suggestion box

Suggestion Box: Ask More of the Chain Stores

There are six CVS stores in Hartford. Only one is in a building with any architectural flair, and that downtown location is set to move into another space in the near future. (The one on Washington Street built in place of an historical building that was torn down instead of reused does not count as having character.) Otherwise, the ubiquitous pharmacy with a penchant for dull, box construction — with an easy-to-reverse-your-car-through façade —  presents opportunity for visual improvement. This is equally true of other chain stores found in Hartford, from gas stations to doughnut shops.

A CVS on the corner of Thayer and Cushing Street in Providence shows that another reality is possible. CVS paid RISD students to create the mural. It has not been without some controversy, partly because everything just has to be controversial these days, but regardless: Artists were paid. (more…)

Suggestion Box: Patching the Budget Hole

How we got here

The City of Hartford’s economic problems did not just happen. They did not spring up when Mayor Bronin was sworn into office. They did not emerge last year or even the year before that. (more…)

Suggestion Box: More Festive Winterfest

Winterfest is no longer a brand new thing. There has been time enough to iron out the kinks, yet, kinks remain. Since June, residents have been essentially ordered by the mayor to dream big, so here are some modest-sized dreams for improving upon what already exists.

Gimme Shelter

The rink has already been closed several days this season when it has been cold enough for ice to exist, but the skating surface got wrecked by a little drizzle. Extreme cold, extreme heat, and monsoons should close down Winterfest for a day now and then, but a little rain shower should not. A temporary canopy over the ice rink would provide shelter for skaters during light rain and would extend ice time. When severe storms are predicted, that canopy could be taken down and stored. We know that access to one of these exists — it has made appearances at Envisionfest.

At the very least, the Winterfest powers-that-be could redirect those wanting some public skating time to use the year-round indoor rink inside of the Koeppel Community Center on New Britain Avenue on days when the outdoor rink is closed. (more…)

Suggestion Box: Bike to Shop

A possible destination east of the Connecticut River

The purpose of Bike to Work is to encourage people to use bicycles more than automobiles. The intentions are good, but the event feels like a poor fit for those who work something other than first shift, work at home, or work in a direction opposite of the gathering place. It serves a purpose, but it is only one way to get butts on bike seats.

Here’s an alternative: Bike to Shop Day(s). This already exists elsewhere — California, to be exact — as an annual event. Here are ways it could work here.

Bike to Farmers’ Market Tour: Gather in Bushnell Park by carousel (1-6miles): A slow and easy ride for less experienced cyclists who can get tips on site for securing their produce. Tour should feature a farmers’ market that is hosting live music or when a festival or health screening is planned. Distance changes by which market is featured. (more…)

Suggestion Box: What is Our Steel Yard?

Whenever the conversation turns to co-working spaces, it’s the same things that come up again and again: shared copy machines, fax machines, conference rooms, etc. This may appeal to a certain class of individuals, but is not useful for those who are inclined toward skilled manual labor — blacksmithing, welding, ceramics, and jewelery — the type of things that could fall under “industrial arts.” We can all find a photocopier at Kinkos without much trouble, but access to a metal forge? Good luck with that.

Photos by Christopher Brown

The Steel Yard in Providence offers studio space and access to tools, classes, and more at its three acre location in a neighborhood filled with old mills, factories, and foundries. This neighborhood has had its share of tensions and violence, but neither seems to be a deterrent. Last month, The Steel Yard hosted its eighth annual “Halloween Iron Pour,” an event that attracted hundreds of visitors despite the cold, $10 entrance fee, and absence of on-site parking. This collaboration with The Iron Guild is a kind of performance art complete with music by the Empty House Cooperative; props in the form of tiki huts, gods, and a volcano; ceramics and shirts for sale; and food trucks parked far from the fire.

(more…)

The Suggestion Box: Pride

Hartford has many things, but LGBT Pride seems to have fallen away. Traditionally, LGBT pride parades and festivals have been held in June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots. Connecticut PRIDE lasted for thirty years and then fizzled out. Last year, the Pride event was scheduled to move to September. Nobody seems to know what happened with that.

This year, there is no evidence that there will be a Pride festival in Hartford.

That’s our loss.

Last weekend, Providence hosted the Rhode Island PrideFest and Parade.

Upon entering the vicinity of Waterplace Park and the Riverwalk, it was immediately obvious that there was a festival and that it was connected to the LGBT community. A rainbow of flags on the bridge was one clue; the droves of visitors clad in rainbow offered another. (more…)