Park Street Community Forum

JACK DAVIS: Welcome to this forum on one of the most exciting andimportant issues that's facing Hartford, in our region, and I should say, one ofthe most exciting opportunities.

As you may have noticed, in the last couple of years The Courant has focusedvery intensely on making Hartford a better urban environment. A place wherefamilies can prosper and grow and fulfill their hopes, and a place wherecitizens can work together to make a livable, friendly, exciting, safe city.

No cluster of topics that we cover in our newspaper pages is more importantthan the ingredients that shape the cityscape; planning, housing,transportation, crime, architecture, land use, and so on. And from time to timewe have focused on some of the most important of these urban design subjects andorganized around them a Key Issues Forum, like this one. In the past year we'veheld forums on the design of the convention center at Adriaen's Landing, and onthe, excuse my editorializing, the unfortunate plan to tear down the CIGNAbuilding in Bloomfield. Next month, we will have a forum on the proposal to turnColtsville into a national park.

Park Street, we feel, is as important, if not more important, than thosethings and it certainly deserves the kind of discussion we're having here today.Evidently, lots of people agree with us because this is the best attendancewe've seen in a long time for a Key Issues Forum; so thank you for coming.

The Courant's editorial board has been working for weeks on a special projecton Park Street. The project will appear in the Commentary section of this comingSunday's paper (Aug; 18) and, since we're a multimedia operation, we've beenshooting video that will go along with the project, the incarnations of theproject that appear on Fox 61 News this weekend and on our website,

Park Street is the section of Hartford that has the most potential to be alively and humane urban experience. We think it is the backbone of aneighborhood that has potential to be the key to Hartford's rebirth, and we seeit as the place that has the potential to become even more of what it already istoday, which is the capital of Hispanic culture in this region.

We're excited by the forces that are at work behind Park Street'srevitalization. A lot of them you will be hearing about at this session. Let memention just a few. We have a determined, energetic community, we have aneffective business leadership group, the Spanish American Merchants Association,we have a great plan conceived by urban designer Ken Greenberg & Associateswith considerable input from the community. We have a solid plan that the cityand other entities have put together, following the Greenberg plan, to rebuildthe street and the sidewalks, along with $6 million to do that.

We have revenue from the surtax that was approved in the special electionrecently, to do all kinds of improvements for Park Street. We have the supportof an engaged city government and the support of a strong mayor, Eddie Perez.

So, let me introduce the person who will be the moderator of our panel, mycolleague on the editorial board and our specialist in Hartford City issues,David Medina, a member of The Courant's editorial board.

DAVID MEDINA: Thank you all for coming. I'm going to say very quicklythat I think we're very, very fortunate to have a publisher and an editorialpage editor who have seen the vision and want to improve Hartford and make thata mission of the paper.

Let me introduce the panelists. To my immediate left, your right, is CarlosLopez. He is a businessman, a merchant on Park Street for more than 30 years. Heowns Luis of Hartford furniture store. He's the developer of La Plaza deMercado, which you all probably know as El Mercado, and he also operates acity-owned parking garage for the Hartford Parking Authority. .

Ruth Martinez. is a resident of Park Street. She's lived there since 1983 andshe's a property owner on Park Street since 1997. Since 1989 she has worked forthe state of Connecticut in a variety of positions and she's presently anelection officer with the Secretary of the State's office.

Julio Mendoza. is the executive director of the Spanish American MerchantsAssociation, probably one of the largest merchant associations in the state andthe most influential. In that capacity, he helped develop a $3.5 million loanfund for small businesses. Prior to that, for more than 22 years, he was adeputy director and finance officer for La Casa de Puerto Rico. He is thefounder of the Roberto Clemente Softball League.

Robert Patricelli is a CEO of two local healthcare companies and last monthhe was named Hartford's Champion on Governor John G. Rowland's Council onEconomic Competitiveness and Technology. His job in that capacity is toencourage public and private officials to address the needs of inner citybusinesses.

Mayor Eddie Perez, elected this past December. His ties to Park Street runvery deep. He lived in the area for some time. As President of the South SideInstitution's Neighborhood Alliance, he funded the Park Street RevitalizationStrategy that financed the Greeberg study. We have the pleasure of sitting in abuilding right now that he helped build, the Learning Corridor.

Patti White is the executive director of the Immaculate Conception Shelterand Housing Corporation on Park Street. She's an active member of the FrogHollow Neighborhood Revitalization Zone, the Hartford Continuum for Care, andthe Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness.

