Category: Community News

Hartford’s convention center faces uncertain recovery from pandemic

Resource Credit CT Convention Center Archives

An article authored by Kenneth R. Gosselin and published in the Hartford Courant on September 25, 2022, highlights challenges that COVID-19 pandemic concerns have triggered and uncertainties regarding the convention center’s complete recovery from the huge hit it took in the pandemic.  According to the article, convention center experts report that, in terms of its duration,  the depth of the fallout from the pandemic exceeds that of the 9/11 attacks.

COVID-19 triggered a dramatic shift in the workplace to either a hybrid or a completely remote work environment, but experts expect that the return to in-person networking, training, and shareholders’ meetings is on the horizon.  However, the convention center’s fiscal problems are real.  CRDA reports that in the convention center’s  2019 fiscal year there were 178 events. The 2020 fiscal year indicated a shortfall of 105 events due to a drop in bookings at the convention center during the last three months as the pandemic took hold.  There were no events in fiscal 2021, except the COVID-19 testing sites.

The article continues that the City of Hartford is increasing its efforts to  become an economic driver by attracting more business  conventions to Hartford. The City will invest $1.3 million in federal pandemic relief funds to create a convention and visitors bureau that is solely aimed at Hartford.  Further details are available at the Hartford Courant.

$4.5 Million in funding headed to Hartford

An article authored by Ted Glanzer and published in the Hartford Courant on July, 29, 2022, illuminated various projects that will benefit from state dollars that are earmarked for City improvements. According to the article, the City, the Capital Region Development Authority, and a number of non-profits in Hartford are among the beneficiaries of the latest round of hundreds of million of dollars in funding on the State Bond Commission Agenda.

The article asserted that the Speaker of the House, Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, informed that the City will receive a total funding of $4.5 million for brownfield remediation, the Hartline linear park project, and property improvements on  Magnolia and Irving Streets.

The brownfield remediation funds of $2M is not designated for any specific property. It will be spent at Hartford’s discretion.

The $1.5M set aside for the Hartline project will fund a planned walk and bike trail connection between the City and Bloomfield.

Other major funding to the City  will be $1 million slated  for improvements in the heart of Albany Avenue area.  Specifically,  the parcel that used to be a police station, a  PAL satellite office with a basketball court, located at the corner of Magnolia and Irving streets.

There is also $5.5 million slated to be awarded for redevelopment of the former Fuller Brush Company located in North Hartford that will be turned into new housing units as part of the City’s revitalization initiative.

The article continued that Mayor Luke Bronin lauded the City’s delegation and the Governor for securing the funds for such important projects.  Ritter noted that the redevelopment of Albany Avenue “is coming together.” He further stated that $10 million will be awarded to CT Science Center, for renovations and technology upgrades.

City-based non-profits are also slated to receive grants. These include, Elizabeth Park Conservancy – $1 million; Northside Neighborhood Alliance – $500,000; The Albany Avenue Y.M.C.A. of Greater Hartford – $500,000;  the Northwest location of the Boys & Girls Club of Hartford – $500,000.

At its next meeting, the State Bond Commission is expected to officially approve hundreds of millions of dollars in spending that in part will benefit Hartford-based projects. Further details may be viewed at the Hartford Courant website.

Image Credit: Courant File Photo

Hartford food truck project delayed

On February 28, 2022, the Hartford Business Journal published an article authored by Zachary Vasile, reporting that investors Rebeca and Quan Quach had filed plans with the City of Hartford to establish a food truck park dubbed “West Side Park” on the vacant lot at 510 Farmington Avenue.  The proposed operation entails four food trucks and a double-decker bus that also serves food. Further information is located on the HBJ website.

However, a recent article authored by Kenneth R. Gosselin in the Hartford Courant, on June 27, 2022,  regarding the status of plans for the “West Side Park” indicates that the opening of Hartford’s first food truck park at the corner of Farmington and Girard avenues in the City’s West End  that was previously scheduled for May, 2022, is now delayed until early July, 2022.

The article continues that the investors attributed the delay to problems resulting from a combination of their own inexperience with the intricacies of dealing with multiple city departments on a project that had no existing zoning regulations, and the slow responses from city departments to their questions. Further information may be gleaned from the Hartford Courant’s website.

