West Hartford Called A City For The Next Decade

A muggy, miserable 95 degrees in May and all the beading sweat that imposes on the public was not enough to deter the dozens who insisted Wednesday on eating al fresco in West Hartford Center. They lunched at the bistro-style tables along Farmington Avenue — the thirtysomething women in floral dresses, the older guys in polo shirts tucked tightly into khaki shorts. They sipped glasses of water with lemon.

What's hotter than the weather? West Hartford, No. 9 on a Top 10 "Best Cities for the Next Decade" list that Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine released this week.

The "once-sleepy suburb of Connecticut's capital" and "regional destination for shopping and dining," as the magazine depicts it, ranks among the company of: Austin, Texas (No. 1); Seattle; Washington, D.C.; Boulder, Colo.; Salt Lake City; Rochester, Minn.; Des Moines, Iowa; Burlington, Vt.; and Topeka, Kan. (No. 10).

What they all have in common is innovation, says Kiplinger's, the know-how to attract big- and small-business jobs, families and out-of-towners. In West Hartford's case, the magazine included the chic retail at Blue Back Square, niche businesses in Elmwood Center and Park Road, "top-notch" schools and town amenities such as an ice rink, five swimming pools and two public golf courses.

"Downtown Hartford is not really where people go anymore," Mayor Scott Slifka is quoted as telling Kiplinger's. "Great neighborhoods, a safe community and great schools have been our tradition."

Small-town charm — or has the town become a city? — also drew points for West Hartford. In the center, within walking distance of Whole Foods and Crate & Barrel, are large banners announcing the start of field hockey league registrations and automated town recycling. The area is not immune to the occasional bank robbery, but it's a place where convertible owners feel OK leaving the top down on the hottest day of the year.

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