Middletown residents want unspoiled green spaces, more cultural and economic activities by the river

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MIDDLETOWN – City stakeholders would like to see the preservation of green spaces and more cultural and recreational options as part of the ongoing master plan for Connecticut waterfront development.

Business leaders, residents, city workers, common council members, students and others were among those who recently weighed in on what they would like to see in the Harbor Park and River Road areas in Middletown, at the first of several community forums surrounding the return to the RiverBend project.

The “river” refers to the location of Middletown on the “big bend” of the river, which was once a prosperous port founded by settlers in colonial times. The area is roughly bordered by Route 9 and includes Eastern Drive and River Road.

Harbor Park, off Harbor Drive, on the Connecticut River in Middletown.

Cassandra Day / Hearst Connecticut Media File Photo /

The presentation and feedback session has recently been conducted virtually.

The results will be incorporated into the master plan created by New York architectural firm Cooper Robertson, in collaboration with Karp Strategies and Langan.

Mayor Ben Florsheim recently signed a $ 1.57 million contract with Cooper Robertson to create a long-awaited redevelopment plan for the riverside.

Over 150 people attended the session. Florsheim told session participants that the master plan is “all about you.”

The Return To The Riverbend gallery is open in a window in Middletown's Main Street Market.  The opening of the space is pictured here on October 16.  Riverside Master Plan meetings and events led by Cooper Robertson will be held there.  Progress information displays will be centered there as the project unfolds.

The Return To The Riverbend gallery is open in a window in Middletown’s Main Street Market. The opening of the space is pictured here on October 16. Riverside Master Plan meetings and events led by Cooper Robertson will be held there. Progress information displays will be centered there as the project unfolds.

Mayor Ben Florsheim / Photo contribution

Florsheim called this current process “the end of a start”, referring to decades of efforts to open up the river banks to economic development.

“This is the end of a period with a lot of talking, dreaming and speculation, and towards the copper tips to put in place the vision and the plan, and the execution strategy to achieve what we need to see. performing here in Middletown, ”the mayor said.

Karp Strategies Director Alexandra Sutherland-Brown, one of the consulting teams working on the project, hosted the forum.

The project builds on past efforts, said Alan Patterson of Karp Strategies. “It is clear that the time has come,” he said. “It’s a generational opportunity.”

Sutherland-Brown asked participants to choose their top three priorities identified in 2020 by the city. These include putting the people of Middletown and their needs at the center of the planning process, creating a network of public spaces, promoting environmental sustainability and resilience, and creating an equitable, accessible and healthy place.

The Return To The Riverbend gallery is open at Main Street Market in Middletown.  Meetings and events related to the Waterfront Redevelopment Master Plan led by Cooper Robertson will be held there.

The Return To The Riverbend gallery is open at Main Street Market in Middletown. Meetings and events related to the Waterfront Redevelopment Master Plan led by Cooper Robertson will be held there.

Mayor Ben Florsheim / Photo contribution

Common Council deputy majority leader Grady Faulkner said he would like the plan to include activities for young people.

Former head of the water and sewage department, Guy Russo, said Middletown had “so far spent a considerable amount of money on land acquisition and restructuring of the water and sewage office.

“It’s important that whatever we do contributes to the tax base and the big city list, so that we can start to recoup some of that investment,” Russo said. “It would be a generator in the future so we can do additional work.”

Harbor Park on the banks of the Connecticut River in Middletown.

Harbor Park on the banks of the Connecticut River in Middletown.

Cassandra Day / Hearst Connecticut Media File Photo /

Majority leader Gene Nocera has said he would like the plan to include a workspace, as is done in Manchester. “This has proven to be a phenomenal asset for Manchester and the surrounding communities

“It’s a place to go for business people; to connect, ”Nocera said. “There are 14 private offices, there is an art gallery, multimedia, all for start-ups involved in travel and connecting with locals. Would love to see it near our river.

The Return To The Riverbend gallery is open at Main Street Market in Middletown.  Meetings and events related to the Waterfront Redevelopment Master Plan led by Cooper Robertson will be held there.

The Return To The Riverbend gallery is open at Main Street Market in Middletown. Meetings and events related to the Waterfront Redevelopment Master Plan led by Cooper Robertson will be held there.

Mayor Ben Florsheim / Photo contribution

Minority leader Phil Pessina grew up near the riverside. “I swam, fished, saw a lot of great events on the river,” like boat races, the Head of the Connecticut Regatta and others, he said.

“It used to be, when I was a child, a very dynamic place for activities, recreation, for families who came to see these events, being part of the riverside,” he said. “The size of our city – people have to get to Portland to launch a boat. It doesn’t make sense, it never was. “

The town council approved a request to replace the wood decking with concrete sidewalks, safety guardrails, paving stones and shade pavilions in Harbor Park aimed at improving accessibility and safety.  The redevelopment of the Riverfront on the banks of the Connecticut River in Middletown will take place just past the intersection of Harbor Drive and River Road and continue south.

The town council approved a request to replace the wood decking with concrete sidewalks, safety guardrails, paving stones and shade pavilions in Harbor Park aimed at improving accessibility and safety. The redevelopment of the Riverfront on the banks of the Connecticut River in Middletown will take place just past the intersection of Harbor Drive and River Road and continue south.

Cassandra Day / Hearst Connecticut Media

Participants broke up into virtual sessions in small groups to assess what is most important to them.

Many worried about increased traffic and the need for more parking, a long-standing issue in Middletown, while others discussed “keeping green spaces green, a balance in the multiple uses of the area. , easier access to the river ”and the problems caused by Route 9 disconnecting the city from its banks, according to the video.

Since the meeting took place, the city has opened an “interactive” storefront at the Main Street Market at 386 Main Street for visitors to participate in planning initiatives.

These include a detailed survey of residents’ values ​​and ideas on how they would like to see the riverside developed and what’s best in the city, as well as suggestions on what they think. that Middletown needs, according to a press release from the mayor. Office.

The Return To The Riverbend gallery is open at Main Street Market in Middletown.  It will be open daily for anyone to visit, learn about the Riverside Master Plan process, and share comments and ideas.

The Return To The Riverbend gallery is open at Main Street Market in Middletown. It will be open daily for anyone to visit, learn about the Riverside Master Plan process, and share comments and ideas.

Mayor Ben Florsheim / Photo contribution

The storefront, located next to Perk on Main, is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For information, visit middletownct.gov. Questions can also be emailed to [email protected] To see the video of the forum, go to youtube.com.


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