Blue Back Square’s official opening on Saturday

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — A ribbon-cutting ceremony will mark the official opening of West Hartford Center’s newest addition, Blue Back Square, on November 3 at 10 a.m.  The event will be held on Webster Walk, near the statue of Noah Webster and the West Hartford public library on South Main Street. 
   
Speakers will be West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka as well as members of the Blue Back Square development team, including Richard Heapes, partner, Blue Back Square/Street-Works and Rick Langhorne, president, Ronus Propertie s.  The West Hartford Hall High School freshman symphonic band will help celebrate the occasion.

The new town square is a first for Connecticut as a unique, mixed-use development and one of a handful in the U. S.  A mixed-use development is a symbiotic balance of residential, retail, office and civic space, designed for all aspects of life.  Blue Back Square not only brings new shops and restaurants to The Center, but Hartford Hospital Wellness Center, New York Sports Clubs as well as luxury condominiums and rental apartment lofts.

Retail anchors at Blue Back Square include Crate and Barrel, The Cheesecake Factory, REI, Barnes & Noble, and Criterion Cinemas.

In 2008, condominiums and apartments will welcome new residents, bringing 24-hour life to The Center in a new way.

Blue Back Square hails its name from Noah Webster’s blue grammar books, which were called “blue back spellers.”  Noah Webster, writer of the American dict ionary, was raised in what is now West Hartford. 

Blue Back Square is a 600,000-square-foot, mixed-use development located in the heart of West Hartford Center between South Main Street, Memorial Road and Raymond Road.  It is an extension of West Hartford Center, a popular pedestrian -friendly shopping and dining district that presently consists of 140 upscale national, regional and local shops, restaurants and a Whole Foods Market.

Blue Back Square includes approximately 220,000 square feet of additional retail; 95,000 square feet of professional office space; 130,000 square feet of medical office space including New York Sports Clubs; and luxury condominiums and rental apartment lofts.  Ronus Properties of Atlanta, Ga., Street-Works of White Plains, N. Y., and JDA Development of West Hartford, Conn. are developing the project.  This partnership combines the national, mixed-use development experience and expertise of Street-Works with the regional sensibility and sensitivity of JDA and the financial strength of Ronus, a full-service, real estate management and development firm.  

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78 Comments

Filed under Blue Back Square, West Hartford Center

78 responses to “Blue Back Square’s official opening on Saturday

  1. TWC

    Although I can respect those who honestly feared that Blue Black Square (BBS) would forever change the historic and small town flavor of West Hartford Center–and so, they determinedly fought BBS on that basis–I think the primary architects of this project should now be rewarded for their hard work and innovative vision of what was possible with an embarrassing underutilization of a key piece of real estate in this Town.

    So while others certainly had a hand in assuring that BBS was a success, I think Scott Slifka and Chuck Coursey deserve special support at the polls next Tuesday in recognition of their key roles in this amazing project.

    Conversely, I’m hoping that those candidates who did (or do) not exhibit the type of visionary leadership that these two candidates demonstrated—or worse yet, sold out to out-of-state economic interests whose only interests in this Town were their own short-sighted pecuniary gains–are severely punished at the polls next Tuesday.

    While I agree it’s time to bury the hatchet on the BBS dispute, why not use BBS as an example of the type of innovative leadership we should all be looking for from the candidates in the upcoming election.

  2. Joe Visconti

    TWC
    As you are undoubtably just another pseudonym Dem, nice try. For pecuniary gains look to those who sold out and went on Blue Back Squares Marketing Payroll.

    As for short sightedness check out how our lovely Noah Webster Statue looks at night with the 42nd street Movie marquee glaring behind his head. What an insult and cheapening of his Greatness. Only from the developer who brought you New Rock City and it’s Concrete Jungle.
    Scott and Chuck Couldn’t even bring themselves to print the words Blue Back Square in their Mailer last weekend. As far as your idea to bury the hatchet, you lost that chance when you posted for Politcal gain, what a hack.

  3. Chuck Coursey

    My support for Blue Back Square is a matter of public record and quite well documented. Win or lose next Tuesday, I will always look back with pride in the small role I played in helping to bring this wonderful project to fruition.

    The discussion about needed new smart growth development to expand our commercial tax base and take pressure off of homeowners is not just about Blue Back. Blue Back is here and it is open for business.