Now, as Jack Davis mentioned, two years ago Kenneth Greenberg, a notednational urban planner designed a Park Street Revitalization Strategy. It was aconcept. What we're trying to do today is put some meat, some detail to thatconcept. It has a lot of beautiful pictures of what Park Street can look likegiven the right investment and the right motivation. So, to that purpose, Iwould like to ask our panelists to give a brief two minute summation of whatthey see as the future of Park Street, hopefully incorporating some of thethings that Mr. Greenberg mentioned in his strategy, namely the Gateway, theshelters, the Lyric Theatre, housing, parking, and security.

LOPEZ: Well, I have a long speech here for about 2 1/2 hours! But Iwas asked specifically to talk about parking, so here I am. It's a challengethat we all have to live with in the whole city and Park Street is no exceptionto that. And with this newly created tax district and the new funding that,hopefully, will come to Park Street, we hope to make the street a vibrantshopping and dining and entertainment destination to residents of GreaterHartford.

Parking is always a big problem.. The street is always congested. We candivide the street in two sections, the lower Park Street which runs from Main toWashington Street, and also from Washington to Colt ______ will be upper ParkStreet.

Lower Park Street has a different need. The two institutions in this section,the state building on Holzimer Street and the Hartford Hospital campus, haveparking right. Also, hopefully the development that is going to happen in Parkand Main, also will have parking.

Regarding upper Park Street, which is Washington to Colt Park, hopefully, italso will have to have parking for restaurants and residents of new housing.

I'd like to address the lower Park Street. I think that maybe a buildinggarage will need to be built to accommodate existing institutions and the newdevelopments that will be on the site.

And I believe also in the upper Park Street the street is more congested.There will be need for more parking, but we have also plenty of vacant lots thatcould be used. One idea we have from Greenberg is to have one side parking withmeters. That would also bring revenue to the city or to the district and, at thesame time, it would create more outside area where the neighbors can park andsome of the merchants can park.

Parking is not the most important issue on Park Street. We have to change allthese things in order to have a feeling of security. People should not be afraidto walk one block to park their cars like they are now. And most of those issuesare perception issues that need to be changed. I have been on Park Street for 30years and I can walk the streets with my jewelry, my wife, my kids, without aproblem. I think that we have more perception than anything else.

RUTH MARTINEZ: I'm here because I live in Park Street. I have lived inPark Street for a long time. And something that people did not think (sic) thatit was wise to do. But I chose to do that because I didn't want my daughter tobe raised with a negative stereotypes that exist out there in other places. I amvery proud of her identity, self-image, and what she's doing with her life. AndI'm happy to be a neighbor to so many people. And I have the privilege to behere telling you about them and two of them are here; my next door neighbors,and I want to recognize them, Luis Monsalves and his wife, Marta. Could youstand up, please? For over 20 years I have known these people, they are myneighbors, the children all grew up together, gone to school, to the dancestogether.

I live in a very residential area of the street, although I have businessesin both corners. It's the corner of Wadsworth and Hartford Street. I want tocongratulate the people that started the revitalization effort. I think you guyswere courageous, you guys are farsighted, you have a vision, and you have theguts to take the bull by the horn and you're doing something that isestablishing a part in and a model for everybody here and outside of this room.I'm so happy to be part of that community and to know you and I want to workwith you, and that's why I'm here. So, please say or do something, put the handstogether for them because I'm so proud of what they have done, and you guys areawesome. I mean, you are risk takers and that's what we need in Hartford and inthis country and this planet.

So, my concern is that in all the planning for Park Street please do notforget us, If you want to attract more people to do what I have done, we need tochange our perception. Don't forget that when businesses close their doors forthe day, there are still people that stay in the neighborhood, wake up in themorning go to work. What happens in those hours is crucial to keep the qualityof life. We don't talk about raising the bar on the quality of life. In ParkStreet we are missing a big, big part and it could be crucial.

JULIO MENDOZA: Ken Greenberg developed a plan for Park Street andthere were a lot of major projects that he talked about, three specifically. Oneis the parking situation, two of is streetscape improvements, and three, thecreation of a special services district. There is a total of $6 milliondesignated toward $6 million that is geared toward Park Street, to redevelop theinfrastructure of the street. The mayor was very instrumental in making thispossible.

Park Street will have, from Main to Park Terrace, new sidewalks. If you lookat the sidewalks now, they are probably one of the worst in the City. We wantPark Street to be completely different and show a Latino flavor that everyonewill hope to enjoy. The street and pavement will be new, the asphalt. There willbe pedestrian poles with plant hangers that, hopefully, we will have flowersthroughout during two seasons or maybe three seasons of the year. Maybe somepalm trees! The cobra heads will be completely changed. They will be brand newand, hopefully, will reflect some kind of a Latin flavor also. Trees will benew, a lot of trees throughout the street. New bus shelters. Signage will belooked at and, hopefully, develop different ones. We will update the trafficsignals on the street.

