Monday, January 13, 2014

Riverfront Vision Presentation Tonight

This evening will be the final presentation by the consultant (Project for Public Spaces) hired by city to envision what might become of 3 miles of our city's riverfront.  The public is welcome.

Monday, January 13, 7 PM
Council Chambers, City Hall

PPS led a series of focus group meetings from July to September, and two well-attended public workshops in late September. They also brought their experience studying and designing projects for public use. 

They presented a draft report to the city in November at Russell Library (the draft is available HERE), it was an inspiring vision for an amazing array of public uses of riverfront land. 

The challenging part will begin after the presentation, and the input of city residents is critical to ensure that the energy of the workshop, and  the excitement created by PPS is not lost.

Other waterfront development projects have been enormously expensive, and have relied on State and Federal, as well as special taxing districts to be funded and maintained. For example, the State legislature approved a special taxing district to help generate revenue to support the 80 acre waterfront redevelopment of Stamford (Wall Street Journal article),  and the state provided $2.2M to help fund a $12M Glastonbury riverfront project that includes a two-story boathouse, ice-skating arena, picnic areas and hiking trails along the river (Hartford Courant).

What steps will city leaders take to make some or all of the vision come to fruition, how will those visions be financed? What will be the balance between private development and public spaces?  These are the questions that will be addressed after PPS makes its final presentation to the Commission. The role of the commission, which has already done so much hard work, is not clear as the process moves forward. 


Tree Fanatic said...

Will this event be covered by Community Access TV? There are relatively few seats available in the Council Chamber, and it would be a real plus for more people to hear the final report.

Downtown has come such a long way in the last decade -- it is easy to envision our waterfront becoming THE major attraction on the 400-mile length of the CT River. All it needs is the will of the people -- and I hope the "wills" will far outnumber the "won'ts".

Anonymous said...

The Connecticut River like many rivers has been recovering from an industrial legacy that wrought more than a century of damage. Though there have been significant improvements over recent decades, the river is still beset by problems that prevent it from achieving federal Class B fishable/swimmable water quality standards in many locations, particularly below both the Holyoke Dam in Massachusetts and aging infrastructure in the Hartford, Connecticut region. Aged infrastructure that can only be remediated incrementally due to monumental costs continues to deliver pollutants that result in downstream impacts. This includes some 28.7 million pounds of nitrogen (MA DEP, 2011) flowing annually from the Connecticut River into the marine ecosystem of Long Island Sound. Though some of the largest combined sewer overflows (CSOs) have been eliminated and associated contamination reduced by half in the past 15 years, bacteria levels during storm events remain unsafe for swimming and boating. Combined sewers are located in the region's poorest communities which have already seen repeated rate hikes to help cover some of these clean up costs. Congressional earmarks, which had been another important source of funding for these capital intensive projects, are no longer available. Financial pressures are compounded as communities also strive to improve stormwater management, further reducing water quality impacts.

At the same time, affordability and accessibility give the Connecticut River Valley a high potential for economic development and rapid growth. Lands developed for commercial or residential purposes increased by 31% from 1982 to 1997. It is projected that with current trends, 323,000 acres within the watershed will be converted from rural to exurban by 2020. (Trust for Public Land, 2006)

Because the Connecticut is within driving distance for millions, you might think the river is jammed with people enjoying it on hot summer days. In some populated areas this is true, particularly on weekends. But I have found that the river is underutilized. I’m not wishing for shore-to-shore traffic of boats and paddlers, of course, but I do feel that getting more people on the river— especially young people—is a good thing. Naturally, if people feel no personal connection to the river, they aren’t as interested in what’s happening to it.

Anonymous said...

In fact, the 10 acres of riverfront land and turn-of-the-century factory buildings that are part of an 85-acre tract that includes 2,500 feet of river frontage and 3,500 feet along Route 9 that Middletown has designated its ''Riverfront Development Opportunity Area''back in the 90's and targeted for redevelopment is growing. More than half is already owned by city agencies; on the rest, business owners have agreed to cooperate in a master development plan. The one we will see tonight offers little insight, understanding or real thought, in my humble opinion.

The Connecticut River is coming back. Midletown is coming back. For more than 300 years the 410-mile-long river has been a water highway for New England, but for almost 150 years it was a dumping ground for city sewerage and industrial waste. Since passage of the Federal Clean Water Act in 1972, there have been major efforts to reduce the amount of pollution.

The river is beautiful and brings boaters from all over the world to enjoy. Middletown has really been the eyesoar! Maybe we can fix that now. Our heritage and the view from the river are issues that should be given much thought!