    While some may choose to continue to wage past battles already settled, I prefer to focus my energy on looking forward for new opportunities.

  4. Elmwoodian

    Brain Teaser:

    If a Joe rails against BBS, but nobody listens, does he make a sound?

  5. John Webster

    Personally I’ll be support those candidates who can run our town in a fiscally responsibly manner with regard to spending, property taxes and education. Nice places to eat or shop are not good reasons to vote for a candidate.

  6. Elmwoodian

    Any relation to Noah?

  7. Elmwoodian

    So you’ll be voting for the Dems, then, yes Mr. Webster? But seriously folks, Mr. Webster’s post seems to imply that being “fiscally responsible” means only parsimonious cutting of spending for, as he suggests, things such as our schools (!) and that bringing new businesses into town and increasing our tax base is somehow not in the realm of fiscal responsibility.

    Seriously? Or do I misunderstand your statement? (I hope it’s the latter)

    What our Council has done with BBS is to both encourage new businesses to come in–yes, bringing nice places to eat and/or shop–AND add to our tax base without having to take funds from our vital school and town wide programs.

    (Oh, did I mention the AAA bond rating?)

    That’s about as fiscally responsible as it gets!

  8. Tim Lynch

    Chuck,
    Congratulations on the imminent opening of BBS. I think the development is great and it will only add to the appeal of West Hartford as a unique place to raise a family. Also, thanks for all your work on the council. People seem to forget that you and your colleagues are volunteers.

  9. John Webster

    Was the rating AAA when the Republicans held a majority?

  10. John Webster

    Of course BBS is not so great from a quality of life standpoint if you live on a road leading the project. Really appreciate the council looking out for us in those neighborhoods. Now I have folks cutting through from Elmwood doing 60 in a posted 30. Who was looking out for the safety of the families in these areas?

  11. JTS

    J Webster makes a good point:

    “BBS is not so great from a quality of life standpoint if you live on a road leading the project”

    So in other word we should support development that will improve our quality of life but isn’t located on any of our town’s roads.

    So…I guess the R’s on council will be working hard to bring growth to the grand list of some other town.

  12. John Webster

    I’d settle for some more realistic traffic improvements. Bump outs, stop signs & lights. At little more enforcement of the traffic code. Don’t really care who does it…really just concerned about a car taking out my 4 year old as it zooms past…Its not a political issue JT..

  13. Elmwoodian

    JW does make a good point (and thank you for keeping it cordial despite JTS’s sarcasm). Although the residents in and around BBS certainly knew or should have known that they bought next to a commercial zone–and should expect the traffic and a certain amount of congestion that naturally flows therefrom–there certainly remains a safety responsibility on the part of the town.

    I’m willing to guess that plans are already in place, but also I’m willing to guess that they might be waiting to see exactly what the BBS traffic is going to be like in practice before deciding how aggressive the traffic calming needs to be..

  14. John Webster

    Agree Elm. The problem is some of these neighborhoods are not in commercial zone but are located on cut throughs. Hey I’d be the first to admit that I knew the posted speed limit was 30 on my road when I moved in…what I didn’t realize was the blantant disregard for that limit…People consistently drive too fast on my street 50 MPH+…Its only a matter of time before a child gets hurt…maybe thats what it will take to get the necessary changes…my fear is the problem will get worse once BBS fully opens.

  15. Jay

    It IS time to bury the hatchet and move on. BBS is here, so let’s celebrate it. We’re very lucky to have something so innovative. Would you rather our town be like Newington with all strip malls? Scott and Chuck should be proud. Since I work downtown and am a UConn season ticket holder I hope Chuck can work his BBS magic on Hartford 21 and make that a thriving place, too. Can you do it, Chuck?

  16. Count Dracula

    Cheers!

  17. Joe Visconti

    Chucks Magic in Hartford? Ha, Good Luck Chuck

  18. Anonymous

    Once the new-ness wears off, it’ll be another open air mall with jeans stores and pizza joints. Have they sold all the over priced condos and apartments yet? My guess is no.

    Carolyn’s trolley is going to try to bring the “Center to the Square” but I’ll be interested to see how much that will really be utilized.

    Most people, especially seniors, in town are too busy trying to save their money to pay for heating and taxes so they won’t be shopping at Crate and Barrel anytime soon, especially if they have to deal with traffic.

