Hartford, Bushnell Park, CT

Contact Name
Jackie Gorsky Mandyck
Project Dates
2007 - Present (construction complete Fall 2015)
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2015
Tags
Policy, Design
The iQuilt Plan is made up of a series of "patches." When all completed and sewn together they create a more walkable, vibrant, econmically sustainable City. Bushnell Park North is a street that runs from Hartford's Union Station (bus and rail) and Main Street in Downtown Hartford. Bushnell Park North also runs along the northern edge of Bushenll Park, the first publically funded park in the United States. Since the 1940s this gateway from a major transportation hub to Main Street has been sacrificed to accomodate the increase in automobile use. Changes in this key gateway narrowing roadways, expanding sidewalks, implementing traffic calming measures and providing lighting and furnishings that encourage walking has begun to transform Connecticut's Capital City's Downtown neighborhood.
Project Goals
What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
Bushnell Park North's Project Goals: To connect the public transportation hub with Main Street and make Connectict's capital city more culturally vibrant and environmentally sustainable. The goal was to get more feet on the street. This would increase the demand for retail, food and other services in a city's Downtown. More people on the street meant safer streets and increase in economic development. To be able to accomplish this we had to put aside the notion that had built up since the 1940's that the car was king and create complete streets that would also cater to the pedestrian to accomplish some of our other goals.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
The basic tenants of the original goals remained, but became more refined as design grew into implementation. The changes made to Busnhell Park North would not only assist in connecting transportaion to Main Street, but also connect the cultural treasures that are located within Downtown Hartford.
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
iQuilt Partnership – a sixteen-member board made up of representatives from the City of Hartford, The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, MetroHartford Alliance, the Hartford Business Improvement District, Greater Hartford Arts Council, Metropolitan District Commission, and representatives from cultural institutions, businesses (Phoenix and the Travelers), the arts and higher education. The iQuilt, beyond extensive local and regional support, is highly praised by Congressman John Larson (CT), With Doug Suisman, FAIA, Principal, Suisman Urban Design (Los Angeles, CA), as primary project architect, The Bushnell has coalesced an internationally-acclaimed team of designers. Suisman was joined with other highly regarded professionals in architecture, design, landscape architecture, lighting design, and revenue generation planning fields.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
Begun as a grassroots effort, the iQuilt Plan (www.iQuiltPlan.org) rapidly gained support from all sectors of the city, and has been embraced as a logical next step in ongoing state, municipal and private-sector efforts to revitalize Hartford’s neighborhoods and economy. The Bushnell Park North project is the largest publically funded piece that will be completed this year. This project been a catylist for other projects and spurred on investment in other development projects. Other patches of the Quilt have begun to be realized and all connect back to Bushnell Park North and the Central GreenWalk from Bushenll Park to the Connecticut Rivier.

The project has also played a strong role in unifying downtown’s cultural assets and establishing Hartford as a distinctive, authentic, cultural district. Eight months ago the University of Connecticut announced plans to relocate a suburban campus to Downtown Hartford. Trinity College, on January 5, 2015 completed the purchase of a large building in Downtown and will be moving one or more of its programs into this new facility. Bushnell Park North is playing a key role in how all of these projects are tied together.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
Bryant Park, Governor's Island, Pittsburgh
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
The Bushnell Park North project followed a simialr path as other patches of the Quilt in Hartford. Community Input. Design. More Community Input. Adoption by the City. Funding. Implementaion. The key to the iQuilt Plan and specically the BPN project has been communication and community participation.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
Continued community involvement and buy-in has been something that we have been working on, however, this phase never stops. A consistent, communication stragety to update people on progress if vital. We have had to incorporate and continue community and stakeholder meetings, website updates and blog maintenance, and conduct a series of public forums.
Obstacles
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
Buy-in for the iQuilt Plan in general was very high. However, when funding became available and the plan ws beginning to be realized two groups of stakeholders began to voice their objection to a critical component of the plan.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
Opening dialogue between the stakeholders that voiced concerns, the CIty and the iQuilt Partnership was key. Through a serious of long discussions adn understainding of each other's needs, we were able to make very slight modification to the plan that satisfied one fo the stakeholder groups and they no longer had an objection to that key component of the plan. However, one group remains vocal in their objection.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
Consistent and constant communication.
Think of ways to maintain the energy and focus on the long term vision while implementing each step to reach your goal.
Keep up with your supporters. Create a stakeholders group that will assit in bringing the message to others and support the project even through the challenging times.
Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
This project makes Downtown and specifically the area around Bushnell Park the "shared" living room for the City and the Region and a magnet for investment and economic development in retail, housing and commerce. This project enhances our urban center that attracts visitors, residents, and talented workforce needed to drive our regional economy. More people are on the streets. More cultural partners are doing programming outsid their walls (Old State House, Envisionfest, Hartford Public Library). The momentum and excitement that residents, workers and vistors feel are very positive.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
Bushnell Park North is a key catalyst for pther patches of hte Quilt. Its completion and success has begun to encrouage others to do their part int heir areas. Phoenix Insurance completed an $8M renovation ont heir plaza and designed it to refelct the tenats fo the iQuilt Plan. Travelers Insurance just completed a $33M renocaton to the outside of their iconic building and this year will invest capital in creating an open public plaza right along Main Street. Investments in public transportation with a $500 million bus way due to be completed in March 2015. And two colleges making significant investment in Downtown Campuses have many talking about Hartford. In addition, over the next 12 months over 700 new housing units will be avaiable in Downown Hartford. WIth less than a 3% vacancy rate for apartments in Downtown there is an increase in more units. All of these exciting projects are bringing more people (vistors and residents) to Hartford and bringing vibrancy to the streets, the cultural institutions, the restaurants and other venues.
How did you measure this success or progress?
Federal funding was secured in June 2012 for this project. The Federal Government awarded the City of Hartford a $10M TIGER grant.
Commitment of funds by Travelers to redesign their plaza.
The engagement of Arts organizations.
The high level of particiaption in public forums that helped impact the design, implmentation and future programming.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
Additoinal funding for other projects in the iQuilt Plan
Investment by private landowners and their willingness to incorporate their renovations of the buildings to support the tenants of the iQuilt Project
The increased investment in Downtown Development. While we knew there would be the relaction of the two higher education institutions and the housing investment being made Downtown has made a huge difference.
CCX Workshop Handout