The Riverfront Redevelopment Committee hosted a presentation by two consultants from Project for Public Spaces at a public meeting Wednesday night at Russell Library. Meg Walker and Elena Madison provided an overview of a draft report PPS wrote containing preliminary recommendations for redeveloping Middletown’s riverfront.
Walker and Madison used on a detailed PowerPoint presentation to outline these recommendations. Project for Public Spaces redevelopment concept focuses upon ten riverfront sites that are capable of becoming lively destinations.
“Our organization’s goal is to help Middletown develop a community vision for its riverfront,” said Walker. “Our recommendations will hopefully assist Middletown in creating vibrant destinations that strengthen its community, attract residents to the riverfront and set the stage for private development.
The locations PSP focused upon in its report stretch from Harbor Park in the west to just east of Connecticut Valley Hospital. The locations are: Harbor Park, Union Street, the Peterson Brothers Electric site, the OMO Manufacturing Site, the city’s sewage treatment plant, and along River Road where both Jackson Corrugated Container and the Rushford Center are currently located.
Walker and Madison spent a large amount of time discussing PSP’s recommendations for improvements to Harbor Park. Both women said that it is the first riverfront destination that Middletown should focus on developing.
“By making Harbor Park more attractive and bringing it to that next level, Middletown can lay the groundwork for more improvements to destinations further down the riverfront,” said Walker.
Walker and Madison said that the fundamental key to developing Harbor Park is converting its walkway into a continuous multi-use trail that is not broken up to the Arrigoni Bridge. By doing so, visitors will be able to easily go to and from Harbor Park by foot, bicycle and pedicab. They then discussed possible ideas that the city could pursue for revitalizing Harbor Park, including building recreation areas, adding floating docks, and holding seasonal community events such as a harvest festival and a Christmas light show.
Walker and Madison also discussed the idea of having Union Street become a chief access point to the river in detail. Walker said that possible improvements that could be made to Union Street include building an arch/gateway leading to the river, adding trees and more lighting, making it more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists, and converting the boat houses alongside the street into one large complex that can serve multiple crew teams.
Other ideas Walker and Madison introduced included building a nature center or environmental education museum at the current location of the Rushford Center, developing a public green at Summer Point, and developing a concert space on the roofs of what is now the sewage treatment plant. The roofs would be connected by a zip line. Spaces for recreation areas and holding community events and a variety of businesses could be located all along the riverfront.
The city voted in May to hire New York-based PPS for $75,000 to advise the city on a year-long redevelopment concept for the waterfront.
PPS developed its preliminary recommendations through public meetings and workshops with city officials and residents that took place at the end of September.
PPS will give its final presentation to the Riverfront Redevelopment Committee at its next meeting on Dec. 3.
The Draft Report is available here.