    Nice job arranging the Nov 3rd opening before the elections though. That is such a transparent political move, and I think most people will view it as such. How much extra did it cost the developer in overtime to get things done in time for that?

  19. Ananonymous.,
    You sure put the “P” in Positive. Good luck with anything you choose to do in your life.

  20. Two words…. Cheesecake Factory. Oh yeah!

  21. TWC

    I was reading today about the Town Council’s decision to sue Taubman to recover damages for his frivolous lawsuits. I guess the Council has in fact decided to bury the hatchet–right in Taubman’s head.

    It’s interesting to me that they decided not to pursue the Taubman shills who acted as the front-men for these frivolous lawsuits. Very magnanimous of them, if you ask me.

  22. Elmwoodian

    If you know any civil litigators, they will all tell you the same thing: from a purely legal strategy standpoint, you go after the deep pockets. Otherwise, what’s the point of seeking damages if you can’t recover? Sure, you could get a judgment against the residents who, as TWC says, “fronted” the lawsuit, but they wouldn’t be able satisfy anywhere near the full amount of the damages like Taubman could. (That, and the town wouldn’t want to go after its own private citizens if it can help it. Best to pick on someone your own size.)

    From what I understand about these lawsuits, if you win, you not only recover the costs (attorneys fees, interest charges, etc.) of the prior suit, you recover all the costs of the vexation suit as well. This is going to be veeeeeeeery interesting.

  23. Kevin Walsh

    I suspect that the decision not to include Mr. Sadler, Ms. Scully and Ms. Brassil as defendants in the lawsuit has more to do with the Council’s unwillingness to sue town residents than it does with a lack of resources available to satisfy a judgment.

    I understand that each of these individuals entered into “indemnity agreements” pursuant to which they ceded complete control of their lawsuits to Taubman. I have not seen these agreements, but it is logical to assume that any indemnification provided therein would run from Taubman to the residents. Accordingly, I would expect that, in the event of a lawsuit against the residents arising from their failed litigation against the town, Taubman would be contractually bound to satisfy any judgment. I would also expect that Taubman would be required under these agreements to pay the residents’ legal fees and expenses incurred in defending the lawsuit as well.

    Thus, I would expect that any final judgment against the residents could and would be fully satisfied (by Taubman). The Council simply chose not to go down that road.

  24. TWC

    Thanks, Elmwoodian and Kevin, for your analysis. This decision makes more sense to me now.

    Suing the residents is only going to create more bad blood, and at the end of the day, it isn’t going to allow the Town to recover more money anyway. So why not let dead dogs lie.

  25. New in Town

    As someone who just relocated here from Seattle, BBS was a big draw. We have 2 small children – the schools here are great, we can walk to everything we need (rather than drive to some strip mall in the middle of nowhere), and the atmosphere in WH is truly vibrant. BBS is a great addition to an already amazing town. It’s an example of responsible growth – building on an already successful downtown area. It should be a model for other towns.

  26. Gary Reger

    I can’t make the official opening today — in 45 minutes. I hope someone will post an account of the goings-on.

  27. Joe Visconti

    Small crowd, mostly candidates, politicos, Hard Hat crews, Blue Back staff and handlers, Democrat machine workers, Hall High school band parents, and ME.
    maybe 100 people total, maybe, but it was cold, like it’s gonna be till May of 08 so good luck Richard getting the Common Area crowd that WestFarms gets! Oh and look for the State DOT to get dragged back into the lawsuits, think those ramps were enough for the projected traffic? NOT.
    Don’t forget to vote on November 6th!!!!!!

  28. Joe:

    You are too kind. Sorry, don’t mean to embarrass you, but you failed to report on something today at the BBS ribbon cutting ceremony… but its somewhat newsworthy…

    A very interesting tidbit was witnessed by those of us who were there… Richard Heapes gets up there, and says, “[I met Joe Visconti this morning at 6:30 am, I told Joe – hey Joe it’s 6:30 in the morning, the sun is about to come up, so you’d better get back in your crypt.]”

    Nice. Talk about classy.

    Of course, the Democrats, not knowing any better, particularly the Mayor, banged their feet, hooted and hollared into a state of frenzy. And this is our Democratic leadership. Was the comment rude? Yes. Did it have any place at the ribbon cutting ceremony? No.

