The iQuilt Plan is less of a mystery now to area residents than it was a few years ago, and depending on who you ask, it either gets rave or entirely mixed reviews.
On Wednesday, January 9th there will be a public meeting about the Intermodal Triangle Project piece of the iQuilt Plan. The two-hour meeting will be a combination of updates and public input. This is slated to begin at 5:30pm in the Center for Contemporary Culture at the Hartford Public Library.
The community has been invited to provide feedback about the next stage of the iQuilt, which will include the Main Street’s streetscape plan, Bushnell Gardens and Gold Street realignment, Bushnell Park North, and “ENViSIONFEST.”
This will be in the Hartford Public Library from 5-7pm on June 6, 2012. It may be more fruitful to voice any concerns about this to those directly involved with the iQuilt, rather than simply on Facebook and in comments online.
Wondering about the Heublein Cafe in the Gardens, Hartford branding or the plans to install eight new footbridges? What about how the proposed brook would impact 286 trees in Bushnell Park? What are the plans to deal with the 46,000 parking spaces in Downtown?
Using identity strategy and enculturation to rally support, those leading this project dismissed skeptics as lacking vision. As much was said twice yesterday at a mini-presentation during a Rising Star Breakfast and in the evening before the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. The presentation included codewords, as several supporters described selves as “believers” and even went so far as to say that bring flowing water back into the park would be good for our “souls.”
The presentation included visual appeals to nostalgia and romance. The lovely, verdant design renderings seduced the participant into imagining a pristine urban paradise in which those seeking recreation can choose to wade across a 50-100 foot wide brook, meander through pop up studios and greenhouses, or linger on any of the nine bridges that would be added to Bushnell Park.
Urban design presentations, as a whole, dazzle those from whom they want support, but fail to provide real answers that concerned residents have about what is slated to happen in our backyards.
Prior to the presentation, Real Hartford readers submitted questions they had about this project, which are marked in bold and are direct quotes, unless noted otherwise.
Who is doing the planning?
The iQuilt, in the works for several years now, is described as a “culture based urban design plan for Downtown Hartford.”
The iQuilt is a private/public partnership which receives support from various institutions including the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, Bushnell Park Foundation, CIGNA, City of Hartford, State of Connecticut, MDC, Riverfront Recapture, Connecticut Light & Power, Northeast Utilities, Travelers, and United Illuminating. Suisman Urban Design has been leading the iQuilt design team. A 501(c)3 was formed recently. Continue reading “iQuilt: Dotting i’s”→
A question that I am always asking about any development is who will be benefiting. It’s fine to want to draw wealthy professionals into the city, but not if it means ignoring the needs of current residents. Something heartening about these discussions was that nobody was proposing anything that sounded like an attempt to change an historical park Downtown into a Disneyland. There was a balance between providing for existing park users and potential park users. Even in the discussion about raising up Gully Brook, nobody asked for anything (like duck boats) that would not fit in a small city.
This last session dealt with not so much what happens within the park, but how the park happens in the city. There was discussion about its entryways and boundaries. One idea was to extend the park to Tower Square, which is that foreboding slab of concrete you see when walking out of the park and up Gold Street. It’s always cordoned off now and functions as a dead space. The concept of extending the park space in this way is one that was mentioned in the very early stages of the iQuilt project.
There was discussion of creating a “better city edge” that would support the park. Basically, this entails, as Suisman put it, “putting streets on a road diet” by paring some down. When streets are wide, motorists drive faster. This means that they are not slowing down to look at their environment, and they certainly are not slowing down for pedestrians. Anyone who has ever tried to bike down Capitol Avenue near the I-84 on/off ramp can attest to this. Basically, the infrastructure sends the message that we want people to move through as quickly as possible.
When narrowing travel lanes, there would be potential to add bike lanes or make other use of the space.
The need to make the area along Elm Street more walkable was discussed. In all of this, one hopes that there is attention given to the need for these areas to all be walkable during the winter months as well. Having a nice view is a plus, but if people can not go from point A to point B because some clown left a snowbank in the middle of the sidewalk, that view does not really matter. This past winter demonstrated this issue all too well, as there were no thru-paths in the entire park for several weeks. Just as the city does not shut down at 5pm, it should not be expected to shut down during January. Continue reading “iQuilt Phase II: Part 3 of 3”→
The goal of the iQuilt — which was the topic of discussion Wednesday evening (30 March 2011) at the Hartford Public Library — is to connect “45 cultural assets to create a more vibrant, walkable, sustainable city and downtown.” This project was created in 2008 by the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts and The Greater Hartford Arts Council. While some residents were dubious during the early stages of this, for a variety of reasons, the project seems to have since evolved, seeking more input from residents.
Right now the project is exploring preliminary planning and design options; there should be a final design ready in September or October of this year. Wednesday night’s meeting about Bushnell Park followed the format of introduction, two breakout sessions, and a regrouping to summarize what people came up with. Dozens of people attended and most stayed for the entire workshop. Participants were reminded of the plan principles: respect history, integrate park and city, enliven the park, engage nature, and enhance sustainability. It was emphasized throughout the workshop that the iQuilt planning is intended to be an open and ongoing process.
There were four concurrent sessions, focusing on uses and users, lighting/night activities, water and landscaping, and the relationship to the city. At each of these sessions, iQuilters (planners?) presented an overview of topics for discussion. There were impressive photos and maps at every station. “Playing cards” listing different ideas were made available late into the session so that participants could affix red or green stickers voting the ideas up or down. Continue reading “iQuilt Phase II: Part 1 of 3”→