Category: urban renewal

Marketing “Downtown North”

By , April 3, 2014 5:30 am

After a series of frustrating public meetings culminating with one during which designers filibustered as dozens of (mostly) young Heaven supporters waited all evening to speak, we are now seeing a first draft of MECA’s (Marketing, Events & Cultural Affairs for the City of Hartford) Downtown North marketing brochure. This will include additional materials tailored to whichever developer might be requesting such information.  Continue reading 'Marketing “Downtown North”'»

Opportunity or Charade? BOE Talks Money for School Design

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By , January 9, 2014 7:04 pm

The Burns Latino Studies Academy on Putnam Street has been named as a potential applicant for the Commissioner’s Network in school year 2014-2015.

After Board of Education members were sworn in without fanfare on Tuesday, the conversation picked up basically where it left off last year, but with some unexpected contributors to the dribs and drabs of critical thinking.

The Minimalist and Inadequate Explanation of What the Lighthouse School and Commissioner’s Network Are

The “Lighthouse School” is part of the new Sheff agreement. The Sheff v. O’Neill case agreement was approved in Connecticut’s Superior Court. That’s legally binding, folks. According to Kathleen England, “there’s ample funding across three years to support” the school chosen for a Lighthouse School redesign. The amount being promised is $750,000 per year for at least three years. England said that the school selected would be one making progress rather than at the bottom, but that the neighborhood the school is in would also need to be “on the cusp of improving.” To be eligible, the school would also need to be a neighborhood, non-magnet with what the Hartford Public Schools is calling “potential for natural diversity.” There is a tight timeline for the selection and application process. England says that “it’s a great opportunity” for schools “to get financial commitment,” to “maybe take a design you have in place and take it and make it more robust.” With this process, she said, it would “absolutely” remain a neighborhood school and not become a magnet school. This would be money to enrich existing design. The Global Communications Academy IB was named as a potential candidate.

The Commissioner’s Network, in contrast, has been around a few years and already taken in one of our public schools– Milner. For 3-5 years, the school district loses complete control over the public school, but according to State Department of Education documents, there will be a “transition” of the school as it leaves the Commissioner’s Network. Operating expenses must still be provided by the local school board while it is potentially “partnered” with another not-for-profit management organization. When Milner entered the Commissioner’s Network, the school was closed down, teachers told they would have to reapply for their jobs, and then re-opened as Jumoke Academy Honors at Milner. This time around, Superintendent Kishimoto says HPS is not necessarily suggesting a change in school leadership and not talking about a closure because there is not time for that. Kishimoto is continuing to push for America’s Choice at SAND and Clark Elementary School to apply to the Commissioner’s Network.

But It’s More Complicated Than That, So Keep Reading. This isn’t Reader’s Digest

There was insistence that a Lighthouse School would not be turned into a magnet model, but Kishimoto said that there is possibly legislation being drafted that could make this model a magnet. There are a number of unknowns. Continue reading 'Opportunity or Charade? BOE Talks Money for School Design'»

Grid, Interrupted: The Bushnell Neighborhood

By , January 6, 2014 8:51 am

Today Real Hartford introduces a new series: Grid, Interrupted. This will be a glimpse at some of a street or block’s history.

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A recent piece in the Courant painted a kind of dreamer’s dream. It reported that the State of Connecticut’s laboratory building, pictured above, is being vacated and is potentially slated for demolition. The Bushnell is eying this spot for condominiums and apartments. Other desired changes to this area: retail and restaurants. A potential change: a parking garage on part of a surface lot and the possibility of a garage elsewhere with (maybe) housing and (maybe) a restaurant surrounding it.

Lovely, ain’t it?

But what the iQuilt supporters have skated around is obvious and simple: no neighborhood is going to exist until all those hideous and isolating surface lots are dealt with, seriously. Continue reading 'Grid, Interrupted: The Bushnell Neighborhood'»

Final Downtown North Design Meeting

By , December 12, 2013 5:13 pm

Artwork on structure walls at Heaven. It was proposed that these structures be removed or reduced in size. There were objections to the removal of this public art.

“This is about preparing an area for development,” said Thomas Deller, City of Hartford’s Director of Development Services. “Everything that’s here is being proposed as the maximum.”

The Downtown North Park Plan is funded, Deller said, by a sustainable community grant to “determine how we develop” the area “for growth and sustainability.”

As with the previous two public meetings, there were questions about who these proposed changes are for, even as the standing room only crowd was told that a steering committee included community members.

But all along, it has been evident that whole segments of the population have not been included in the planning process. At the previous meeting in October, very few residents not employed by the City were in attendance, and no regular users of New Ross, County Wexford Park were involved, even though this small park has its own Friends group. At that meeting, when I informed Tim Love, the Principal of Utile, Inc., that the park is currently used by skaters and others, and that a formal skate park was about the break ground, I was told that if this park was deemed not in the interest of economic development, the skate park could be moved.
I suggested that the parties involved in redevelopment reach out to the community.