    Nice of the Democrats to use the BBS ribbon cutting ceremony to take a cheap shot at a GOP candidate, and make it political. What a world class operation, Mayor Slifka. You could have at least put a stoic look on your face instead of yucking it up. Instead you looked like a horse’s rump while the cameras were rolling.

    And not that its important, but Heapes did see Joe at 6:30 am, but didn’t utter those words.

    It was also good to glace over and see that Diane Mudge and Peter Martin looked equally as outraged.

    You know, Joe. With all the lawyers in town, you aught to give them some of their own medicine and suit the clown for defamation of character. Then again, they eat that stuff up. You might just get back at them by getting elected.

  29. its all good

    get over it you baby, can we just move on and enjoy what we have in this town! blue back looks awesome and who cares who laughs at dumb jokes

  30. Count Dracula

    Don’t blame me–I tried to call.

  31. Rick Liftig

    No Joe –

    Big Crowd – about 250 – All very excited- And it was well-mixed. Many townspeople and a whole bunch waiting to get into Criterion to see B Movie.

    The wait at The Cheesecake Factory was 1hr.

    Everyone I talked to thought the place was incredible. And everyone was strolling after the event.

    This is a beautiful development and incredible enhancement to our town.

    Joe – Move on to something else. Blueback is here and it will be wildly successful.

  32. its all good

    amen rick

  33. REIfan

    I’ve been there – and I think the parking sucks.

    $1.75 for the first hour and $.75 per hour after with a max of $8 (or something thereabouts).

    Since when do I have to pay to park in CT? Are there bike racks? NOPE.

    Can you park somewhere else and walk? NOPE.

    Is there public transportation? Very little.

  34. JTS

    REI Fan – I don’t think that $8 is too bad for a whole day, but you make a good point, there should absolutely be an effort to get racks in place, not just in BBS but all over the center. I think there are some at whole foods but I’m not sure. Councilors reading this? Any thoughts on getting some bike racks?

  35. turtle

    I was a grudging supporter of Blue Back. I thought the plan too dense, I am not much of a shopper or an enthusiast of national retail chains, I feared it would be too cute, and so on. But in the interest of expanding the tax base and offloading some of the financial pressure on homeowners, and in the interest of cohesive development in the Center, I voted Yes.

    We were one of those families who trudged out in the dismal weather yesterday to see “Bee Movie”. Blue Back has far surpassed my expectations; it is very well done, ingeniously nestled on the site, and for this former city-dweller, the mini-metropolis that’s arisen out of nothing is a thrilling turn of events. Congratulations and thank you to Scott Slifka, Chuck Coursey, and all the town boosters who brought us Blue Back Square!

    While $8 seems cheap for all-day parking, I completely agree with REIfan that bike racks and express transportation to BBS are essential. That garage may remain near-capacity, and the expense and challenge of parking is a disincentive to hang out in the Square.

  36. The Courant’s article today certainly was interesting.

    It is well done, no question. I’m not anti-BBS by any means, but I’m worried about a few things/ have concern about few things. Even though most on the blog here are big enthusiasts, I’m going to post them nonetheless:

    1. I’m worried about parking for the library. I enjoy the library and taking the kids to the library, and I don’t intend to pay $8 to park in the garage for this purpose (sort of defeats the purpose of having a free public library). How will this be handled?

    2. The look of Crate and Barrel is disappointing. Perhaps this could be remedied in the future.

    3. Traffic is going to be a hassle; not a surprise. I’ll have to find a more creative route. Probably not in my best interest to take near Troutbrook exit any longer.

    4. Stores are pricey, but that’s not much different then many of the stores in the center. But I can understand this. No one wants riff-raff hanging out down there. I do hope they find a way to add a nice pub in there somewhere. That would be a great touch.

    5. I hope Whole Foods finds a way to police their lot to keep it open for grocery shopping. I happen to love Whole Foods and even “eat in” sometimes. I don’t want to be deterred from that enjoyment.

    6. I hope they make the area free wi-fi accessible.

    Things I like:

    1. Barnes and Noble
    2. Theatre
    3. Cheesecake factory
    4. General look and feel (except Crate and Barrel)
    5. Stride-Rite

  37. turtle

    It must be a cold day in Hell, since I agree with practically everything the King said.

