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Upper Albany Main Street Helps Revitalize Hartford

In a recent interview with the Metro Hartford Alliance, the Executive Director of Upper Albany Main Street (UAMS), Marilyn Risi, responded to questions including:

“NAN: How was UAMS involved these improvements?

MARILYN: UAMS has provided a design committee meeting every month for the past 22 years. We’ve been involved in coordinating the streetscape projects and providing community input into many other projects that are being supported by the city and or state.

Our monthly meetings include representatives from the city, state, and the other agencies, including the MetroHartford Alliance, Hartford’s Neighborhood Revitalization Zones (NRZ), and the Blue Hills Civic Association, along with stakeholders from Saint Francis Hospital, the University of Hartford, and other local businesses. They have the opportunity to provide input into the development of the avenue, rather than someone coming in and telling them what is going to happen.

There have been many changes to both the city and to the Upper Albany area, but the mission remains the same. We are mission-focused. We support the residential issues. However, our main focus is to be a “one-stop shop” for the business owners lining Albany and Homestead Avenues. We really stepped in during the pandemic when business owners needed help with emergency grants. We serviced more than 100 businesses. Each one of them got $7,500 to assist them through the COVID-19 downturn when many had to close shop and deal with challenges related to the pandemic.

NAN: What would you say is your biggest accomplishment with this organization?

MARILYN: The investment in the community. The University of Hartford coming to Albany Avenue—that was a big deal. And to see the growth of some of the small businesses. That gives you a lot of pride. Our job has always been to improve what is here and attract that which will be complimentary. And what came provided more business to the existing businesses. This is a very important piece, because it’s always been about economic development.”

The entire interview may be viewed on the Hartford Chamber of Commerce website that is located at https://www.hartfordchamberct.com/about-us/newsroom/upper-albany-main-street-helps-revitalize-hartford/ and the Metro Hartford Alliance website at https://www.metrohartford.com/about-us/newsroom/upper-albany-main-street-helps-revitalize-hartford/

A Celebration of Life

The body of Islyn “Fay” Santouse, former UAMA President, was laid to rest at the Mt. St. Benedict Cemetery on Saturday, February 26, 2022.

Hartford North-End Residents struggle with storms, flooding, sewage backups — and question racial inequity

 

This excerpt from Kenneth R. Gosselin’s article that was published in the Hartford Courant on October 29, 2021, illuminates only a fragment of the existing level of frustration being faced by residents and business owners in the Hartford North End after experiencing major flooding by the late summer storm Fred and Hurricane Ida. The images contained in this post are credited to Gosselin/Mirko/Hartford Courant.  According to the article, the questions and comments of these constituents include:

“Why is it that people in the Upper Albany area area, the Blue Hills area, the Granby Street area and all those areas that are predominately Black are having to deal with these issues?” said June Lyons, a resident on Sargeant Street whose basement flooded during Storm Fred in August. “Why can’t it be rectified? I really do think this is part of environmental injustice and the
inequalities that we have to deal with…People are just fed up…It’s just really frustrating to know that every time it rains, you think, ‘ah, damn.’ You’re just constantly checking to see whether or not there is going to be some flooding.”

The article reported that June Lyons, currently runs a business out of her home selling body butter and other skincare products. Over the years, she has dealt with modest
water back-ups in her basement which made her finally purchase plastic storage tubs to reduce the volume things to drag out, dry out and put back. However, Lyons was not prepared for the near two feet of water in her basement after Fred hit.  This resulted in damage costing $7,000 to repair. In the image above (2nd from the top), Lyons shows a video in which she can be heard sloshing through her flooded basement, and she explained another sound. “That’s me, crying,” Lyons said. “There was a lot of water, but thank God, I didn’t have any sewer.”

The article continues…landlord Alburn Montague owns property located a couple blocks away from Lyon’s property.  His was a more traumatic experience because the flooding from Ida, caused raw sewage to back-up into the basement of his apartment building, and knock out the controls to the six boilers that heat four apartments and two storefronts. “It was a strong odor down here,” Montague said. “I threw bleach and things down here to help, too.” In the image above (last one at the bottom) Montague points a flashlight toward the boilers where high-water marks were visible, despite the boilers being up on cinderblocks. He asserted that costs to repair the damages will run in the tens of thousands of dollars.