Anyone who saw these little poles throughout the corners and wondered whatthose were, those are called bumpouts. I don't know if another street in thecity has bumpouts, but they specifically help the pedestrians cross majorintersections easier. The bumpouts will be from Broad to Park Terrace at thistime.

We will have specially marked crosswalks in every intersection on ParkStreet. We will be , hopefully, working with Gateways, one on Main and Park andthe other one on Park Terrace and Park. Of course, we also will be changing someof the traffic signals.

The purpose of this is to create a new street as far as the infrastructure isconcerned. It will be a way that people will say wow!, we are proud of what wehave here and we want to maintain that. To maintain it, we created what iscalled the Park Street Special Services District that would provide fivedifferent services. One of them is security. We want to have a force of securityon the street, not armed, because I don't think we need that, but it will bewith walkie-talkies to talk with the the police department, and also to keep intouch with what's going on.

Maintenance is very important. We want to make sure that when anyone comes toPark Street it's well maintained. Because if you would do all this and spend allthis money, $6 million, we want to maintain it, we want to make sure when youcome back five, ten years from now, it is the same or better. We should be ableto say in the future that Park Street has maintained itself.

Parking, as Carlos specified, is very important. And, lastly, snow removal.We're hoping that if we get enough funds to remove the snow instead of justplowing it and piling it there. We want to remove the snow. And, basically, whatwe want to do is to make sure that Park Street is a destination place foreveryone, to have a great Latino experience, a place where you would like to go.

ROBERT PATRICELLI: I want to start by expressing tremendous respectand appreciation for what's been accomplished by SAMA and Mayor Perez and otherswho made it possible for this community to move so far forward. And also, forThe Hartford Courant. In a one-newspaper town, it's popular to criticize ournewspaper, but when they do something good like this they deserve to becongratulated and thank you very much to The Courant.

It's not my role to try to state a vision for this community. That needs tocome and it is coming out of the neighborhood supported by professionalplanners. But I did pick up a book not so long ago entitled Great Streets, by awell-known planner named Allan Jacobs. I want to read just a few words out ofthat about the criteria for great streets in hopes of encouraging us all tothink big about Park Street.

Here's what he said: "First and foremost, a great street should helpmake community, should facilitate people acting and interacting to achieve, inconcert, what they might not achieve alone. The best streets will be those whereit's possible to see other people and to meet them, all kinds of people, notjust of one class or color or age. A great street is physically comfortable andsafe. A great street might be cooler, shadier than another street on a hotsummer day. The best streets encourage participation. People stop to talk andmaybe they sit and watch as passer-participants, taking in what the street hasto offer. The best streets are those that can be remembered. There's magic togreat streets. We're attracted to the best of them not because we have to gothere, but because we want to be there. There are symbols of a community and ofits history, they represent a public memory."

You all have taken a step toward creating a great street and I amparticularly respectful and proud of what you've done, Julio, to create yourspecial services district. I think it's very important now that the citymaintain its efforts in public safety and in sanitation, so that what you'regoing to do is truly supplemental and doesn't replace any activity that the cityitself might undertake.

My role, I suppose, with this new title of city champion, is to help generatestate and business community support for a few select neighborhood projects thatcan lead to the revitalization of our city. I believe this project has to be oneof those, and I'll do my best to help generate that support with help from allof you. This project has all the criteria for success because it does involve aheavy dose of self-help and it is part of a broad neighborhood effort, notlimited to the main street but affecting the surrounding neighborhood that'sbeing led by SAMA. And, in fact, if we can make this succeed, I see this as amodel for the rest of Hartford.

Think about Hartford for a moment, those of you who know it well or, like me,were born here. We are a city of radiating commercial streets out from thedowntown, each with its own different ethnic base; Franklin Avenue, Park Street,Farmington Avenue, Albany Avenue. Park Street could be a model of the kind ofcommercial revitalization that could affect all four of those major streets andbe a theme in the neighborhood-based revitalization of our central city.

If seems to me that if other merchant associations on those other streets dowhat SAMA has done, they, too, would be fully entitled the help from the city,the state, and the broader business community. I guess what I'm trying to say isthere is more involved here than just Park Street. This is an importantneighborhood-based revitalization of the city and we should all pitch in andmake it work. Congratulations on the success you've had so far.

EDDIE PEREZ: Well, Park Street is not an island. It is part of a greatcity which I happen to be leading, but I've believed in, since my arrival here.This is not a project, it doesn't have the normal definitions of a redevelopmenteffort where you could put your hands around it. It's really still an ideathat's growing and being developed.