    Although I’m not as dismayed by Crate & Barrel’s incongruous presence as others, it’s easy to understand why people would be unhappy about it. I’m against camouflaging the building but hope landscaping will soften its appearance. Also, I have never been a fan of the apostolic Noah Webster statue, which I find downright creepy, but the Vegas look is quite a shift.

  38. David Jones

    King,

    As to your points:

    1) There will be free parking for the library. Someone else can probably do a better job of explaining the precise details.

    2) I think it’s unlikely that there will be a change to the facade of C&B. This is a complaint I’ve heard from several people, including some BBS supporters. I know of others who like it. It is certainly a dramatic change. I’m curious to see how we’ll feel about this issue in the Spring once we’ve grown more accustomed to it. While some will never accept the look I believe many will eventually grow to like it. In the center proper the architecture is very varied.

    3) There will certainly be more traffic in the area. If not we have a problem. My office is in the center and I live about 3 blocks from the center, so I pass through the center traveling to and from work, as well as spending a great deal of time in the center. I would anticipate using an alternate route during peak traffic periods.

    4) I find some of the stores pricey, but others are not. I think it’s going to be a good retail mix. I think the attraction of a Crate & Barrel is that it’s moderately priced merchandise and a good value. Cheesecake Factory can be very inexpensive, but it’s easy to get carried away. Almost all entrees are large enough to sever 2, so an $18 entree is really $9 per person, no more than I would pay at a deli or diner. Of course with all the cool specialty drinks, appetizers, and the great cheesecake it’s difficult to get out of there for that amount of money.

    5) Whole Foods has known for a long time that this was coming, and the opening of BBS should be great for their business. But it is going to be a challenge for them to manage their parking. I’ve been told they have a plan.

    6) Don’t know about the free wi-fi but would be surprised if that doesn’t happen.

    One of the things I love is Webster Walk and Blue Back Square, the public area at the bottom of Webster Walk. Love the West Hartord sign along Webster Walk. I also really like the signage for the theatre, a very retro look. I’m amazed at the overall feel of the place, and that’s with construction fences still in place and many facades that are still unfinished. Once it’s 100% complete it will far exceed my expectations, and my expectations were already pretty high.

  39. Chuck Coursey

    There will be bike racks; not just in BBS, but throughout town.

    The cycling task force will be coming back to the Council shortly will a series of recommendations to promote safer and more accessible cycling. Bike racks throughout town are at the top of their list and is also something supported by myself and my colleagues.

  40. WH Fan

    It’s A Grind has free wi-fi access for its customers.

  41. Joe Visconti

    Chuck and Dave

    See you both are reading my website on Bike racks and WiFI. Chuck ,your cycle commission may be looking for Bike Racks but you missed capitalizing on the Bike Racks issue by a month. Wifi data can be found on my site, again ahead of the curve. To arrogant? Na, here’s a new one for you all. Wheel Chairs and strollers available at sites across the Center for the elderly, children and those in need, just like WestFarms. You can learn a lot from a lose Cannon!

  42. WH Fan

    Oh…. as for parking, aren’t all the spaces in the existing Center (Farmington/LaSalle/So. Main) metered (i.e. $1.00/hour with 2 hour max.)? Last time I parked in a lot off LaSalle I was charged as well.

    Out-of-Towners won’t mind paying the parking sicne WHC as a whole is unique and fun (BBS included). I live in so-called “suburbia” and WHC has been a favorite “destination” of mine since I was a kid.

  43. Chuck:

    How is the library parking going to be handled? Do you have the details on this?

  44. turtle

    What conversation would we be having today if The Lose Cannon had had his way? Turkey–baste or brine?

  45. anonymous

    Yeah I see the illustrious LaPerla, who passed bad checks , and went “out of business” now has a storefront at Blue Back. I thought they weren’t allowing any of the Center stores to re-locate there.
    I suppose that was his reward for his staunch support for rallying the business crowd to support the project. Don’t tell me people didn’t get bought off in one way or another.

  46. gegahi

    I AM GOING TO THE CHEESE CAKE FACTORY AT BLUE BACK SQUARE RIGHT NOW

  47. Chuck Coursey

    There are bike racks in the South Garage of BBS with more to follow.

    With regards to library parking, if patrons park in one of the garages, they will have their parking validated.

  48. REIfan

    gegahi – stop yelling.

    Glad to hear there are bike racks in the garage.