Zoning Dispute between City of Hartford & CRDA

In  an article appearing on the front page of the Hartford Courant on  June 16, 2022,  Kenneth R. Gosselin reported that the future of recreational marijuana seemed to have taken a downturn as the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) strongly opposes the approval of a cannabis shop at the 89 Arch Street, across from the convention center.  Plans for the cannabis shop were endorsed by the City of Hartford’s planning and zoning department that contends it has zoning purview for the Arch Street parcel, but the CRDA  argues otherwise.  In a virtual  hearing  on Tuesday, June 14, 2022,  the issue was tabled until June 28 to allow time to determine which agency has zoning purview.

The article continues,  “In a letter to the commission, Hartford City Council President Maly D. Rosado also urged caution, asking the commission to withhold any vote “until city leaders can develop a more robust plan on the sale of legal cannabis within Hartford.”

Additional information regarding this issue may be viewed by accessing the Hartford Courant online or the PressReader website at https://pressreader.com/article/281479280078338

Image Resource Credit: Douglas Hook / Hartford Courant.

Neighborhood park planned for crucial parcel on Hartford’s Albany Avenue

Once a bustling police substation and recreation center for teens, a city-owned parcel on a prominent stretch of Albany Avenue is now envisioned as a neighborhood park replete with a new basketball court, walking trail, covered seating and ornate landscaping.

The substation was razed seven years ago to make way for a new police satellite office. But the idea to rebuild the structure — first on the same spot, then later on Coventry Street — was scrapped after Mayor Pedro Segarra left office in 2015.

Last year, members of the community joined city officials and planning and zoning commissioners to give input on the future of the mostly vacant Albany Avenue parcel. Only a basketball court with tall, rusted fencing remains. The rest of thelot is covered in weeds and broken concrete. Litter and dead leaves lay scattered about.

But the group of city leaders and neighborhood dwellers who rallied behind plans for a park are optimistic that the upgrades will help revive the desolate area. They see the park as a space for elderly people to take a brisk walk and children to play after school.

“It’s going to make a big difference,” said Denise Best, a resident of the Upper Albany neighborhood who is chairwoman of the local revitalization group. “Just having people out there, especially our seniors, will bring a vibrancy. We are working to make it a place of destination.”

A rendering shows an aerial view of a community park planned for a one-acre site along Albany Avenue between Magnolia and Irving streets.
A rendering shows an aerial view of a community park planned for a one-acre site along Albany Avenue between Magnolia and Irving streets. (Amenta Emma Architects)

The state bond commission authorized $1.5 million for the project Tuesday. The funds were originally approved to build the new police substation, but were never used. Organizers say the park will probably cost between $1.5 million and $2 million, but any additional money would be solicited from private investors.

Work on the 1-acre site between Magnolia and Irving streets could begin as soon as this spring. A Hartford firm, Amenta Emma Architects, has been doing pro bono designs for the redevelopment, including several renderings that show sprawling green space with freshly planted trees, a gleaming new basketball court with stadium-style seating on one side, chess tables and a quarter-mile walking trail that makes a loop around the parcel.

The section facing Albany Avenue features rows of shaded seating, planter benches and sculptural landscaping.

Ornate landscaping and shaded seating are some of the elements included in early plans.
Ornate landscaping and shaded seating are some of the elements included in early plans. (Amenta Emma Architects)

Supporters say the project will not only create an outlet for people in the neighborhood, it will also spruce up a blighted space. Albany Avenue is a main city thoroughfare, and the lot is not far from a crucial gateway to the North End.

The corridor is getting significant improvements as part of a streetscape effort, with new traffic signals, lighting and curb extensions underway. Backers see the transformation of the vacant parcel as a complement to those upgrades.

“Whenever you drive down there, it’s an eyesore,” said Nicole Porter, a city resident and public schools employee who was part of the community group offering input on plans for the lot. “You want to do something to improve the area, keeping in mind that we also want to make sure it brings additional development.”

A blighted former police substation at the site was torn down years ago.
A blighted former police substation at the site was torn down years ago. (Michael Dunshee)

Marilyn Risi, head of the nonprofit Upper Albany Main Street, a community revitalization group in North Hartford, said she was concerned about the park being so close to a busy street. Fencing around the basketball court and other barriers between the recreation space and the cars that whiz by on Albany Avenue are crucial, she said.

“The distance from the play area to the street, it’s not that deep,” Risi said. “We don’t want little ones chasing a ball into the street.”

She praised the idea to move the basketball court, now located at the front of the property near Albany Avenue, away from the road and into the center of the parcel.

