(TNS) — For a price of around $9.7 million, a stretch of Main Street in downtown Hartford, Conn., from the Old State House to Barnard Park could gain a roundabout, a two-way lane for bicycles, street trees, planted medians and mid-block crosswalks, according to an ongoing city proposal.
“We really feel like this is a conservative cost estimate,” said Mike Rutkowski of Stantec, the project consultant for the Re-Imagining Main Street initiative. “We can break this project up into segments or hopefully we can do the whole thing at once. ... Overall, I am not shocked by this number.”
On a Zoom meeting Thursday, team members for the project welcomed community feedback and outlined changes to the project since its last gathering in September.
The goal is to transform the historic center of Hartford into a safe, bike- and pedestrian-friendly corridor, to slow down traffic and attract retail and restaurants. The project could benefit from more feet on the street; in August, construction began on a $26 million project that will bring 126 apartments over storefronts to the corner of Park and Main streets.
The preliminary design work was covered by a $250,000 grant. Construction from the Asylum Street to Elm Street segment is projected to cost $3 million; from Elm Street to the mid-block fire station another $2 million; the fire station to a roundabout by Park Street another $3.2 million; and improvements to Barnard Park another $750,000. The estimate includes an additional $750,000 for landscaping.
So far, no city money has been put into the project other than staff time.
Sandra Fry, a project manager with the city of Hartford, said that having a design concept in place before seeking funds to proceed with construction was essential. But without funds in place, it’s impossible to create a timeline for build-out.
“With a lot of these projects, we go step by step,” Fry said. “We really felt that for Main Street a design concept was essential to enable people to really envision how the street could be transformed. There are potential grant opportunities that will be coming up that we can look at to move the project forward.”
Hartford Councilman John Q. Gale, who attended the online meeting, wrote: “I love it and will work hard to find the money.”
Rutkowski said that projects involving widening streets — not this one — typically run into the tens of millions of dollars.
Most of that would be dedicated to right of way acquisitions, and it probably would never be done, he said. “No one wants to take buildings, no one wants to take private property. We’re just trying to re-purpose this area through this corridor and really make it an attractive place for a number of people.”
Rutkowski said the roundabout at Park Street is intended to create a gateway to the Main Street corridor. Roundabouts were considered for other intersections along Main Street, he said, but ultimately the team went with just one.
The design team has made minor tweaks since September, including revisions to lane changes, pullouts and parking.
“The feedback that we got from Connecticut Transit and folks is that we really need to make sure that we have adequate area for people loading and unloading buses,” said Stantec associate Travis Ewen. “You can see how our cycle track has a little bit of a bend to it to accommodate that distance.”
Much of the discussion was focused on 525 Main St., a city-owned building that is currently occupied by the Cornerstone Deli. “I know we put it out for RFP [request for proposals],” Fry said. “I believe we’re working with a potential purchaser of the property.”
“What you do on that first level [of 525 Main] is so vitally important to make it active,” Rutkowski said. “It could be restaurants, it could be small boutiques. Let local dollars invest into this. ... To really make that active and healthy and generate foot traffic is really your key to success.”
The abundance of office, institutional and civic uses — a museum, a city hall, churches, a public library, a water and sewer authority office building, a federal courthouse — along the corridor, Rutkowski added, was “great, but everything on here is not generating a whole lot of tax revenue and activity after 5 o’clock. That’s going to create a problem.”
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