    WHFan – you are right, WHCenter is metered, and I never go there. I guess living on the other side of the mountain makes me an “out-of-towner” and I DO mind paying for parking. I think it blows – no matter how much it wants to be, WH isn’t a city.

    Just MHO.

  49. Tom Cooke

    As a supporter of BBS I am very happy with the outcome.

    But I am most excited that the town appears to be embracing Smart Growth/New Urbanism/Mixed-Use Developments (all part of the same theme)

    Not only are people “getting” BBS but there is also widespread discussion of, and support for, mixed-use developments, traffic calming, increasing pedestrian safety, “walkability”, and improving bicycle safety across town.

    However, I want to emphasize that the pedestrian emphasis of Smart Growth/New Urbanism/Mixed-Use Developments does not mean that people are supposed to DRIVE to BBS and THEN walk around!

    The focus on biking, walking, public transportation, and pedestrian safety is so that people use these alternative forms of transportation to get TO BBS. The idea is that by leaving the car behind to get to a development like BBS will put more people on the streets, increase foot traffic, increase personal safety, improve the environment, decrease obesity, etc, etc.

    So, the best way to embrace BBS is to embrace the philosophy of New Urbanism: If you live within a mile or so of BBS then try, every once in a while, to walk to the movie, bike to a Council meeting, or take the bus to go to Whole Foods. This would not only alleviate the parking and traffic issues but is the best way to honor the philosophy behind BBS.

    On a related note: Doesn’t it seem contradictory that the Board of Education increased fees for participating in High School sports, cut all intramural sports, and then eliminated student parking fees? In effect, it reduced the disincentive to drive (which is associated with obesity) and create a disincentive to leading a healthy lifestyle.

  50. BMHW

    Disclosure: I’m a lifelong blueblooded Dem who was against this thing from the start- I moved out of town, so you can at least say I put my money where my mouth is. 😀

    Sporadic thoughts from driving through it…

    It looks very nice. Which is not a shock at all- I expected it to look nice, and outside of C&B they did a good job of it. I did feel a bit swallowed up in it, because of the slope, it seems like the buildings are very very tall. I forgot about the REAL West Hartford Center while I was in it…there doesn’t seem to be any connection between the two spaces at all.

    Besides, I can’t be the only one who finds it ironic/odd that they put a Barnes and Noble right next to the Library. Do they want people to take books out of the library, or buy them next door? 😀 Also like the range of places going in (not their price range, but what they offer).

    In the end, the test of Blue Back is not today, nor tomorrow, nor even next July. It’s 5, 10 years from now that the questions will be really answerable.

    -How viable will it still be?
    -Will it contribute to the tax base?
    -Will it drain the old center?
    -Will it cause traffic chaos?

    While people who I voted for and once respected like Harry “King of the Topix Forums Delegation” Captain (you’re a REALLY good guy, it’s sad to see you flocking to the Courant articles to see if people like you or not) and Scott Slifka declaring Mission Accomplished 10 minutes after the ribbon is cut…it’s success will be measured by Town Councils long after they (and many of the rest of us) are gone.

  51. All good thoughts

    For what its worth, I don’t see a connection between purchasing a book at Barnes and Noble and going to the library. The only similarity between the two is that both structures contain books and newspapers…LOL. I don’t think they work against each other. Chances are if those who are too cheap to buy a newspaper go up to the library to read it, then I would imagine they do this all the time (kids and fixed income folks not included in my slight of humor).

    To your points on the old center vs new – my take is that a lot of the stores and resturants are different enough so as not to be in great competition with one another which is probably where a concern could be raised. I’m usually in favor of competition, but not in such a small space because it usually leads to poor profits and doom for one or both stores in competition.

    And as far as food is concerned, if you want Mexican or Sushi you’ll go to the Center, if you want Cheesecake, you’ll go to the Square.

    And some stores outlive their usefulness, for example, the toy or hobby store didn’t last, and a few resturants just didn’t produce a good product so they folded. I don’t think the Square will hurt the Center, in fact I’m banking that it will help attract shoppers to the Center. I guess I could be wrong.

    Yes, traffic will be a mess. The question is exactly how much of an annoyance will it be. We don’t know, and we won’t know the full extent until all the stores are occupied. But I think Joe Visconti is planning to put up his own parking meters in the front of his house.

    BBS is amazing in a sense that if you moved there, you could literally not have to leave the Square/Center for weeks or even months at a time. It’s all there within walking distance.