That does not seem to have happened in the time since, but park users — including those who skate, do parkour, and use the space as a canvas for their art — caught wind of the plans to change a space without seeking their input. So, they showed up at last night’s final meeting, and they showed up in large numbers.

Regular users of Wexford, New Ross County Park — Heaven — showed up to the meeting where the park was given two minutes of discussion tacked on at the end just before the library closed.

Predictably, information about the skate park was presented last, for mere minutes, and then followed by the rushed Q&A segment. Continue reading 'Final Downtown North Design Meeting'»

A Fresh Face

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By , December 4, 2013 11:03 am

The Hartford Restoration Project was launched back in June. Breyonne Golding, Livable Sustainable Neighborhood Initiative’s Assistant to the Chief Operating Officer, says the program intends to help “local owner-occupants that need assistance with home improvements.”

The first house that has gotten some TLC is on South Whitney Street in the West End. Continue reading 'A Fresh Face'»

How Flower Street’s Closure Helps Transit Oriented Development

By , November 13, 2013 8:39 am

Ken Krayeske, a Hartford cyclist and lawyer, posed a question at Bike Walk Connecticut’s fundraiser dinner: How does the permanent closure of Flower Street to pedestrian and cyclist traffic enhance Transit Oriented Development (TOD)? The keynote speaker, Kip Bergstrom, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, gave a succinct response before swiftly changing the topic: “I’m not sure that it does.” Continue reading 'How Flower Street’s Closure Helps Transit Oriented Development'»

The Others: A Reaction to #YoungHartford

By , November 1, 2013 11:25 am

Horses in Keney Park in Hartford’s North East neighborhood               Photo by Kerri Provost

A recent forum, #YoungHartford, explored a multitude of the struggles facing the city, featuring some of the city’s rising leaders who fall in the twenty-something and thirty-something age range. The conversation highlighted failings unique to Greater Hartford – bifurcated neighborhoods, racial segregation, and the persistence of educational disparity in our post Sheff v. O’Neill region. Other impediments referenced resemble the types of obstacles being debated in cities across the country. You know the buzz-words: sustainable infrastructure, walkable amenities, multi-modal transportation, safe streets, the list goes on.

While the panelists didn’t disagree on the importance of each of these in producing a socially and economically healthy Hartford, their realities and experiences produced very different sets of priorities, and equally contrasting strategies on how to procure those priorities.

Erin Concepcion, West End resident, and TJ Clynch, downtown resident and founder of Civic Mind, Downtown Yoga, and the Hartford HodgePodge, offered perspectives requiring less commitment or action from city leadership, such as investments in basic infrastructure, awareness campaigns to educate visitors of all that downtown has to offer, and an increased sense of ownership among residents.

Jamil Ragland, a resident of the North End, had a different perspective. He expressed concern over stark racial divisions and how that segregation prevents Hartford’s sixteen neighborhoods from maximizing each other’s cultural creativity and creating a real, collective identity for the city as a whole. When asked to comment on how the relocation of UCONN’s West Hartford campus could potentially help to integrate Hartford’s neighborhoods, Jamil responded:

I would love to see UCONN in the North End. I would love to see UCONN in the South End … I’d love to see UCONN anywhere. We need to get past the idea that Hartford is downtown Hartford, that Hartford exists only within the confines between the north side of Capital [Community College] and the end of the library … [and] that beyond that, Hartford doesn’t exist … Continue reading 'The Others: A Reaction to #YoungHartford'»

Public Comment Futile on Downtown North Park Design?

By , October 23, 2013 7:50 am

A question routinely asked by Hartford residents is if attending the endless number of public meetings serves any purpose. People feel their voices are not heard. Sometimes nothing comes from these conversations. Some suspect that these feedback sessions are held just so various entities can check “public engagement” off their lists before moving on to the next stage.

Last week’s Downtown North Park meeting did little to improve confidence in such things. Continue reading 'Public Comment Futile on Downtown North Park Design?'»

PARK(ed)

By , September 20, 2013 4:24 pm

Green carpets were rolled out this morning for people, boggling the minds of those who had never heard of PARK(ing) Day before. Though anybody can participate in this worldwide event by simply taking over metered parking spaces, Hartford’s first ever PARK(ing) Day was organized.

We were told that the sod, brought in by KNOX, would be re-used in some way during EnvisionFest this weekend. Because of the limited hours we were unable to see everything, but here’s a glimpse at some ways Downtown’s streets and a parking lot transformed earlier on Friday:

Pratt Street

Robyn Valente on Pratt Street

Continue reading 'PARK(ed)'»

Albany-Homestead Corridor: Whatever sticks

By , April 3, 2013 10:30 pm

Having grown up in Hartford when there was an arcade on Main Street across from what is now the Capital Prep Magnet School, a man explained that areas north of downtown experienced divestment beginning in the late 1960′s. “They called it civil uprising,” he said of the trigger for this loss. “We called it riots.” Continue reading 'Albany-Homestead Corridor: Whatever sticks'»

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