A basketball court, now located along Albany Avenue, would be moved back toward the center of the parcel.
A basketball court, now located along Albany Avenue, would be moved back toward the center of the parcel. (Amenta Emma Architects)

Mayor Luke Bronin said more community input will be sought before final designs are agreed upon.

“We’re trying to make it a place that’s more welcoming for businesses, that feels safer,” he said. “I do think there’s a connection between combating blight and public safety, and the way a neighborhood looks and feels matters to people.”

Pergolas and planter beds are envisioned for the front of the park.
Pergolas and planter beds are envisioned for the front of the park. (Amenta Emma Architects)

You can read the Hartford Courant Community article here.

In Our Midst: The Principal Baker (40-Year Anniversary)

 

Resource Credit: Scotts’ Bakery

A stylish nonagenarian, George Scott, owner of Hartford’s premier Jamaican bakery, sports handsome good looks, a full head of white hair, and an intermittently functioning hearing aid that requires a guest to speak up. Scott himself speaks quietly, his Jamaican cadences singsongy but precise. Asked what year he was born, he grins.

“You will have to figure it out,” he says. “Subtract ninety-one from wherever we are now.”

Scotts’ Jamaican Bakery, which he and his wife, Pauline, opened 40 years ago this November, has grown from a mom-and-pop operation into a business with 50 employees and $3 million in annual sales. In the living room of his family’s Windsor home, Scott sits surrounded by mementos of a life divided into two halves — his long stint as a meat-patty maven in Hartford, and the earlier part, in Jamaica, where he was a teacher and headmaster.

He talks about his childhood outside 1930s Kingston, where his father worked in the tax office. “We lived in an old house raised up on brick columns. I spent a lot of time beneath the house, exploring.” Scott recalls traipsing into the woods with a slingshot to hunt birds, and taking the electric tram along Red Hills Road to school. A standout student, he landed as an apprentice teacher at Knox College, a Presbyterian high school founded by a Scottish minister. After four years he went to St. Andrew’s University in Scotland, to study psychology and philosophy.

The courses he took in Scotland have faded, but not the adventures he had there. Working on a farm. Hitchhiking around the country. Making a solo canoe trip up the River Ness and into the Loch, where he looked for the monster. At the close of the academic year, graduating students would hold a cèilidh — a party with Scottish dancing — and the men would wear kilts. “The tradition was that they didn’t wear anything under their kilts.” Scott chuckles. “I wore underpants, of course. I wasn’t that risqué.”

After four years Scott returned to Knox College to teach, and eventually rose to become principal. By then he had married Pauline — a former student — and begun a family. But education salaries in Jamaica were paltry; and so, at nearly 50, he embarked upon a new life in another country.

He had no training as a baker, but food had always loomed large. During his childhood, his mother started a business making guava jams, cooked over a fire in the yard. “They were made in an open copper pot, and there was a Jamaican woman who would mix it with a big wooden paddle. My mother would be inside, and the woman would yell, ‘Missus! Missus! It ready! It ready!’ And mother would go chasing out to test it.” The Scott house was filled with bottled jams for his mother’s startup. “The memories of that are very vivid. You weren’t afraid of starting something new.”

The new thing Scott and his wife started in 1978 helped put four children through college. They run the business now, and Scott spends his days relaxing and reading. A lifelong love of poetry persists. Pauline and the Scotts’ daughter Rachel, home for a visit, produce a sheaf of poems Scott wrote, back in the early 1960s. The former teacher recalls his habit of reading poetry out loud in class. “Some poems, you have to read them aloud, with feeling,” he says. “I was good at that.”

Rachel Scott laughs. “Do you know why my parents are together? My father was substitute teaching our mother’s English class, and he read poetry. My mother was just 15, but she turned to her friend and said, ‘I’m going to marry that man.’ And that’s what happened! So when Daddy says he’s good at reading poetry, he’s really good at it!”

The principal-baker smiles, recalling a life perfectly balanced between feeding people’s minds and feeding their stomachs. “One of my students, I’ll never forget — there was a poem by an English poet, and I read it in a poetry class. And years later, when he was in college, he came across it, and vividly remembered it. That was what I enjoyed about teaching. You strike a chord, and a student remembers it years and years afterward.”

As for meat patties, the passion remains there as well. “A patty and a coca bread is as filling a lunch as you could want. I love the taste.” Scott twinkles sheepishly. “The doctor says I’m not supposed to eat them — but whenever Pauline and I go out for a drive, I say, let’s stop and get one. And we do.”

