City Should Seek Ideas for Prime Parcel

21 years ago this week preservationists lost a battle to save this building, Hartford’s first skyscraper.    The Hartford Aetna National Bank building stood for nearly 80 years at the corner of Main and Asylum.    Its owners, the Society of Savings, wanted to demolish the building to build a 45 story tower that would become the tallest in Connecticut.   They also torn down four other historic buildings  as part of their plan.   The tower was never built, and a once vibrant corner became a parking lot.  Sound familiar? 

For a brief period in the 1990s, the lot was used as an open air market, that featured live music.  The wooden structures covering the market were torn down when a developer proposed another skyscraper for the plot, Renaissance Place.    At the time, then Mayor Mike Peters said the market could only be dismantled if construction on Renaissance Place began within a year.  He did not want to see this prime piece of real estate become another parking lot, like the site of the former Statler Parkview Hilton.   Renaissance Place, featuring a Westin Hotel, was scrapped. 

Now might be time for the city to take a good look at this site.  Is a surface parking lot really the best use for this property?  Can the city talk to the owners about their deal with Mayor Peters so many years ago?    

This Sunday at 11AM on our Face the State flashback we will air some archival footage of the Aetna demolition.  It is both spectacular and sad. 

 see also:  http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/happy-anniversary-parking-lot/

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4 Responses

  1. Thank you, Dennis, for drawing attention to this disgraceful but recurring feature of Hartford’s urban scene: nothing but surface parking lots persisting when money or ideas ran out after a demolition fanfare.
    The commercial lot at Main and Asylum is the most glaring and offensive – where there could be a decorated and used space like Bryant Park, right in the middle of New York with: grass, benches, arts and food kiosks, book stalls, small music stages, varying entertainment and public events, famous buildings and transportation nearby: a real gathering place. Elsewhere in New York and other cities are Pocket Parks, controlled (if not owned) by immediate neighbors for clean open space, art, community gardens. For all, it’s a struggle to initiate and then maintain them.
    Is it too far fetched to think of excellent similar programs in Hartford?
    And consider other locations which are now empty lots or surface parking: Allen St.; Capitol Ave. (near State buildings); Main and Park; and recently or soon to be, plots just north of I-84.
    You correctly ask that City should seek ideas for prime parcel. Those will come aplenty, followed by the financing question. Possibly these items should be considered: a. local enterprise zone control and self-taxation for the sake of area improvement and benefit to all in the zone – whether downtown or in neighborhoods; b. state or federal grants obtained by City; c. established trusts, possibly with true non-profit public-private commitment.
    Once financing is found – the ideas for prime parcel use? Don’t worry: even more than those above will pour in.
    Larry Deutsch, Hartford City Council

  2. The people in the office at the time that have allowed for these buildings to be torn down without any sort of concrete replacement should serve time in prison for the injustice that was done to the city.

    Recently I found an old postcard of Hartford, showing the old Hilton hotel right across the Bushnell park. Looking around on Google all I found was one entry somewhere that the hotel was torn down in the early 90′s.

    Why have these buildings been torn down without any replacement being secured for 30 years? How can these massive lots of land just sit there as parking lots? What were the people in the office thinking? Are there any old articles or meeting notes that a random person could refer to to find more information on why???

  3. great article!

  4. [...] Also read these two related posts on downtown development :  http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/city-should-seek-ideas-for-prime-parcel/ [...]

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