As the shape of the Hartford’s downtown continues to evolve, citizens, government officials, advocates and community leaders gathered at the Lyceum to explore how to harness the energy of current downtown investment for the benefit of the City as a whole at our Recipe for Revitalization: Leveraging Downtown investment to Spark a Revival of Hartford's Neighborhoods IForum. Juan Figueroa, Chief of Staff to Mayor Segarra, framed the issue of connecting downtown development to the neighborhoods through linkages such as employment, jobs training and other community benefits. The panel, moderated by Andrea Pereira, Executive Director of the Connecticut Chapter of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), then expanded on the city’s history of neighborhood community development and relayed relevant examples from other New England cities.
Hartford's Director of Development Services, Thomas Deller, highlighted the importance of city government working with neighborhood groups to identify issues, such as blight and crime, and to work together to create a specific, block-by-block, targeted response and vision. He relayed his experience in Olneyville, Providence, a neighborhood that was not unlike many of those in Hartford, which organized to achieve exceptional results in housing, community policing and stability.
Patricia Williams, retired Deputy City Manager and current Vice President of the Upper Albany Neighborhood Collaborative, recounted the city’s history of neighborhood community development, including the original organizing activities that led to the creation of Hartford2000 and the city’s distinct neighborhoods. She highlighted the importance of treating all neighborhoods like the downtown ‘neighborhood,’ in order to erase the perceived schism.
Click here to view the slideshow.
Building on his 20 years in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, Melvyn Colón, Executive Director of Southside Institutions Neighborhoods Alliance (SINA), emphasized the transformation that followed the relocation of the Orange Line subway, which resulted in home value appreciation and economic development, effectively achieving a “self-sustaining market dynamic.” Upon his relocation to Hartford to take the helm of SINA, he observed opportunities for the city to enhance the marketing of important programs, such as Hartford Promise, to increase homeownership. As new buildings comes online, Melvyn underscored the importance of simultaneously investing in area infrastructure, such as sidewalks and street lighting, to make complementary improvements to the city’s landscape.
A robust community conversation followed. Residents highlighted the assets of the city, including its diversity, architecture and history, while others questioned how the media may be engaged to dispel myths about crime. The audience and panelists remained committed to the day’s theme and next steps, which Thom so succinctly summarized: “connect, cultivate, and complete.”
A CT-N recording of the event is available here