Bronin Nominates New Haven Housing Official For Hartford’s Top Development Post

Johnson replaces Sean Fitzpatrick, who resigned in January amid a controversy over his residency. Department heads are required to live in Hartford.

Johnson was most recently the senior director of strategy, policy and innovation for the New Haven Housing Authority. From 2010 to 2015, he worked as the executive director of New Haven’s Livable City Initiative, and after that he was vice president of development at the National Community Renaissance Corporation in California.

Johnson has a bachelor’s degree in political science and sociology from Trinity College and a master’s in city and regional planning from Morgan State University in Baltimore. He is a New Haven native.

Erik Johnson is a seasoned, highly regarded economic development professional with extensive experience, and I am excited to bring him on board,” Bronin said. “Erik has worked in New Haven for almost a decade and in cities around the country for most of his career, as well as in the private sector. He has helped create the kind of public-private partnerships that are key to Hartford’s continued economic development.”

Johnson is expected to begin work with the city on Oct. 2. He will be paid $148,000 annually. The city council must approve his appointment.

Kiley Gosselin, who has served as interim development director since Fitzpatrick’s departure, will return to her role as deputy director.

“I’ve watched the beginnings of a revitalization take root in Hartford, and I am thrilled to help lead economic and community development in the capital city,” Johnson said in a statement. “I’ve worked to bring residential and commercial development projects to life across the country, and I think Hartford is in a strong position to build on the growth we’ve already seen.”

Fitzpatrick listed the address of a Hartford social club as his residence on city forms. He also owned a home in Simsbury.

The social club, in Hartford’s Asylum Hill neighborhood, normally rents rooms to its members on a short-term basis and is not zoned as a residential property.

The city requires department heads and other non-union employees to move into Hartford within six months of their start date.

Prior to his resignation, the city’s internal audit commission began an investigation into Fitzpatrick’s actual residency. Howard Rifkin, Hartford’s corporation counsel, issued an opinion in January finding that Fitzpatrick’s address met the requirements of the city’s residency mandate.

“I told you at our first team meeting two years ago that we public servants shouldn’t expect to be thanked very often,” Fitzpatrick wrote in an email to his staff upon resigning. “Baseless scandal-mongering needn’t be part of the deal however.”

Artists Collective Needs Firm Hand, Fiscal Plan

 

Dollie McLean is a passionate, admired, inspirational soul. Together with her husband, Jackie, she turned a remarkable idea into a state-of-the-art facility, the Artists Collective, on Hartford’s Albany Avenue in 1999. But, the nonprofit’s new headquarters was doomed from the start.

It took the Artists Collective funders 20 years to realize the organization was undercapitalized, lacking experienced administrators and existing without a fundraising strategy — a perfect recipe for failure. But now, help should be paramount, starting with proper and strong governance from the board of directors.

To turn this valuable asset around and support the incredible outcomes it can achieve, the board should be firm in asserting its duty of care, requiring a reassessment of the purpose, operational plan and feasibility of the organization including, most important, a financial projection on revenue generation that goes beyond “If you build it they will come.”

Millions of dollars are being requested by the Collective, dollars that could be used more effectively by other organizations with equally remarkable ideas and appropriate strategies and operational acumen. In order for the Artists Collective to prove its case, it needs to focus not only on its historical program success, but on its business plan for sustainability, specifically philanthropy.

A nonprofit must have a balanced strategy for philanthropy, to ensure it can weather the economic, social and political storms that are sure to arrive. This balance is designed through policy and through professional leadership. If an organization’s executive director doesn’t have the expertise, then a professional needs to be hired.

Contributions from individuals, starting with the board and some invaluable high profile alumni and supporters, are paramount. Relying on corporate and government funding as the sole development plan is a death knell.

As early as 2003, the industry was sounding the alarm to the more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the US: seek individual giving for sustainability. Nonprofits must identify individuals who find their purpose and mission valuable and then prove their worthiness for support. Stewarding those donors is essential to a nonprofit’s success. This means personally inviting them to visit the organization (please, no letters), showing them the accomplishments and demonstrating that the administration can be trusted to perform in a fiscally prudent way. That is the key to philanthropic sustainability.

Funders begin to balk when nonprofits hit the rocks. The hard truth is no one wants to fund a sinking ship no matter how remarkable it is, which is one reason to avoid crisis campaigns for donations. It’s like telling potential donors, “I need a year’s worth of mortgage payments because I bought a house that was too big for my budget, and even though it’s a temporary fix, I’d like you to consider giving me money for it anyway. I’ll figure out how to keep it funded later.”

