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July 8, 2022

Master plan calls for transformation, new development along 220 acres of Middletown’s waterfront

Contributed Riverbend Landing is a proposed entertainment district on the site of a former wastewater treatment plant along the Connecticut River in Middletown.
Contributed A proposed pedestrian bridge over Route 9 connecting Main Street in Middletown to the Connecticut River.
Contributed The proposed pedestrian bridge plaza.

A master plan has been unveiled that would reconnect Middletown to the Connecticut River, transforming an underused 220-acre stretch of riverfront land into a mix of uses, including restaurants, multifamily housing, entertainment, recreational trails and a pedestrian bridge leading to downtown.

The town has hired the architecture and urban design firm Cooper Robertson to develop a plan for its waterfront, following a yearlong planning process.

The plan, called Return to the Riverbend, proposes four separate districts on the waterfront. The Riverside District would include pedestrian and bicycle paths and a renewed Harbor Park, with a pedestrian bridge over Route 9. The Sumner Brook District includes town-owned parcels that would be converted into an entertainment hub, Riverbend Landing, with an amphitheater and beer hall.

The Hilltop District includes land owned by the state of Connecticut, which would be kept as open space for use by community members and Connecticut Valley Hospital.

The South End District consists of the former Long River Village along the shoreline and would be transformed into mixed-use housing.

The design plan was created through a planning process that included comments from more than 1,200 residents during brainstorming sessions, interviews and surveys.

With the planning stage finished, phase two, the implementation stage, is set to begin this fall.

To view the master plan, click here.

Middletown’s riverfront – less than 1 mile from Wesleyan University – has long been separated from the community by industrial uses and Route 9. The town has been working to reclaim its riverfront for years, with a wastewater treatment facility decommissioned in 2019.

Two years ago, residents approved a $55 million bonding package that included $5 million to redevelop the waterfront. In April, the Common Council approved the town’s purchase of the old Jackson Corrugated Container manufacturer at 225 River Road, along with three residential properties.

Middletown’s project comes at a time when municipalities across the state are looking at ways of reactivating their riverfronts. A nonprofit organization, Riverfront Recapture, has acquired 60 acres of waterfront space on the Hartford-Windsor border and is planning a riverwalk and an outdoor performance space, while setting aside a 10-acre cove for recreational use and another 10 acres for commercial development.

In Waterbury, a greenway is being constructed along the Naugatuck River.

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