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August 25, 2014 Summer Series: Hartford in 2024

Will Hartford be a college town?

PHOTO | HBJ File Pamela Trotman Reid, president, University of St. Joseph

University of St. Joseph President Pamela Trotman Reid is a major Hartford booster. Besides being on the board of the Capital Region Development Authority, Trotman Reid's decision to locate her college's pharmacy school in downtown Hartford has injected the city with dozens of new young pupils who not only attend class and frequent local bars and restaurants, but also live in Hartford as well.

Now, UConn is following University of St. Joseph's lead with its decision to relocate its West Hartford campus to the Capital City. With Capital Community College also located downtown, Hartford is quickly growing its higher education base.

That begs the question: Will Hartford evolve into a college town? Here's what Trotman Reid thinks:

What role will colleges and universities play in downtown Hartford in 10 years? Will Hartford evolve into a college town? Can it? Should it?

Colleges and universities are a critical force in the revitalization of Hartford. Still, I don't envision Hartford becoming a college town. However, I do see it becoming a city with an active college community.

College students and faculty will create an environment that will also attract young professionals who are looking for entertainment, employment, and opportunities to grow personally and in their careers. They, in turn, will fuel the business community: restaurants, pubs, bookstores, retail shops, movie theaters, arts organizations — the many aspects of life that enrich a community.

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

As someone who has lived in numerous urban communities, I see public transportation as one major challenge.

The city needs better and more effective transportation so people don't have to rely on cars and parking. In my estimation, that's one of the key things that makes a city a city — the ability to hop on a train or bus any time of day or night to get to your destination.

Hartford also faces something of an identity crisis — it does not always seem clear who we want to be — are we to be known mostly for being the state capitol, the insurance capitol, the healthcare capitol?

I don't think we have to choose one over the others, but I do think that bringing our diverse communities together around a common sense of belonging and a shared identity will be important to taking Hartford to the next level in its development.

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

 I hope and expect there will be more retail, including markets and service stores, in downtown Hartford as the number of residents rises. As people increasingly seek convenience and also want to contribute to a sustainable future, we will see a walkable community. The latest technological innovations have begun to make it less necessary to have a car to shop or even to go to work, so we will begin to develop a city where we can get around more easily. I also anticipate that public transportation will improve. Perhaps we will even come up with innovative ways to bridge some of the current barriers that divide neighborhoods physically and psychologically. 

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