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August 25, 2014 SUMMER SERIES: HARTFORD IN 2024

Views from the Top

Pedro Segarra
Bonnie J. Malley
Nicholas Lownes
Maura M. Cochran
Will K. Wilkins
Oz Griebel
Susan Dunn
TJ Clynch
Floyd Green

By Pedro Segarra

“In the next 10 years we won't be New York City or Boston, but we don't need to be. We will be Hartford — a great small city that is diverse, that attracts innovators, and people with ambition of every age. Or, in other words, the Capital City we are meant to be.”

Of the various development projects underway or planned for Hartford, which will have the most significant economic impact? Why?

The proposed minor league ballpark in Hartford's Downtown North section is the spark.

For too long, the neighborhoods of Clay Arsenal and Upper Albany have been separated from the energy and vibrancy of the central business district.

The redevelopment of Downtown North utilizes these parcels of property to their full potential, strengthens and extends the vitality of downtown Hartford, and brings new jobs, services, housing and tax revenue to the state and Capital City.

As we've seen recently, sometimes you need a spark. You need a solid foundation and a leap of faith. We have within our grasp a transformative opportunity for Hartford. Already, we have changed the perception of what is possible in Downtown North, with some developers boldly coming forward and additional potential investors closely watching our progress.

The fact is Hartford is a perfect place for a minor league team. Our location and our population are essential ingredients for success. The ballpark will mean more jobs for Hartford (during and after construction), an increase in our tax base, more affordable activities for families and more customers for our local businesses. The ballpark and the surrounding neighborhood will provide a platform for promoting Hartford, and all that our businesses and our people have to offer.

Segarra is the mayor of Hartford.

***

By Bonnie J. Malley

“As the capital of Connecticut, Hartford is extremely important in terms of the state's identity and economy. What happens in Hartford affects Connecticut overall, and that means every person in this state is a stakeholder in the city's future.”

Look into your crystal ball. What will Hartford be/look like in 10 years? How will the city change?

The number of apartments under construction and the new downtown UConn campus will change the face of the city. Hartford will look very different in 10 years with more people — particularly young people — living downtown. Employers will have more employees living in the city, walking to work and staying downtown in the evening and on weekends. And, new businesses and services will emerge to meet the needs of this new demographic. Many of these businesses will be owned by city residents. All of this will make the city a more vibrant place to live and work and will make it easier for employers to attract top talent to Hartford.

What is the biggest challenge Hartford faces in becoming a vibrant city where people live, work, and play and where more businesses choose to locate? How does the city overcome that challenge?

Our biggest challenge is overcoming our own perception that good things can't happen in the city. And the only way to overcome it is to make things happen, despite opposition to change, and demonstrate to ourselves what is possible. It means tackling the big and the small, and working collaboratively. It's also important to acknowledge the city's economic realities and the fact that city government can't do it alone. We have to work in partnership with others including the state, Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA), residents, businesses, arts and cultural organizations, and educational institutions. We also need to find ways to explore regional consolidation of municipal services to save costs and leverage precious dollars for the key capital projects necessary to continue the progress in our Capital City.

Malley is the executive vice president and chief financial officer of The Phoenix Cos., based in Hartford's Boat Building.

***

By Nicholas Lownes

What impact will the CTfastrak busway have on Greater Hartford?

This is difficult to predict — models provide insight into what can happen, but as George Box said, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” Some people will switch their commute over to CTfastrak and in the longer term congestion will be less bad than it would have been without the busway alternative. Even more difficult to predict than the transportation impacts are the land use and development impacts — how the cities and towns surrounding the corridor grow and develop over the coming decades. Ideally, people will choose to live close to CTfastrak and travel on it (accessing it on foot or by bicycle), further reducing congestion, emissions and the travel time of those trips along with catalyzing economic activity along the corridor.

Can high-speed rail work in Hartford and Connecticut? Will it be important to the transportation infrastructure of the future?

As a state in the northeastern megalopolis, Connecticut is part of the region where high-speed rail (HSR) makes the most sense in the U.S. There are engineering and design challenges associated with accommodating trains moving 150 mph — but there are compelling reasons and sufficient demand to make rail an important part of Connecticut's transportation strategy. Faster, more efficient, safer rail infrastructure should be a priority for Connecticut and the northeast corridor even if future service doesn't meet the definition(s) of “high speed.”

Lownes is the director of the Center for Transportation and Livable Systems at UConn, where he is an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

***

By Maura M. Cochran

Looking out a decade, how will downtown Hartford's realty outlook stack up against its U.S. peers?

In 2024 Hartford will be listed as “One the Top Five Places to Live.” The companies that do these ratings look at jobs, affordability, health care, arts, transportation, weather, recreation and primary and secondary education. The city scores well on all points, with the exception of K-12 education and a few points off for winter weather. We do have leading hospitals, museums, performing arts, sports (thank you UConn basketball, football and minor league baseball), parks, golf courses, an international airport, colleges and universities, and by then, high-speed train service to New York and Boston. Job growth will be steady as corporations will continue to place operations that need high-skilled employees. We will stack up well against our peer group.

Cochran is chairman and CEO of Bartram & Cochran, a national real estate consulting company based in Hartford that specializes in economic development, feasibility, adaptive reuse and tenant representation.

***

By Will K. Wilkins

What's your advice for steering Hartford to a more prosperous, vibrant future?

