Ten years ago, a retail, residential, civic and entertainment district was proposed for a series of vacant parking lots in downtown Hartford called Adriaen’s Landing. Now, as 2009 approaches, the final piece is finally getting underway. It’s called Front Street.
Adriaen’s Landing consists of the Downtown Marriott Hotel, the Connecticut Convention Center, the Science Center of Connecticut, parking garages, and now Front Street. Sadly, the Front Street we are getting isn’t what he had hoped for, at least not yet.
Front Street, named after the now defunct street that ran through the now defunct Italian American neighborhood torn down for Constitution Plaza, will feature 68,000 square feet of retail and restaurants (see the rendering above.) It was supposed to include apartments. The downturn in the economy killed that housing, but apartments/condominiums are planned for the second phase of Front Street.
Everybody is disappointed there is no retail in this first phase, but there will be some in the next phase. There is talk of even a high rise near the Hartford Times building. My own evidence suggests there is a market for downtown housing, even if they banks are cautious right now because of the economy. First, the new downtown apartments that have been built are filling up. Second, when Kara and I rented our brownstone in the SoDo section of downtown, the most popular question was “can I walk to work?” Our tenants didn’t want to commute from the suburbs to downtown. They are saving gas money and as 20 somethings, they like being able to walk to restaurants and clubs. Our place rented right away.
There is also need for larger housing units downtown. I know of a few empty nesters who think a 2 bedroom condo is too small. They want a third or even fourth bedroom for grandchildren when they visit.
There is no argument downtown Hartford needs more retail. The state has invested millions in the convention center which is bringing thousands of visitors to your capital city. Problem is, when they want to leave their convention to go shopping, they cab it out to Westfarms Mall and the Shoppes at Buckland Hills. Great places to shop, but visitors want to be able to walk to places.
Visitors marvel at the attractions in walking distance: the Wadsworth, Bushnell Park, the Capitol and Old State House. There is also no shortage of restaurants, but the shopping is limited. Let’s hope Front Street changes that.
It opens in 2010.
The rendering is courtesy the HB NItkin Group