The Wesleyan Argus | Town of Middletown welcomes second return to Riverbend Community Workshop
The town of Middletown held a second community workshop via Zoom at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 11 to discuss updated plans for the Return to the Riverbend Campaign and receive community feedback. This workshop followed first community meeting in October 2021during which the City heard the overall goals for the waterfront area, which the planning team has since turned into initial design concepts for the master plan.
Over 110 participants attended the workshop, most of whom were residents of Middletown. 14% of participants identified themselves as community leaders, 9% as business owners, 6% as students and 6% as city employees. As with the first community workshop, the presentation team included consultants from Cooper Robertson, the city’s leading waterfront design consultant, team members from Karp Strategies, an economic development consulting firm , and Langan, a Connecticut-based engineering company.
Karp Strategies consultant Alan Patterson opened the meeting before introducing Middletown Mayor Ben Florsheim 2014, who explained how the next steps in the planning process will see the town begin to see plans for the waterfront. redeveloped sea.
“We’re going to start to really see and visualize some of what we talked about in the initial meeting, some of what we talked about for many, many years,” Florsheim said.
Florsheim also stressed the importance of overcoming potential obstacles, particularly the fear that this initiative, similar to previous ones proposed by the City, will not materialize.
“The greatest [obstacle] it’s the feeling that the plan that we’ve made…is going to end up being like all the other plans that have been well made and well discussed and ultimately shelved for lack of funding, for lack of interest, for lack of real community effort to make it happen,” Florsheim said. “We’ve solved too many big structural barriers to redevelopment of our shoreline to allow that to happen with this master plan, and it’s really the choice of the community, and it’s the decisions we make as a community that will decide whether we are able to achieve this vision or not.
As noted by Anjulie Palta of Cooper Robertson, the design concepts divide the Riverbend area into four planning districts. These include Riverside District, Sumner Creek District, Hilltop District and South End District.
The Riverside District, which encompasses much of downtown and Route 9 and stretches from Washington Street to Sumner Creek, was the first redesign area Palta discussed.
“This neighborhood has an incredible opportunity to transform its parking lots, which total 70% of the area of the neighborhood, into something that can really complement the existing vibrancy of downtown and main street while enhancing the pedestrian experience,” Palta said. “There is also a need to create better connections between the city center and the North End. Also the connections to Harbor Park are not sufficient and the park itself needs improvement.
The Riverside district would see three new development areas under Cooper Robertson’s proposal, including an expanded YMCA and recreation center to the south, a higher density mixed-use area in the middle and an arts block and culture in the north. The proposal also includes a historic central street walk between Dingwall Drive and Court Street, with exhibits on the impact of Route 9 and urban renewal in the area, two additional public garages to compensate for lost parking space and improved port access. Park through the possible transformations to Route 9. A concept proposed by Palta was the transformation of Route 9 into a pedestrian boulevard, creating three signalized intersections for pedestrian crossings. Another option was to build crosswalks over Route 9 to Harbor Park.
“We worked in coordination with [the Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT)] to explore concepts for the future of Route 9,” Palta said. “We’re hoping that in our conversation today, we can get a little closer to what the community wants for the future of this stretch of freeway, so the city can really take that and advocate for a vision. unified route 9 with the DOT moving forward. ”
Palta also presented the proposal for a slave trade memorial in Harbor Park, mentioning that the team had conversations with the Wangunk tribe – the original residents of Middletown and the riverside – to try to honor their story through the project. Proposed design concepts for this area include a new gateway to the park from Union Street, a new boathouse and boathouse plaza, and the planned riverside promenade.
Palta then suggested the Sumner Creek district as a possible expansion area for Harbor Park through the construction of a public boat launch and docking area, an area for community gatherings and a new public park. This area has been difficult to convert to public space due to the presence of the now disused Middletown Water Pollution Control Plant.
“With the decommissioning of the sewage treatment plant, a significant portion of the coastline has been returned to the public and has really unlocked the entire waterfront for full development,” Palta said.
In the Hilltop District, the team’s planning focused on bringing the communities of Middletown and Connecticut Valley Hospital (CVH) together.
“[One of the things we’ve considered is] how can we begin to bridge the gap between CVH and the community through potentially shared landscapes, public access, community programming,” Palta said. “We also discussed how the city could better align with CVH’s long-term goals and plan projects to explore development opportunities that, again, can benefit both CVH and the community. Middletown community.”
Palta explained that the team looked at the possibilities of developing new housing in the South End district which could be linked to the riverfront.
“The infrastructure at this site provides a major opportunity to meet the city’s housing needs and could provide reserved potential for Harbor Park,” Palta said.
The meeting then moved to different breakout rooms, where participants could express their thoughts on the plans of the different districts. Common concerns across breakout rooms included parking, the importance of connectivity between the four districts (by public transport or other options), and public recreation areas.
Planning and Zoning Commission Deputy Commissioner Kellin Atherton spoke for one of the sub-commission rooms and highlighted the opportunities in the South End District as positive aspects of the proposed plans.
“This neighborhood really shows how the riverfront can change the way people see and experience Middletown, especially when it comes to housing,” Atherton said.
Following this second community meeting, the planning team will enter the final phase of the master plan, where they will generate a preferred plan. Implementation of this preferred plan is expected to begin in the summer of 2022, when the legislation required for the plan will begin to take shape.
Florsheim concluded the workshop by emphasizing the importance of community input as plans for the riverfront continue to move forward.
“I feel even more confident now that we’re on the right track, and I think that even more so as we’re going to have to make choices, tough choices…as the choices get more, they get more tough, and so your input is going to be critical for us on that,” Florsheim said.
Middletown residents can continue to keep up to date with the project by visiting the project websiteby stopping by the project gallery at the Main Street Market, or by sending questions or comments to [email protected].
Jiyu Shin can be contacted at [email protected].
Sam Hilton can be reached at [email protected].