Gardener? Check Out Hartford's Regional Market

If you have any interest in gardening, you might want to check out the Hartford Regional Market at 101 Reserve Road for fantastic deals on annuals, perennials, ornamental shrubs, and warm weather vegetable seedlings. The Spring season draws farmers and growers from the greater Hartford region each Saturday, starting at 4:00am. Yes, I did say 4:00am, you really need to be an early bird to participate in this event. But if you love gardening or need some shrubs for your yard, it’s a great place to choose from a wide variety, typically for 50% of the price you would pay at a local gardening center or Home Depot.

A few tips I’ve picked up over the years..

1. Arrive early, before 6:00am if possible. There are typically about 2,000 people that will come to shop, so you want to get there early so you can avoid traffic and choose from the best selection possible.

2. If you have a wagon, bring it. Because of the crowds, you’ll park away from the vendors. You’ll be buying flats of plants that aren’t easy to carry. So if you can put them in a wagon, your excursion will be more enjoyable.

3. No need to shower. No one else wants to get up at 5:00am on the weekend (or weekdays for that matter), so just put on a baseball cap, some sweatpants, and you’re good to go.

4. Directions. If you can avoid using Exit 27 off I-91, by all means, please do so. The traffic can be a pain. Here are some alternate routes that are suggested.

A Referendum on the Way in West Hartford?

According to an article today in the Hartford Courant, the West Hartford Taxpayers Association (WHTA) is about 400 signatures away from forcing a referendum on the recently adopted town budget.

While I understand the concern that property taxes will rise by approximately 6.6% for all West Hartford homeowners, I don’t believe cutting the budget is the way to go. West Hartford draws and retains residents because of the perception of excellent services and the public school system it offers. Every weekend I see evidence of this when people from Bloomfield, New Britain, Newington, etc. flood open houses. The reason they are looking to move? “I want my kids to go to the West Hartford schools.”

If the WHTA is successful in collecting the necessary signatures, their recommendation will be to cap the budget at increases of no more than 2.5% each year. Since inflation is typically 2.5-3%, essentially they are suggesting that the town remain at status quo and just grow with inflation. However, the West Hartford school system cannot afford to shift to status quo. Since 1996, the WH public schools have seen total enrollment increase by 16.3%. Additionally, the district faces the challenge of 18% of students with English as a second language and 12% of the students qualifying for special education programs. The result of capping the budget increase would be to reduce the spending on the bulk of the students to provide necessary special services. If West Hartford wishes to maintain its reputation regarding public schools, then it needs to continue investing in the education of its youngsters. That will not be achieved by arbitrarily capping the budget.

Real Estate Entrepreneurs Seminar- May 24

I’m a member of HYPE, the Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs group, which is an initiative of the MetroHartford Alliance. Throughout the year they host a variety of forums and seminars geared towards financial planning, investing, and home buying. On May 24 they are hosting a Real Estate Entrepreneurs seminar. It will be a panel of successful real estate investors participating in a moderated discussion and answering questions from the audience. This will be a great opportunity to learn tips and techniques from some of the best investors in the area.

More details are to follow. If you join HYPE here (it’s free), you will then receive further information on this seminar and other activities that might be of interest. I’d encourage you to join. It’s a great way to network with young professionals in the area and attend informative discussions throughout the year.

Shrinking Cities

New England’s “Rising Star” has several initiatives underway to promote economic growth and increase home ownership. I’ll be writing about some of these projects and programs in future posts. In the meantime, I came across an interesting article on the Wall Street Journal Online that talks about a very different strategy, purposely planning to shrink a city.

According to the article, Youngstown, Ohio has seen its population decline by 60% over the last fifty years. Heavily focused on the steel industry, Youngstown saw most of its steel mills close during the industry downturn in the 1980s. Tens of thousands of jobs left with the mill closures. Since then, Youngstown has been plagued with blight and abandonment. Over a thousand homes, businesses, schools, and other structures have simply been abandoned. In order for Youngstown to survive, the city planner and other city officials came up with a unique and controversial plan to shrink the tax base by razing empty structures in order to create more green space, reducing infrastructure and services accordingly.

I found this article refreshing. So many times we see cities trying to fight economic cycles with a short term view and rose colored glasses. It is impossible for every US city to grow at the same rate, yet we see declining cities continue to push for growth when it may not be the financially responsible thing to do. Just like a business, a city must reevaluate its strategic plan when faced with new economic challenges. Continuing to do the same thing and expect different results is foolish and naive. Transforming from a struggling larger city to a thriving smaller town should be viewed as a responsible way of using taxpayer dollars and safe guarding for future generations.