|Example of the giant rubber duck in Thames River London, as a|
tourist attraction that is "outside of the box" , an example for a whimsical
possibility for Middletown 's riverfront
given by Project for Public Spaces
New York City based firm Project for Public Spaces (PPS) was hired by the City of Middletown for $68,000 to hold 3 public workshops and complete a report of schematic design ideas for Middletown's Riverfront. PPS is a NYC based non profit architecture and urban planning firm specializing in programming of public spaces. The City currently owns 8 acres of land on the riverfront, including the land which the current sewage treatment plant is located which is scheduled to be closed over the next decade. Over 100 enthusiastic citizen participants attended the two workshop style sessions.
From an example of annual flooding to some degree or another, posted via public youtube channel by Vishal Desai, is a video shot in 2011 when there was major flooding of Harbor Park.
The committee allowed for only limited questions to Project for Public Spaces at this time regarding timing of the next workshops. The issue of river hydrology was not revisited at the subsequent meetings. Also not included in PPS scope would be speaking with the Department of Transportation to deal with the Route 9 On/off ramp at Exit / On ramp 17 or lights on the highway.
At that meeting, PPS gave an overview of what it called the "Power of Ten" which was repeated at this presentation. Meaning, have 10 attractions for a particular site. Planner Architect Megan Walker, Wesleyan University Alumni, also went over PPS's design mantra of "Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper" as a preliminary kick off point to start to revitalize an area. PPS suggests planning festivals, temporary installations, seasonal art, or other event at a location before more investments are made to 1.) attach people and 2.) see how viable the site is as far as interest.
The week prior to the Riverfront workshop, which was not mentioned, a Bass Tournament sponsored by the Bass Federation Eastern Division Championship took place at Harbor Park. According to the Courant, over 90 participants entered with more spectators in attendance. The tournament lasted 3 days. Annually, Harbor Park is host to the Head of the Connecticut Regatta, which draws thousands. The Regatta was brought up at the workshop, and PPS reps say they wished to have more events that draw a similar number of people. This year there were new events on the waterfront such as the Caribbean Carnival event and the Youth Gospel Explosion by Shiloh Baptist Church. In 2010, the city used $100,000 in grant money to install floating docks near the moorings for public canoe launch. The Lady Katherine, docked at the park, does annual Fall Foliage tours discounted to senior citizens.
Councilman and Riverfront Task force member Joe Bibisi suggested a desire on behalf of citizens for a public boat launch where 10 to 20 ft boats could be launched via boat trailer. He reminded the group of the large turning and parking area needed for such a launch and asked that it be included in plans. Citizen Kevin Kelly, a retired Connecticut Valley Hospital employee brought to light the challenges of placing pedestrian and tourist activities so close to the Rushford Treatment Center and CVH grounds as a potential conflict of uses regarding for example patient privacy and tourist marketability. Kelly implored the group to take those facilities into consideration. Kelly used Brown Stone Exploration Park in Portland CT as a near by example of the reuse of a site with water as it's feature, PPS took note of this and said they would consider a visit Brownstone. Citizen William Wilson suggested more seating and of different varieties be looked at as an addition to Harbor Park.
. Mayor Dan Drew spoke of his desire to light the Arrigoni Bridge with LED lights, according to him, a potential cost of at minimum $750,000 as a tourist attraction and revenue generator.
|Click to enlarge the map of the 7 sites explored at the workshop|
Another common sentiment among the speakers were the desire for yoga, art, and food trucks. Laney Banks, Riverfront Committee member and group leader, said "I want the riverfront to be the poster child for ecological learning for the state." This group session allowed for a free flow of thoughts and non judgmental thinking to be expressed as far as types of activities citizens in attendance wanted to see.
The DOT has no plans to alter these lights. Read about the history of Route 9 in Middletown here.http://www.kurumi.com/roads/ct/ct9.html. Tragically, another life was taken yesterday at Exit 16 where there are stop lights on Route 9. The media is reporting a motorcyclist collided with a vehicle stopped in traffic.
No time frame was put in place for suggested projects, however, PPS stated a festival could be planned for as early as this spring with a willing local sponsor based on their experience with other riverfront's planning committees.
The City Planning Department video taped both workshops and will be creating a public access / youtube video so those that could not attend can see the PPS comments and each groups presentations.
The facebook page for Riverfront Middletown: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Riverfront-Middletown-Connecticut/456448574448563
Tell us what you think of the presentation & plans for the riverfront in the comments below!