A Simple Compromise For iQuilt Linchpin

In cities as in other aspects of life, plans can get hung up on small details. Hartford should not allow that to happen with the iQuilt.

The iQuilt, developed by acclaimed urban designer Doug Suisman, a Hartford native, is a strategy/ design for connecting downtown's public spaces and cultural institutions, making the area more walkable and pleasant, and hopefully inducing more activity and interest.

The focal point is Bushnell Park. A key part of the plan is a one-mile "Green Walk" from the state Capitol to the riverfront, via Gold Street, a S-shaped, block-long street that connects Main Street to the park at Wells Street.

The vision is to expand the park up Gold Street by moving the existing street to the south, on city-owned land that serves as the lawn for the Bushnell Tower condominium, and creating a garden-like promenade along the north side of the street.

That plan is widely admired by almost everyone except the immediate neighbors. A spokesman for Bushnell Tower residents expressed fear that noise and other effects of an adjacent street would lower property values and lessen enjoyment of residents whose balconies are on that side of the building.

Across the street is Center Church House, the offices and community space of the historic First Church of Christ. The church house is now easily reachable by parking at the curb. Church officials fear that by moving the street, deliveries would be more difficult and the elderly and disabled would have a longer trek.

If Hartford thought of itself as a real city — a dense urban space, with apartment buildings next to streets and the understanding that parking is sometimes not next to the door — this wouldn't be an issue. But the city has something of a suburban mindset, perhaps dating from when the suburban-style office park, Constitution Plaza, was built.

Although it's hard to see how a two-lane street with on-street parking is going to be any more intrusive than it is now, it's also hard not to be sympathetic to Bushnell Tower residents. They bought into a building with a lawn on Gold Street. They live there and their voice should be heard. And, opposition from the church and the residents could delay the iQuilt project, which would be unfortunate.

Perhaps Mr. Suisman can take his perfectly good plan and flip the design, so the street remains next to the church and the bike/ped promenade adjoins the tower. It may even save some money in utilities relocation, etc., and that is always a plus.

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