ReImagine, ReVitalize, ReAssert Main Street
The Northeast neighborhood serves as an important entry corridor into the City of Hartford and was once home to a mixed-income community with a strong manufacturing base. Conditions documented over ten years ago, as evidenced by the 2001 Strategic Plan for the Northeast Revitalization Area, still exist today — significant retail leakage out of the neighborhood, high poverty rates, security, access to parking, prevalence of subsidized housing units, blighted and vacant buildings, and other factors. More specifically, this area is now characterized by pervasive poverty (49.35% compared to the City’s 33.9% and State 10%), low employment (72.56% compared to the City’s rate of 83.6%), violent crime (the area’s Part I violent crime rate per 1,000 residents is 66.2, compared to the City’s rate of 53.9 from 2011-2013), and food insecurity. The area’s sharp socioeconomic decline began after WWII with the construction of Interstate 84. The highway’s location divided the City in half, isolating the Northeast and other neighborhoods from the economic activity of the down- town. Even more devastating were the race riots in 1968 that resulted in massive arson, destroying the majority of North Hartford’s commercial strip. Years later, the Northeast commercial corridor and neighborhood has yet to recover from this economic downturn. These conditions qualified this area, and two other adjacent neighborhoods, to become a federally designated Promise Zone earlier this year.
In May of 2014, State Representative Brandon McGee approached Development Services about establishing a new vision for the commercial portion of Main Street, focusing on the areas north of the Terry Square Trident to the Windsor town line. Staff proposed to Representative McGee a three tiered approach to reimagine, revitalize, and reassert Main Street as a commercial destination: 1) a comprehensive business and residential survey to understand local business conditions; 2) a phased streetscape improvement project extended from the Windsor town line south to the intersections of Main and Earle streets and Windsor Street and Boce Barlow Way; and 3) a massing and land use vision for the Terry Square trident area.
The business survey is the spring- board to the redevelop and revitalization of the Northeast neighborhood. The City retained the services of GreatBlue Research to create the surveys and oversee and administer the business and residen- tial research process. The primary goal of this research study was to identify barriers to visitation, identify appealing aspects of a potential streetscape that would draw visitors, and ultimately identify what is necessary to increase the amount of busi- ness conducted in the Northeast Neigh- borhood.
The variation in the businesses and residents’ perspectives proved incredibly interesting, for example: residents are more optimistic about the benefits of a streetscape project and the positive effect it will have compared to business owners (78% compared to 68%); businesses believe customers can easily nd parking compared to residents who also reported parking issues having a negative impact on their tendency to visit businesses (68% compared to 42%).