Archive for the 'Development' Category
Since the previous update on this project in January, construction on the Flatbush Avenue bridge has made tremendous progress. It actually looks like a bridge on the site now!
The first picture is taken from Flatbush Avenue between the train tracks and New Park Avenue. The steel to support the roadway is up, and it’s now clear how the new bridge will meet up with the existing streets at each end.
Next we move east across the tracks to the intersection of Flatbush and Newfield. This picture is looking to the west along Flatbush Avenue towards West Hartford. The large black wall is the inside of the bridge – they have quite a bit of fill to add in order to make it a smooth transition back to ground level. In fact, it looks like the entire intersection of Flatbush and Newfield is going to be elevated when work is complete.
In the January update we were concerned about the future of the restaurant on the corner of Flatbush and Newfield. The construction crew has built what appears to be the edge of the roadway on that parcel. The good news is that the road will avoid the restaurant. The bad news is that the restaurant lost about half of its previous setback from Flatbush Avenue.
My apologies for the poor picture quality on that third shot. I was holding the camera above my head to get it over the fence and looking directly into the sun…
There has a been a noticeable increase in the discussion of new construction in Downtown Hartford over the past couple weeks. It started with the revelation that UConn would consider building a facility, and continued with word that the City of Hartford was thinking about building a new City Hall to consolidate office space.
Ken Gosselin has worked feverishly to ferret out as many of the thirteen of the proposals submitted to UConn as he can confirm (Travelers Education Building, One Talcott Plaza, Downtown North, Hartford Times Building, Broadcast House site). And Dennis House got the scoop from Mayor Segarra about the City’s thinking.
All the talk is exciting. Putting up new buildings is sexy. But we need to be smart about it since there are not only a lot of empty lots available for construction, but also numerous existing structures that could be redeveloped. The discussion gives us an opportunity to share some of our thoughts about Downtown development.
Build office space near transportation hubs.
Office space attracts commuters, like it or not, so it makes sense to position those properties along the highway. Since we need those commuters to come into the City, let’s have them get off the interstate and quickly find their parking spot (ideally in an underground garage). This should not only make the commuters happier, but should also reduce the traffic burden on the City streets to the benefit of pedestrians and residents.
Build residential along Bushnell Park.
Bushnell Park is a terrific public space and makes a wonderful front yard for all of Downtown’s residents. Interestingly, many of the neighborhood’s residential buildings are within a block or two of the park already. If we continue to add residents, we’ll reach the critical mass needed to support the retail stores that just can’t make it right now.
Build retail between the office and residential.
Putting the retail between the office and residential buildings allows those entrepreneurs to tap into both the 9-to-5 office worker market and the nights-and-weekends residential consumers.
This is overly simplistic, of course. Retail is generally ground floor space in both office and residential buildings, so all three are mixed together to some degree. And having a good mix of office and residential helps keep the activity level of a block or street consistent 24-7 (versus “ghost town” after/during business hours).
So what about these two specific projects?
I like the idea of UConn in the Hartford Times building as the final piece of the Front Street development. The positives of this location are that the site is accessible via highway for commuting students and faculty, is in close proximity to entertainment, museums & City library, and is in a fully built out area. Hopefully that location would draw well from the surrounding communities.
If the City of Hartford decides to build a new City Hall, then they should put it on one of the vacant lots north of Interstate 84 near the new Public Safety Complex. Let’s use a public building like City Hall as an anchor to build critical mass in Downtown North. And let’s save the most valuable lots in other parts of Downtown for taxable development.
So we’re agreed? Great, let’s build some stuff!
Construction crews have been busy at the Flatbush Avenue bridge site since our September update. It was an overcast day to visit, but we can still see noticeable progress.
The first picture is from about the same point as last time – looking west from Newfield Avenue over the train tracks and into West Hartford. You can no longer see straight through the site. Bridge supports are up near the tracks, and even more steel is being put into the ground to support the bridge approach in the foreground of the picture.
The second picture was taken from Flatbush Avenue just east of the New Park Avenue intersection (on the other side of the railroad tracks). This vantage point gives a much better view of the progress on the supports. The near one is up, and another a little closer to the tracks is enclosed in plastic.
The project is slowly taking shape, and it will be interesting to see how the intersections on either side of the bridge change when it’s all done. At this point it looks like the bridge is lined up to send cars straight into the restaurant on the corner of Flatbush and Newfield.
We’ve been patiently waiting for the Bishop’s Corner “Neighborhood Market by Walmart” to open in West Hartford. What will it be? How will the community respond? Will it be compelling enough to draw us in as regular shoppers?
Even though it seems like forever, the official announcement was made less than a year ago. The whole shopping plaza has seen a considerable amount of investment in that time. The current estimate is for Walmart to open in late February, though it still looks like they have a ways to go as the interior appeared mostly empty. This shot was taken on 1/10/2013.
I was fascinated by bridges as a kid, yet somehow managed to choose a liberal arts college without either an architecture or engineering program. Oops.
Anyway, the upshot is that I get excited when new bridges are built. Even small, functional ones like what CT Fastrac has planned for Flatbush Avenue. Here is the rendering of the bridge and bus station, and here is the site plan for the area. Work has been going on for a while now, with most of the effort focused on site prep and pounding steel beams into the ground. Below are pictures taken on September 13, 2012 from Newfield Ave, looking west across the tracks towards New Park Ave.
It looks to me, who we have already established has an untrained eye, that they are preparing to pour a foundation on the western side of the tracks. In the bottom picture you can see the pile driver that they have been using to pound the steel beams into the ground. It’s been interesting to watch; all of the short steel beams in the foreground started at least three times as tall. There is considerably more metal in the ground than showing above ground.
I’ll be following the project, and will perhaps even post some more photos once there’s more to see.