Instead, the strategy for a turnaround is to develop a solid and justified business plan with financial models showing what is possible with donor support, when it can be realized and who will be in place to lead it.

I believe in the Artists Collective. I think the founders’ idea is remarkable but the organization needs help. Fortunately, the Hartford region has a broad pool of qualified executive directors, experienced board members and successful consultants to guide and bring the Collective back to a stable financial base and become the whole and balanced asset the region needs.

To read the full story, click here:  http://www.courant.com/opinion/op-ed/hc-op-dellaripa-artists-collective-management-20180906-story.html

You may also be interested in this story.

A Letter From Matt Ritter Regarding The Route 44 Press Conference

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hosted Governor Dannel Malloy, Mayor Luke Bronin, Sen. Doug McCrory, Hartford Council President T.J. Clarke and Council members rjo Winch and Larry Deutsch, as well as the state Department of Transportation (DOT), at an event showcasing the $30 million investment in the Albany Avenue corridor in Hartford.


You can watch the press conference on Facebook.

Improving Safety

The goal of the project is to improve pedestrian and vehicular safety along Albany Ave. and improve the overall aesthetics of the streetscape. There will be more signalized crosswalks and the addition of sidewalk bump-outs which decrease crossing distances.  There will also be new dedicated left-turn lanes at intersections to increase traffic safety.

This is an important investment in Hartford. A walkable city is a livable city. I want to thank the hard work of Senator Doug McCrory, the entire Hartford Legislative Delegation and our incredibly dedicated residents and merchants for their commitment to the Albany Avenue corridor.

Creating Jobs

The project is generating a local job fair. DOT will hold a job fair for the project onMay 24th, from 2-6 p.m. at the Artists Collective theater on Albany Avenue.

DOT is hosting a public information meeting on May 18, from 5 -7 p.m. at the Chrysalis Center, 255 Homestead Avenue in Hartford.

Construction is anticipated to commence in mid-June. The Albany Avenue Reconstruction Project is being funded by a state/federal partnership.

More info is available at www.albanyavenuehartfordproject.com

As always, please contact me if I can ever be of any assistance.  I can be reached at Matthew.Ritter@cga.ct.gov, on Facebook @RepresentativeMattRitteror by phone at (800) 842-1902, if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Matt Ritter
House Majority Leader

Upcoming Construction Bid Opportunities

December 1, 2016: West Hartford, Kennedy Park Pool Filter Installation.
Project #6542F Contact: Rick Hyman at rick.hyman@westhartfordct.gov.
Click for Bid Details

December 2, 2016: UCONN Gant Building Renovations, Storrs, CT.
Project #901803 – Submit Pre-qualification package no later than 2:00PM to Kevin.seidensticker@whiting-turner.com and gregory.putnam@whiting-turner.com.
Click for Bid Details

December 2, 2016: Vernon Housing Authority Renovations.

Project #Pitkat12-2-16 Contact: Jeffrey Arnemail: jeffa@vernonhousing.org.

Click for Bid Details

December 6, 2016: Canton, Window Replacement & Related Work.

Project #120616 Contact: Robert Skinner at rskinner@townofcantonct.org
December 6, 2016: Milford, West Shore Middle School Alteration & Expansion.
Project #1645 Contact: The Color Company for specs & plans at (203)624-0440 or Paul Jorgensen for technical questions at pjorgensen@silverpetrucelli.com.
December 6, 2016: Fairfield, Internet Portal Telephone System.
Bid #2017-07 Contact: Phillip Ryan at PRyan@fairfieldct.org.
December 7, 2016: Operational, Safety and Streetscape Improvements on Albany Ave.
Project #63-633 Contact: DOT Contracts at (860)594-3390 or dotcontracts@ct.gov.
December 9, 2016: UCONN Student Recreation Center Infrastructure Upgrades – Phase II. Bid #902075 Contact: Maryann Bigda at (203)712-6070.
December 16, 2016: UCONN Student Recreation Center Project, Storrs, CT.
Project #901332 Turner Construction Company is currently pre-qualifying contractors, to be granted access and to receive an email with the link to the FTP site contact Maryann Bigda at (203)712-6070.
Click for Bid Details
December 16, 2016: Norwalk Traffic Signal System Upgrade.
Bid #102-360 Bidders must submit letters of interest to Michael M. Yeosock, PE – Assistant Principal Engineer, Norwalk, CT Department of Public Works.