Plan to Move Downtown Hartford Street Faces Opposition

Mar 21, 2014

Gold and Main Streets as seen from the Wadsworth Atheneum.
Credit Heather Brandon / WNPR
Downtown Hartford, in the iQuilt plan.
Credit www.theiquiltplan.org

Figuring out ways to bring more people to the city of Hartford has been a long-time work in progress. One plan to do that is called iQuilt, and one of its goals is to make the city more walkable. One aspect of it is facing opposition.

Tom Deller is Hartford's development director and he said the goal is to make downtown Hartford a destination.

"It calls for an ability to walk from the river through the downtown to Bushnell Park and to connect the neighborhoods back into the downtown through a series of green walks," Deller said.  "And create an environment that is inviting and invites people into the city."

But one part of that big-vision plan has generated its fair share of controversy. Come April 1, the city plans to relocate Gold Street -- which connects Main Street to Bushnell Park. Deller said it fits with the vision of creating that green walk. But others like attorney Thom Page said it doesn't fit with the history of the city and the needs of its residents. (Editor's note: Read a May 2013 traffic study by BETA Group, Inc. provided by Page.)

"Because we complained at all, we are Darth Vader and they think we want the iQuilt to die. Not even close to the truth," said Page, who represents the centuries-old Center Church.

The congregation's Church House is on Gold Street, and changing the way the street is laid out means moving it far from the house's front door. Page said the move is unnecessary, costly, terrible for traffic, and deeply unpopular with downtown residents. He also said it makes getting to the church more difficult for the elderly and those who drop off their children.

"This is the only building in the whole town where the city has said, 'Even though you serve the public, we've got reasons that are more important than the safety and convenience of the public,''' Page said. 

Deller, the city's development director, disagreed.  He said that the city has addressed the church's concerns and that its representatives are part of a vocal minority.

"There's lots people who think what we're doing on Gold Street is vitally important and great and a vitally important piece of the iQuilt plan that is very visionary and is great for everyone," Deller said.

But City Council President Shawn Wooden says he and his colleagues have heard the church's concerns and are actively considering them.