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A Chance To Restore Luster To The City
Park Street, attracting visitors from many sections of the Northeast, runs between Pope Park on the west and Main Street on the east. It is arguably the most dynamic retail and residential street in Hartford. It's also one of the best stories in the revitalization of Hartford. There's life on the street - colorful, vibrant and appealing. It's the result of an eclectic mix of retail businesses, food services and residences that together form a lively community permeated with the rich flavors and sounds of Latino culture.
Hartford has its own version of Calle Ocho, the successful residential and retail area of Miami. Park Street offers destination dining and shopping, attracting people to Hartford and invigorating a large segment of the city.
Already three major developments are promising to revitalize and beautify the street, securing its appeal and encouraging additional growth.
A $6.5 million streetscape project will soon spruce up the street, bringing decorative lighting, new sidewalks and crosswalks, planters, new signage and additional parking. Construction is due to begin this fall and should be completed about a year later. When finished, the new look will tie Park Street visually to similar improvements that have been made in the South End surrounding Hartford Hospital, Trinity College and the Connecticut Children's Medical Center.
The project, called Streetscape, is backed by federal, state and city money, obtained with the help of two very active participants in the revitalization effort: the Spanish American Merchants Association and the Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance, the latter made up of Hartford Hospital, the Institute of Living, Trinity College, Connecticut Children's Medical Center, and Connecticut Public Television and Radio. Both SAMA and SINA have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to improve the quality of life for the entire community.
The second initiative promising to bring new life to Park Street is the creation of a Special Services District, recently voted into effect by Park Street property owners. By agreeing to levy a small additional tax on themselves, the merchants, shopkeepers and residents who own property in the district will be able to direct the use of the funds. Property owners have elected a board to consider uses for the money, including maintenance and upkeep of the Streetscape improvements or perhaps enhanced security.
Despite the fact that it would mean a bit more money out of their pockets at tax time, Park Street property owners wisely understood that the Special Services District would be a good way to keep the momentum going and to reinvest funds that will benefit the neighborhood where they live and work.
The third initiative is a cluster of development projects, spearheaded by various organizations, that will further enhance the community. In July 2003, Mi Casa Youth and Family Service and Educational Center will move into its new home at the corner of Park and Broad streets and will expand the services it offers to the community. The building was donated by SINA, and its $2.7 million rehabilitation is being financed through a combination of bonding, municipal monies, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving funding and other sources. Other initiatives will bring added housing, retail space and perhaps even a Spanish-style plaza featuring restaurants with outdoor seating.
Hartford Hospital and the other SINA institutions are proud residents of the South End, and we have been active participants in the resurgence of our neighborhood. Now we are working to bring some of those same far-reaching changes to Park Street as well. By linking Park Street with the neighborhood to the south, we build an even stronger community with the potential to bring some of the luster back to the city. Hartford gets a lively and colorful thoroughfare that can draw people into the city, and the South End gets a focal point, a main street, that reflects its vibrant character. We need to make this happen.
John Meehan is president and CEO of Hartford Hospital.