For the past five or so years the notion of a Park Street developmentdistrict and for the merchants and the residents of the Frog Hollow neighborhoodhas been growing. We've seen little pebbles of success, I guess, is the best wayto think about it, over the past three years. Getting the streetscape and thework that Bhupen Patel in the Public Works Department has done with SAMA to notonly design a streetscape but to include the community in that work and providehow to best spend $6 million when we probably need $50 million to do it right.It takes a long time, a lot of dialogue, a lot of prioritizing of public moneywith community input.

Park Street should be a gateway to what's happening in downtown and atAdriaen's Landing. If we depend on just Adriaen's Landing and don't have all thedestination points, so that when folks come into Adriaen's Landing they'll beable to spend a day on Park Street, spend a day on Franklin Avenue, you know, goto a show. So, Park Street is a key notion of having Hartford be a destinationpoint that spreads that visit. The major reason, I think, Park Street issucceeding is that it has a couple of ingredients that I think any communityeffort needs to have. The first and foremost is self-investment. The fact thatthe merchants on Park Street were willing to tax themselves a little more,although they're already are burdened with a high degree of tax. Just to be ableto get that much more out of the merchants is important. And not only the amountof dollars but, more importantly, the overwhelming support we've received fromfolks to put in the service district.

The second one is that we, the Park Street folks, at least the merchants,have, and I think this is also a lot of community, have decided to think beyondPark Street. The initial discussions by Ken Greenberg surprised me, I thoughtthey were going to be focused on economic development. I thought the ideas weregoing to be focused on retail development and jobs, and that was it. I thoughtthe issues of parking, security, would be the ones that would come forth.

But we spent a great deal amount of time learning about the housing, aboutthe social concerns that Ruth mentioned; what else happens on Park Street beyondthe businesses. The attitude of business people was that they could take care ofthemselves, they know how to run their businesses. What they wanted was anenvironment to be able to maximize their potential by having, as Mr. Patricellisaid, a great street. And if you have a great street, you need great people. Youneed great forces to make that street work and when Bob read what makes up astreet, it's the same kinds of discussions that tenants, homeowners, communityadvocates, and business people had four years ago when Ken Greenberg drew thosepictures. The pictures were not drawn in isolation. I think the biggestchallenge we have is not only, as Bob has said, is to keep the city's resourcescoming in terms of doing our job and then using the special services district toraise the bar and do some additional things that normally would not be done bythe city. The biggest challenge is to continue to keep the community engaged inthe development of Park Street.

We're going to have to make some tough decisions in the next three to fouryears. We're going to have to make some decisions about land use; what are wegoing to do with the Gateway to Park Street at Park and Main? And the City isgoing to have to do some things. But we can't do that unless we have somecommunity consensus as to where we're going with those two locations. It speaksa lot about Adriaen's Landing, about downtown, about South Hartford, if we makethat move and we get it right. But we need to get it right all at once, we can'tget it half right, we can't get it half right for Park Street and we can't getit half right for south Hartford, we can't get it half right for the balance ofthe city.

The other notion is that there is going to have to be a significantinvestment in the housing and the residential components. I hope a lot of thatwill be through home ownership. But there's a lot of housing stock that will notlend itself to home ownership and the affordability and maintenance of thoseunits are going to be just as critical as the two corners on Park Street.

And last, I think that the merchants association has done a good job inkeeping folks involved, but we also have to figure out how to get the churchesand the local schools engaged. Just doing the sidewalks and doing the facadesand putting up nice plants and increasing the sales on Park Street 10 percentwon't do it. We've always looked at this as one neighborhood, one continuum,where we will be able to attract somebody from New England to the city and theywill want and need to visit Park Street. I mean, that's the notion. Ourchallenge is to be able to market Park Street as a destination point for anybodywho's coming to New England.

If we want to be New England's rising star as a city, we have to raise allthe streets in Hartford at the same time. And one of the advantages we have inPark Street that we don't have in all the other parts of the city is that we dohave some vehicles in place, some success in place, and some excitement in placethat we can move this thing forward all together.

PATTI WHITE: First of all, I'd like to thank The Hartford Courant forinviting our organization to be present here to speak to some of the issues thathave been generated and spoken about in public and in the community.

Let me just say, first of all, on behalf of the Board of the ImmaculateConception Shelter and Housing Corporation, we are in full support of theefforts to revitalize Park Street. We think it's a wonderful opportunity for thepeople that live there and for some of the people that we serve.

Recently wee met with Mayor Perez and with members of SAMA, with Sen. John Fonfara, who I think is in the audience, to talk about ways that we can workcollaboratively to move our shelter and our organization off of the corner ofPark and Hungerford to another location or locations in the city.