Hartford is best off when it appreciates what it already has, and builds on that. Real Art Ways used to be downtown, in three successive locations, until they were tossed out of their space on Allyn Street and moved to Arbor Street. The organization nearly went out of business. And I remember reading the paper in 1990 when a downtown council official was wondering aloud, “What can we do to revitalize downtown?” And I thought, well, how about building on what we've already got? People want to be around pleasing things: culture, new ideas, creativity, music, play, and laughter and they want to feel alive and connected to each other. We should look to support that, and we should look for it right here. That's what we can do to revitalize Hartford.

Wilkins is the executive director of Real Art Ways in downtown Hartford.

***

By Oz Griebel

In 10 years, what might be an unexpected development that comes about as a result of the current projects underway in Hartford?

By making it easier and more appealing to access and navigate the city's cultural and entertainment assets — the principal goal of the iQuilt initiative — Hartford will attract more foot traffic, which is essential to the owners and operators of those assets who in turn keep the city open during and after business hours. Steady progress toward the creation of a 24x7 city will help retain, recruit and engage a diverse and talented pool of employees and entrepreneurs, a key focus of our HYPE (Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs) effort. The combination of a restructured financial base and a 24x7 platform will increase the ability of the city to lead greater regional cooperation on delivering an ever higher level of municipal services as cost effectively as possible.

Griebel is the CEO of the MetroHartford Alliance.

***

By Susan Dunn

“Years ago I wrote in an article for the Hartford Business Journal that Hartford as a community had an inferiority complex. We could not see all the possibilities that surround us and that the Hartford 'cup' was really half full and not half empty. To some degree, we still believe this. I predict that in 10 years we are all believers that change can happen and that we look back on today as the beginning of a new era for Hartford.”

How important is improving the city's education system to Hartford's future?

While an improved public school system in Hartford may not be viewed in the traditional sense as a “development project,” I see this as key to improving the economic viability of our city and our region.

To retain and grow businesses, you need an educated workforce that is prepared for the jobs that are here to stay and that pay a living wage. Hartford's students have made significant progress over the past seven years thanks to the education reform agenda, but there is still a long way to go before all of Hartford's children graduate from high school and college and are career ready.

And while we are growing the next generation of Hartford's workforce, we cannot overlook the adults in their lives right now and preparing them for higher wage jobs. We cannot let a generation pass by without an opportunity to achieve the American Dream.

Dunn is the president and CEO of United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut.

***

By TJ Clynch

“The increased residential tenancy in Downtown Hartford will make small business ownership more lucrative with a stronger, more robust middle class customer base. The caveat being these new apartments must be rented by Hartford's citizens, rather than rented as corporate housing, which typically contribute less connectivity to the community and local economy.”

What is the biggest challenge Hartford faces in becoming a vibrant city where people live, work, and play? How does the city overcome that challenge?

While one can appreciate and respect the state's intervention in financing these otherwise impossible development projects, there are systemic economic development issues Connecticut faces that have created an environment in which private development is impossible without government subsidization. As a result of the current development projects, we can discover and address these core flaws to more successfully encourage development through private investment. 

We also must rethink our ideas around regionalism and transportation. Hartford's geographic boundaries need to be understood as Somers to Southington and Canton to Coventry, creating cultural pride in Hartford and personal investment and connectivity to the growth of our urban core. Today Greater Hartford flows like a donut — with our Capital City's economic energy hollow center benefiting a ring around the core. We must create an economic model that flows more like a bicycle-spoke wheel with a solid core connecting to the outside ring.

We must also re-think our transportation system and develop a multi-faceted strategy to connect our communities especially as we consider replacing I-84, including overwhelmingly favorable bicycle and pedestrian considerations. 

Clynch is the founder of Hartford marketing firm Civic Mind and president of Business for Downtown Hartford.

***

By Floyd Green

What is the biggest challenge Hartford faces in becoming a vibrant city where people live, work, and play and where businesses choose to locate? How does the city overcome that challenge?

Many Hartford families are living in poverty. More often than not, they live in 'food deserts' with very little access to grocery stores that can provide the supplies needed for a nutritious, balanced diet. Some public spaces are dangerous and there are limited opportunities to participate in safe physical activity. Educational advancements and the arts in schools still lag behind neighboring communities.

However, I do see a change happening. I see increasing access to fresh, healthy food through farmers' markets and grocery stores in Hartford and the building of more safe places for people to gather, socialize and lead active lives. I also see stronger community partnerships among residents, nonprofit organizations, businesses and government. This will ultimately lead to a positive change in areas where we live, work and play. Although Hartford faces many challenges, I do see the commitment towards a healthier, safer, more connected community.

Can you discuss Aetna's and your personal connection to Hartford?

Aetna employees tell me about their great experiences in Hartford every day. They participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure at Bushnell Park, race dragon boats on the Connecticut River, buy fresh fruit and vegetables at the Farmers' Market at Billings Forge, and support Aetna New Voices Fellowship playwrights at the Hartford Stage. They attend great performances at the CT Forum, TheaterWorks, Hartbeat Ensemble, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartt School and Kinsella Magnet School of Performing Arts. Many of our employees call Hartford home — they walk leisurely to work in summer and slog through our famous snow in the winter.

I am a downtown resident and have been since relocating from Philadelphia 10 years ago. I am a member of the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) and have served on many boards here in Hartford. I know first-hand how amazing this city is and what it can become. Hartford Has It. From the media to our leaders, from our civic groups to our residents, we must all have a shared vision of hope for this city and all work together to sustain Hartford's history, richness, its culture and its pride.

Recent developments in Hartford have inspired the people who live, work and play here. I am always excited to hear about new experiences, new places to visit and new people joining our community. That excitement is contagious and will inspire generations to come.

Green is vice president and head of community relations and urban marketing at Hartford insurer Aetna.

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