According to the article, the MDC explained that in Upper Albany, the combined sewer and storm water systems on Albany Avenue likely need to be separated. The project could cost $20 million to $35 million, the MDC says, coming just a few scant years after a major, $30 million road and streetscape project was completed.  Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said the city is working with the MDC on short- and long-term resolutions, with separating sewer and storm water systems in mind. In some cases, special valves can control back-ups, Bronin said. But despite any upgrades, the underground pipe system in Hartford is nearly a century old in many parts of the city and even new, larger pipes still may not be able to handle sudden, violent downpours, Bronin said. “At the end of the day, this is a problem that we feel extreme urgency to fix,” Bronin said. “But we also have to acknowledge that it’s the result of changing weather patterns that are going to change the way we live in this community and every community.”

For more details, read the complete article.

Temple Body Butter Salutes UAMS!

Temple Body Butter is in the spotlight! At a national level, October is Women’s Small Business month. During an interview with the Women’s Small Business Center, June Lyons graciously applauded UAMS for the assistance its staff provided in establishing her business. Thank you, June! We are pleased to know that our work is appreciated. We wish you continued success in all your endeavors.

Flooding on the Avenue

The fast-moving Tropical Storm Fred created heavy flooding which an onlooker filmed in amazement. Mayor Luke Bronin tweeted, “A lot of flooding after we got about 5″ of rain in a very short time.”

 

The torrential rains on August 19, 2021,

caused flooding on Albany Avenue in Hartford, CT

Neighborhood leaders in Hartford’s Upper Albany frustrated by city’s decision to drop $22.5 million development at key intersection.

The article continued that the community leaders are in favor of an anchor development on the nearly 2 acres — including a sit-down restaurant in an area known for take-out food — that would be a big step in helping turn around an image tarnished by years of drug activity and more recently, gun violence. The developer, 7 Summits Construction, had planned a 4-story building on the corner with mixed-income apartments, dining and an urgent care center (rendering to the left) — an effort that had stretched out over four years.

It further indicated that a Feb. 4 email obtained by The Courant, indicated that Rohan Freeman, owner of the Hartford-based company, told Mayor Luke Bronin that the financing was currently in place for the Albany-Woodland Project. Two weeks later, the City sent an email to the Hartford Redevelopment Agency, the Capital Region Development Authority and others involved in the project. In the email, then-interim director of development services I. Charles Mathews said the city had decided to delay development on the site, at least for now, pending further study.

A rendering shared with community and business leaders in Hartford’s Upper Albany Neighborhood shows a new preliminary concept for the corner of Albany Avenue and Woodland Street. (Crosskey Architects)

In the said email, Mathews cited concerns about the financing and the mix of affordable and market-rate units. He also indicated that the neighborhood would be getting hundreds of affordable units just two miles away and the city also was pushing for more market-rate rentals. This spring, the city offered a new vision for the corner (rendering to the right) that includes a two-story, office building for house several tenants and a relocated city health department and a WIC clinic, plus retail space at the corner. Mayor Bronin declined to comment on the decision but explained that the city still prioritizes the redevelopment of this city-owned property that is located at an intersection (Albany Avenue – Woodland Street) that is shared with the Artists Collective and a branch of the Hartford Public Library.

The article continued that Mayor Bronin also pointed to a half-dozen other projects along the Albany Avenue corridor as evidence of investment in the community. These include an expansion of the library branch, apartment and storefront rehabs, and the renovation of the former Quirk Middle School for the Hartford Police Athletic League program. The article continued to outline comments by community leaders indicating their expectation of what they wish to see on the corner:

Precious Ross-Ellis, board member of Upper Albany Main Street, Inc: “What we wanted from the beginning was a destination point. We wanted to have nice sit-down restaurant at that location because Upper Albany is known for its food. And we needed something that was going to bring people from all corners of the city, state, people coming from the outside will know that they can come to this location. And it was very hard to get someone to invest in Upper Albany because there was a track record. There’s such negativity toward The Avenue and we had several developers that came about and then walked away.”

Marilyn Risi, Executive Director, Upper Albany Main Street (UAMS): “Just bring us something that is going to attract and something that has a name. Everyone says an Applebee’s. It didn’t matter, just get us something with a beacon that says “Stop.

Mark Mullings, elder, Faith Seventh-day Adventist Church: “It’s right in the central location of everything else. A banquet facility along with a banquet/catering facility with a restaurant would work really well because there are a lot of groups around here. What we do is go out to the suburbs to have eventsIf there is something of interest that is there, it will create action in the community. If it is something of good vibes, so to speak, it will create a lot of interest, but it will also decrease some of the challenges that we currently face. There is a stigma because of what Albany Avenue represents. Any little thing and oh, it happened on Albany Avenue. How do you change that? You change what you put there. So now, it will enhance what we are trying to do.