We are committed to providing services to people who are chronicallyhomeless. Most of the people we serve are very, very poor. Many of them sufferwith HIV and AIDS. Many of them have histories of chronic alcohol and substanceabuse. So, it's a challenge, but we're absolutely committed to working with thefolks here and with other partners. On a short-term basis, we're working tobring more folks in from the community to serve on our board of directors, to bea part of this planning process. We're working to create some improved securitymeasures. I'm happy to say we have secured some additional funding to hire,finally, a Park Street outreach worker who will be starting work in September,to be out there in the community working with the merchants and with ourorganization. So, our commitment is that I would imagine within a couple ofyears we will have been able to move off of the corner of Park and Hungerford.

MEDINA: Before I open the floor to questions I want to state onething, point out that in our audience there are many guests here. Many of youwill be playing a role in the future of Park Street. You have residents here,I'm very impressed with all of you who came. It's marvelous. We have residents,we have merchants, I see a number of property owners here, I see public andelected officials here, non-profit institutions are represented here. And thereare quite a few bankers in the audience as well.

You're too numerous to mention by name but I welcome you here and I wouldlike to take the liberty during the course of our discussion to ask you to lendsome expertise during the conversation that will take place. So here we go.Anyone have any questions? Would you please state your name and your occupationand your role.

ANGEL SIERRA: My name is Angel Sierra. I'm the owner of Hispana Visionat 86 Park Street. I redeveloped that area, that building, about a year and ahalf ago. It was actually abandoned for 15 years, drug infested, and you nameit, the whole works. Since I redeveloped it, there's been a little chainreaction going on Park Street. People near me want to fix up their storefronts,they want to do more things.

My concern, as a business owner, is that I have Main Street and Park. Thebuilding on the right hand side is abandoned. It looks awful. I have aninvestment there for the next 20 years. The Main-Park area needs to be developednot in three or four years but maybe in the next four, five months. I mean, it'svery critical, that's the gateway to Park Street. People who come to Park Streetget an image. Your first impression or image is what makes it happen. So, if youcome down Park Street and you see that ugly lot there and you see the buildingthat is decayed, people just make a u-turn and go back.

Eddie, this is for you. What do you think we could do in the next three orfour months? Not years or two years, we need an answer that's precise andsomething that's gonna happen soon. As a business owner, I need to know thatbecause I put a lot of investments. I have five employees, who are Hartfordresidents, working with me and I want to improve and I want to do a couple ofother things and, I mean, my investment is there and I think the gateway to ParkStreet is so important. That's the key for us to go with the Adriaen's Landing,with downtown Hartford and so forth, but that Main Street and Park is very, verycritical and I need to, hopefully, get a good answer.

PEREZ: I mean, four months may be really stretching it. How long hasit been vacant? In two weeks let me tell you what's going to happen.

We need to get, and my understanding is that there is a meeting of some ofthe Park Street players and partners. The city can move only as fast as thecommunity is moving. I think that there is total support on the city's side tomake sure that both of those corners are developed in the coming years in a waythat complement the balance of the street. It's a gateway and we understand it'sa gateway. The city has one side of the street under its control but it doesn'thave the other side. You know how slow the redevelopment effort works. I mean,it wold take us about at least a year and a half before we are able to assemblethe lots on the other side. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't, as acommunity, agree on what should happen and the city should do its part on theside that we do control and get that first domino sort of gone.

So, my hope is that in the next couple of months we will have, as part of theestablishment as a special services district, some decisions as to what weshould do at that corner. We could RFP that site and get a developer designatedbut in the end the whole project is going to be decided on whether that's aviable project.. I think from the city's end, all we can do is push along thepublic improvements and the public funding that we need to put in place to makethe project happen. We can't do that until we have some perimeters decided. Ithink the special service district is a vehicle to do that, working with theHartford Economic Development group and the council. We could probably decidewhere we want to go in the next four months. I'm not sure that we'll be able tobegin implementing in four months. I think that's a real dual goal to at leastdecide how we're going to approach those two corners and begin moving along anddoing that in concert with the establishment of the special service district.

MEDINA: What's the problem with the other corner, the one with theramshackle buildings over there on the southwest corner of Park and Main?

PEREZ: There are two problems. The first is that the southwest corneris part of a redevelopment plan that has existed for several years. We wouldhave to go back amending the plan. Amending a plan is a little more difficultthan if you didn't have a plan because there are some stakeholders.

The other one is that there has been so much activity, positive and negative,about what could have happened at that corner over the last decade that it'sdriven the prices up to an unreasonable point. I would say that people wouldexpect a little more than the present value of those properties. The citydoesn't have the eminent domain process in place to move in a four-monthprocess.

When we did the Learning Corridor we decided not to do it under an eminentdomain, public process, because we knew it would take us three to five yearsbefore putting in the first shovel. So we have to come up with somecollaboration between the present owners and the future potential developers ofthose sites in order to make it happen and that's probably faster than if theCity was the sole driver of that process.

