-suburban disconnect needs to be addressed. The city that these commuters see in their rearview mirrors every weekday evening, he said, is what has enabled them to live comfortably in their respective bedroom communities. At the same time, Segarra acknowledged that Hartford will not see economic growth if the city is perceived as unsafe, saying that the City is working to address both the perception and the reality. The crime rate last year, he said, was the lowest it has been in Hartford during the last thirty years.

Civic revitalization, Segarra said, works. One leader doing the right thing can motivate others.

Mike Freimuth of the Capital Region Development Authority and Doug Suisman of Suisman Urban Design also spoke at the Rising Star Breakfast.