Herman Todd, owner, Living Word Imprints and board chairman, Upper Albany Main Street, Inc: “When I heard of Parkville [Market], this is something along the lines that I proposed along here ten years ago. I’m looking at small shops because the only thing that they are going to do there is rent a space, you put out your stuff, if you’re selling jewelry, if you’re selling caps or hats or whatever you sell, your rent your space. You would be able to get all this stuff new at a fraction of the price if you have to go to the mall. So, it would be like an outlet, but small and on a mini-scale. On one side, there is a stage and a bleacher where a band could perform while people are walking around. I’m thinking of something more lively because I’ve gone to places and I’ve seen these things and they actually work.

Fay Santouse, President, Upper Albany Merchants Association: “We live, work and play in community, and they shouldn’t be making decisions for us. This is the project, [pointing to a rendering of the 7 Summits development] with a little tweaking, that’s the project that needs to be on that property.

Hortense Ross, owner, Uniforms N Stuff: “We don’t have a sit-down restaurant in this area. My church is always having functions. We need to have space where we can really spread out and have a decent sit-down restaurant, whether it be for a wedding or some other banquet. Instead of going outside of our community. And something that is going to be adequate enough to say, ‘yes, I like that building and I would go there.’

Ellsworth Cross, Facade Consultant, Upper Albany Main Street, Inc: “We want to make sure potential developers do not go away. To hear that we are shelving operations, that we’re looking at scaling back development, it’s not an exciting thing for these individuals. This neighborhood is extremely vocal. It’s not that the people who live here don’t know what they want. They know what they want. They should be listened to. It shouldn’t be dictated to them what goes there.

For further information on this article, please contact Kenneth R. Gosselin at kgosselin@courant.com. Bio: Ken Gosselin covers real estate and financial services for The Courant. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism, beginning his career covering towns in Greater Hartford. In the 1990s, Gosselin specialized in business coverage, and has had responsibilities for editing special sections for business.

(Source: https://www.courant.com/business/hc-biz-clb-hartford-woodland-albany-development-20210702-gs3rwpjisfb2fjnbuee35rha34-story.html)

A $500 million vision for a new neighborhood in Hartford

bushnell-parcel-development
Resource Credit Mark Mirko

A recent article in the Hartford Courant reports the City’s $500 million vision for a new community to be called Bushnell South.

This new Hartford neighborhood will evolve from the existing barren landscape around The Bushnell Center.  The recently debuted Performing Arts, a potential high-rise apartment tower, public performance spaces, and tree-lined streets are all included in the concept (see rendering located to the left) for the project.

The master plan for “Bushnell South” — outlined at a community meeting at The Bushnell — includes 1,200 residential units — both rented and owned — restaurants, shops and entertainment venues.  Further information is located here.

Kick-Off Public Meeting for Hartford Parking Study

Please attend the scheduled meeting on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, at 5:30 p.m. The meeting will discuss the topic of the ‘Hartford Parking Study’ in an effort to  obtain public input from Hartford residents and constituents. Your participation is crucial. The Hartford Parking Authority is available (via email at hartfordparkingstudy@gmail.com) for questions or concerns .

 

Route 44 (Albany Avenue) Safety Improvement Project Update

As updated on the Albany Avenue Hartford Project website:

Schedule: Week of April 19, 2021* 

Normal Work Hours: 7:00am – 5:00pm, Monday-Friday

  • Brick and sidewalk repair work is tentatively scheduled to occur this week in various locations throughout the project limits.
  • Planning and coordination to complete all contract and punch list work continues.
  • Traffic Impacts: Pedestrian detours may occur during sidewalk work.

LOOKING AHEAD: Topsoil placement and hydroseeding should resume within the next few weeks. Tree and landscaping review is in progress. Any trees or plantings that need to be replaced will be installed during this construction season.

*weather permitting

The Albany Avenue Hartford Project reached substantial completion in the fall of 2020.

Currently, the project is in its closeout phase and the field office is closed.  However, project staff are still available to answer your questions and concerns. Please contact info@albanyavenuehartford.com with any inquiries.  Additional project updates may be obtained by visiting their website at albanyavenuehartfordproject.com

Route 44 (Albany Avenue) Safety Improvement Project

According to the Albany Avenue Hartford Project website:

 Schedule: Week of March 22, 2021*  —  Normal Work Hours: 7:00am – 5:00pm, Monday-Friday

  • Punch list work has resumed and will move forward this week.
  • Street sign installation continues in various locations throughout the project limits.
  • The bus shelter at the northeast corner of Albany Avenue and Garden Street (near Community Health Services) has been rescheduled for repair.
  • Planning and coordination to complete all contract work continues.
  • Traffic Impacts: No traffic impacts are expected this week.

*weather permitting

Additional information can be viewed at  albanyavenuehartfordproject.com