MEDINA: You mentioned the price of the property. What's a reasonableprice? I know what it's assessed at.

PEREZ: At the advice of my attorney I better not answer.

MEDINA: Thank you, Mr. Mayor!

JOSE MARTINEZ: I live at 140 Russ Street and I'm chairman of the SouthFrog Hollow Association. We have worked in collaboration with otherorganizations like Mi Casa, the schools, the churches and precisely the shelteris one of our pieces of work, let's say. Ms. Patti White, the director of theshelter, is also a member of our North Frog Hollow group. We, and when I say we,there are many people that have worked for the betterment of our community andwe have wanted, for some time, to move the shelter from the place it is locatedright now.

MEDINA: What's your question, Mr. Martinez?

MR. MARTINEZ: But, we don't want to move the shelter to any place thatis going to be worse than it is now. I commend Ms. White and her board for whatthey have done to improve the shelter. If we want to move our shelter to anotherplace it has to be for the betterment of all the people that we serve.

JEANETTE DeJESUS: I'm the Executive Director of the Hispanic HealthCouncil and we are located at Park and Main. So, we are very, very interested inwhat is happening there. We are interested, primarily, Mr. Patricelli, becausewe care very much about building communities. I appreciate very much yourattention to that aspect of it because we know that in the end all of thesebuildings will mean nothing if the people and the culture and the spirit oftheir lives are not reflected on that street. I don't want to ask a question butI want to offer to you because of our location, because of our 25 year historyin this community and because the interests that we have in this particular areaand for the people of our community, that if we can be of any assistance inconnecting you and your plans to our community on Park Street and in the largerHartford area that you will please use us for those purposes. We have a verylarge financial investment in Hartford, over $1 million dollars worth ofproperty that our organization owns. I personally have just moved to this areaand have made a financial investment in downtown Hartford and so I offer each ofyou publicly the use of our building to display your plans. I offer you ourbuilding to bring community people together, which we will help to facilitate sothat we can help you to continue to connect community people with the bricks andmortar of this project.

RAMON FLORES: I run El Mercado. Mr. Patricelli, I would like to knowif you have created any forms for small business loans. Mr. Mayor, I know thatthe owners of the southwest buildings at Park and Main streets have been askingfor $8 million. I feel that $8 million is a lot of money. Since they are askingfor that much money, they should make the property presentable, at least, thatit looks like $8 million.

PATRICELLI: Well, what I think I should do is hand the answer to thatquestion over to Harry Freeman who is sitting right here. The state has workedclosely with Harry as part of the initiative, that I'm part of, to award someadditional state funding to the Hartford Economic Development Commission forhelp to inner city merchants. And, Harry, I don't know if you've gotten moreloan money available but I know you're working hard. Perhaps you could say aword.

HARRY FREEMAN: There are a lot of different loan programs. What we'vefound since the Hartford Economic Development Commission has been on board isthat when we have a viable business that needs some business assistance, we'reable to satisfy those needs. A lot of time it is really spent bringing thebusinesses along, giving them the support they need to do business planning, tomake them able to handle the loan funds once they get it.

But, I think, especially on Park Street, because of some of the work thatSAMA has done, Senator Fonfara and others, state legislation has brought moneydown to the South End of Hartford -- a lot of dollars that are available. Ourjob, our joint job, really all of the panelists in our organization, is to makesure that we give the businesses the support they need to be successful. Oneaspect of that are loan funds, the rest of it is the other business supportservices and you have our commitment as well as I think I can speak for Julio todo the same.

At one time, there was state bonding to develop a loan program for ParkStreet and those dollars kept the businesses afloat. But, those dollars aregone. All we have now is the repayments. There are no dollars to buy affordableloans for developers, such as those working on Park Squire, Fiesta Developmentand others. So, we are trying to see how we get additional dollars somewherefrom the state and also from financial institutions..

MEDINA: Are there any property owners of South and Main here? I thinkthere's one right over here. Would care to make a comment? Is that figurecorrect? $8 million?

BARBARA GORDON: I'm sure everyone knows our building (former BostonianFishery), everyone knows our history. It's been in our family since 1932, andbelieve me, we are not greedy landlords. We are people who have put our heartand soul and blood into Park Street and nobody in this room feels worse aboutwhat has happened to the lower end of Park Street than we do.

