Central as it may be, the new public safety complex, located north of I-84 on High Street, still feels cut off from the rest of its downtown neighborhood because of the highway and slew of surface parking lots. After walking to the opening ceremony from the central business district, the gulf between these two areas seemed no smaller than it had in previous months.
Mayor Segarra has called the facility and its “strategic location” a “catalyst” for development in this neglected section of Downtown, something Senator Chris Murphy and Police Chief James C. Rovella seemed to agree on.
But droves of armed men and women in uniform alone will not inspire the kind of foot traffic that enlivens an area. A perception of safety goes only so far when there remains the sense of isolation created by surface lots, the feeling of inconvenience when the roads are designed for vehicles and sidewalks are not even shoveled (north side of Chapel Street South near the intersection with High Street), and when several surrounding buildings are in such poor condition that the atmosphere seems desolate.
The next steps of this revitalization will be interesting.
Police Chief Rovella, speaking at the ceremony this morning, said “we are committed to revitalization of this city,” giving a shout out to nearby attractions like the Isham-Terry House and the Keney Memorial Clock Tower. He said that they were interested in being good neighbors, adding, “we’re not so good neighbors to those who don’t conform.”
Senator Murphy said he was there to “applaud you for pushing through” the numerous “obstacles” over the years in order to bring this facility into fruition. Congressman John Larson acknowledged that “this project spans several administrations.”
Murphy called the complex an “inspiration for revitalization of neighborhoods.”
“What will happen in this building,” Senator Blumenthal said, “is leadership — leadership by example.”
In the midst of these lofty statements was a more prudent message. Fire Chief Edward Casares, Jr. simply explained that the central location would “enhance service delivery.” On an immediate level, this is what residents want and need. Ask anyone who has placed numerous requests for service with the police and never saw a patrol car arrive that evening.
The Hartford Police Department’s Records Division will be making its move into the 140,000-square-foot building this Saturday. It will be joining the 911 dispatch center, 311 call center, parking control, school crossing guards, the Hartford Police Department’s Traffic Division, and the Hartford Fire Department’s administrative offices along with its marshals and inspectors. The Major Crimes Division, Juvenile Investigative Division, Internal Affairs and Backgrounds, Crime Scene Division, Civil Litigation, Advocate Office, Personnel/Planning and Accreditation Offices, Fiscal and Payroll Offices, and the Office of the Chief of Police have also already relocated to the new $77 million facility.
Patrol operations, booking, and detention will remain at the Jennings Road location, so if you find yourself in lockup, you still have to navigate your way back home from the North Meadows.