Now, Mr. Mayor, there was a plan about five or six years ago. We left ParkStreet in 1994 and at that point there was a plan to demolish the unsightlybuildings around Hartford, which would certainly answer part of your problem interms of the gateway to the rest of the street. I'd like to know what happenedto that plan. If you told me in 1994 that you were going to knock my buildingdown I would have been out there making sure you didn't. Now, we've gone by thatemotional point and I would like to see the street cleared. Yeah, it's aterrible building, but why? It's been broken into a hundred times, it's beenburned, and graffiti is all over the place. It did not look like that when wewere doing a very viable business on Park Street. So, I think, you know, forstarters, immediate starters, if that plan were to continue where you diddemolish the very ugly buildings that are still there it would certainly helpthe merchants on the upper end of Park Street.

MAYOR PEREZ: First of all, I don't think the wholesale demolition isthe answer. I think that maybe one of the biggest questions about the south sideof the street there, the southwest side of the street, is the whole question ofthe facade is going to be discussed. If any public money is used, which we can'tsee a plan being put together that doesn't involve public money, we are going tohave to deal with the, the State Historical Commission and the PreservationAlliance to make sure things are done properly. Without having a plan ofdevelopment, a plan that shows all the other things you want to do, you won't beable to just demolish the structure.

We have to mothball those structures. We have to arrive at a plan that peoplethink is a reasonable approach to solving the gateway and the development ofthose corners, given what the rest of the community needs are. Once we do that,then the city will have a role in it but I hope that there would be some privateinvestment and some entrepreneurship as well in order to make that happen. Thedemolition police came when we had 800 buildings that we needed to address. Weaddressed as much as we could. Most of that money came through a lot of theefforts of our state delegation, but there were strict guidelines and therewasn't enough money to finish the plan, so to speak, and there are still effortsto finish some of the demolition buildings that we have prioritized. So I wouldsay that until we have solutions to what we want to do there we wouldn't goahead and demolish the buildings.

GORDON: The developer did go to the Historical Commission and did getpermission to demolish everything, but the facade because we wanted to keep thatfacade there, too. So, I think that's already been done and because we were onthat list of the 800, I mean, that certainly would have improved the looks ofPark Street.

CARLOS LOPEZ: I think that I want to address Mrs. Gordon. I do haverespect for you and your father. I happened to work with him 30 years ago. Youare welcome to do whatever you want with the property, but it seems that as abusiness person you have to understand one point. The property has been therefor a long time and I know in conversation with different people we have talkedmany times, but we need to move on. We need your cooperation, your cooperationwith the group of owners of the other buildings. That's not happening in thelast two years. There is an urgent need to address the issues of progress.

RUTH MARTINEZ: I am a business and property owner and a residentthere. I feel that we need to take a good look at how the future of Hartford,Park Street is going to affect Hartford. We can continue doing what everybodyelse have done so far and it's like, let the market run it, let's have theself-interest first, and that kind of thing. We know examples in the nation andin small scale the same issues of greed and self-interest affect us. Or we candecide that the future of Park Street is going to be one that is going to be oneof bringing a diverse group of people together with different self-interests butlooking at the interests of the whole first. And that is something that is aconcern to me because I have lived 20 years there. Buildings like the ones atthe gateway drive the property value down and the morale and the childrenlooking at it and it's awful. We need to move on and I would rather see that wemove together than leaving people behind and driving the process down because Ineed it for my property, for my well being, my self-esteem, my daughter andeverybody in my neighborhood, too.

MEDINA: Ms. Martinez's point is well taken. In order for this to workpeople are going to have to make compromises. They can't draw lines in the sand.Julio, would you like to comment?

MENDOZA: Based on those properties, I've never met you Mrs. Gordon, Idid meet your father many years ago. Good man. Now, after this meeting I wouldlove to sit down with you as a SAMA representative with a group of merchants andtalk about the property. I cannot tell you what to sell your property for, but Ithink that a decision should be made on whether the property is going to be soldor if it's not going to be sold. Then it should be fixed because; we can'tcontinue with our corner the way it is. So, after this meeting I would like tosit down with you.

ANA ALFARO: I speak on behalf of Broad-Park Development and actuallyreally on behalf of the culture of Park Street. I think that I do want to say isthat we cannot lose sight of the effort that began six, seven years ago and thatis to develop the cultural center on Park. That was part of the Greenberg Plan,I believe. I would like all of you and especially everyone involved with all ofthese efforts not to lose sight of that.

LUIS SOTO: I was born, raised, living in Hartford. I live on HudsonStreet and I work in the evenings at Pope Park Recreation Center down thestreet. I don't think we can talk about Park Street without talking about theside streets that go from Park Terrace to Zion, coming down here to John Street.I wanted to ask Mr. Mendoza if there are any plans in the future to extend thestreetscape by diverting money to the side because that's where we're talkingabout parking. You can't have a beautiful Park Street and then take a right andgo into some other land.

MENDOZA: You're absolutely right. Many times we have discussed notonly the strip but also the surrounding streets. We've lost so much housingaround Park Street. We wanted the Special Services District to reach out to someof the streets that surround Park Street, but for some reason at this time theywanted to curtail us to the district alone. Just to this strip. So, that issomething that we are talking about that is in our plans to hopefully securemore funding to add like Broad Street and Zion and Ward and other streetssurrounding Park Street. It's crucial for us. We understand that. Dollars arevery difficult to find. Even the ones that we found for Park Street were verydifficult. It took five years to accomplish that. We would love to have peoplelike you be part of the team to find the dollars, and hopefully, maybe, if thedistrict works and the City Council will allow us to move our district a littlebit further down.

PAUL NUNEZ: I'm a resident of Park Street. I asked Ruth Martinez as afellow resident who stays when businesses close every day. Do you have the sameproblem as I do with the noise level?

MARTINEZ: Oh, yes.

NUNEZ: With the vagrancy, with the lawlessness with vehicles and withthe fire engines? Nothing against the fire department but the fire sirens arejust a little bit loud. I live on the 17th floor of Park Place Towers.

Another question to Mayor Eddie Perez. As a resident I ask you, how can weaddress these issues? I'd like to keep on living in the area. I'd like to buy. Ionly rent and, honestly, I've thought about buying but I said, the quality oflife doesn't allow it. I cannot sleep at night. I have to close my windows, Ihave to turn up my air conditioner, so that I won't hear the noise outside. Whatcan we do about the vagrancy, about the lawlessness at night and the loiteringand the noise level? Is there muffles for the fire trucks as the policedepartment has?

PEREZ: First, you don't have to apologize. You like the city music,right?

MARTINEZ : On the noise issue, I talk to people. I ask, "Wouldyou lower your radio when you come to buy in the store because; we're trying tosleep." But, mayor, maybe all of us need to take responsibility for this,not only city government. And let me tell you something: For me, the fire peoplecan make all the noise they want. They have saved some neighbors' lives and Itell you it is a very congested, high populated area. That's the problem, youknow, and you have to understand that the city lifestyle. Fire trucks can wakeme up any time of the day. The Lifestar helicopter goes over my property all thetime. And you know something? We need to get the good with the bad, you know,and that's one of the costs of urban life.

LOPEZ: The Special Services District members are commissioners andthey have the job to do. We have our hands full. We have little projects thathave been in the works for a long time but they are priorities and we have towork on the priorities first. It's a beginning. We can't solve all the problemsand all the issues. I agree with you. I think that I would like to have mybusiness saved and lives as well which is even better. We have priorities to doand the gateway to Park Street is one of them. The shelter is another, as aresecurity, parking and street cleanliness. It's a beginning. We need the support.We can talk about 20 different issues, 20 different projects that we have thereand they are all good and they are all needed in the neighborhood, all in goodtime. We need to start building from the bottom up and for that we need thesupport, we need to bring our customers to Park Street, we need to bring all thepeople back. We have a wonderful street. It's vibrant, it's full of people allthe time. We have more good things than bad things and we have to use the goodthings to make the bad things go away -- one step at a time.

QASIM SHARIEF: I've been raising my hand for quite some time. Irepresent Mohammed Islamic Center of Hartford. We're located at 155 HungerfordStreet. Through the years we invested over a half a million dollars in realestate and revitalization of those properties and we understand the relationshipbetween the residential community and the business community. The gentlemanright behind me mentioned the relationship between Park Street and its sidestreet. It is something that we feel that we have to see the bigger picture. Youknow, Park Street is crucial but the side streets also have a pivotal role. Ifwe're talking about making a Park Street a destination spot for all of NewEngland, then the side streets that show up like the bad lands have to beimproved..

We are willing to do our part. We invested our hard earned money, ourcommunity to make sure that we would do our part as a religious community and towork in concert with the business community that exists on Park Street. We wouldlike to be included, we would like to get our business men also because we havea number of successful business persons that are ready to invest in that area'cause we can see the growth and the full potential of Park Street.

What can we do, what are you willing to do to include us in this process.We're willing, we're able. A while ago, our community sponsored the communitymeeting concerning the blight, the drug trafficking and the criminal activitythat was taking place. It was our community, our men, who realized that we hadto take back the street and put it in the hands of our families, of ourchildren, and that included everybody in the community.

JACK DAVIS: I just wanted to say this is a terrific panel. I think wehave a terrific future for Park Street. We have lots of complicated issues,obviously, and I think we're on our way to discussing them productively. Muchasgracias, all of you. Look for the coverage of Park Street in this Sunday'sHartford Courant. Look for coverage on Fox 61, and look for the deep, deeparchive of stories that will be published on with much moreinformation than we can get on the TV station or in the newspaper, and we'llcontinue it. Thank you very much. There's dessert and coffee outside.

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