    My view is that in 10 years the Center will look very different. It will be reconstructed to look like BBS, and BBS will expand outward. There will be demand for it. 10 years ago, no one envisioned BBS as it is today, so no one can say that it won’t happen. I just hope that the rents stay affordable for the fun, small shops like the dog bakery and raining cats and dogs stay in business.

  52. Susan Schaffman

    Councilor Coursey,
    I can’t recall the hour limits (if any) for library patron parking once the library reopens in January 2008. Will patrons be validated for unlimited time or is there a 2 hour library visitation parking maximum after which time WH residents will have to pay to visit a public facility that they fund with taxpayers dollars. Is there any enforcement plan in place or can people shop, eat, etc. and then stop by our local library for validation? What will stop someone from sipping coffee at Barnes & Noble, buying a book and then get their parking for free, courtesy of the WH taxpayer?
    As one of thousands of residents who opposed Blue Back (I won’t bore the bloggers with the top ten reasons why), this was an issue raised during the public hearings. Thank you for your assistance in clarification and with appreciation for the countless hours you volunteer for public service (but for the life of me, I don’t know why you and current Mayor Slifka feel a need to constantly remind the public – it must be like being a parent rarely thanked yet the rewards are priceless).

  53. turtle

    Wow, BHMW, no thanks for dissing Harry Captain, a whale of a guy, as you say, and one of the few public reps who has been willing to engage and inform constituents on the internet.

    You’re right about the long-term viability of BBS, a consideration I do believe was taken into account by the Town Council. BBS seems a lot more mixed than the old TC, which is almost exclusively upscale (dog boutiques!), and appears to have been designed to complement, rather than just extend, the TC. Then there are the many improvements to the public sector. The police station looks great, and the expanded library and new old-Ed Center are to come. It is looking good.

  54. Chill Pill Needed

    Is it just me, or does Susan’s tone suggest anger and bitterness?

  55. Don Carter

    I don’t remember the model representing the Crate and Barrel the way it was actually built. Does anybody else?

    And I am still peeved with several of our esteemed local politicians that assured me that the old Board of Ed was not going to be “demolished” in all of my emails urging them to reconsider taking down the classic structure. Obviously they have a different definition of the word (see Webster’s dictionary).

    It’s not as simple of an issue as being pro or against BBS. I have very mixed feeling. They keep saying that it is time to bury the hatchet and move on. But some of us can’t forget the way it was done and the attitude that it was done with. Sorry, but I won’t roll over and bury the hatchet…at least not until after election day.

    I am also wondering how accessible the library will be with young children for quick visits.

    As I walk through the almost complete Blue Back Square, I have very mixed feelings. I think the scale works better than I thought it would (once you’re inside its confines). I like the way sections of it feels like a city…with retail at street level and residential and office space above. The side view of Crate and Barrel is mall-ugly and not well thought out at all. I’d hate to have paid a lot for a condo to stare out at that every morning. And the marquee for the theater blazing behind Noah Webster’s statue also seems poorly planned. If that is the main pedestrian entrance…could it have been smaller or more on the side wall? Drive down Main Street and see what I mean.

    I can’t help having flashbacks to a recent trip to DisneyWorld when I look around BBS. There is something very surreal about it’s urban resemblance…almost like a Hollywood backlot. It feels fake. I hope that’s only because it is not finished. And I hope the charm never wears off and people actually spend money in the stores so we aren’t stuck with more empty high-rent storefronts.

  56. jay

    I think BBS came out just fine, with the exception of Crate and Barrel. My concern is, what is next? Will there be another development near BBS? I really fear houses on Raymond Road and the Boulevard will eventually become commercial property. Those roads are going to be jam packed with I-84 traffic and I see some of those folks selling. I think we need to be pleased with BBS, but put a cap on future development. I’m also concerned with comments that the Center is now the “region’s new downtown.” Do we really want West Hartford to be that? No. It means bars, and more stores, maybe a hotel, and ultimately traffic and problems. Barnes and Noble probably has Border’s looking to come to the Center, and other competitors for the BBS stores. I think with BBS we are just perfect, but let’s not get any bigger. West Hartford should be a great town and let Hartford be the city. I work downtown for a major corporation and our younger employees complain the area is dull. I agree with them that downtown Hartford needs more attractions, but I don’t want West Hartford Center to become the new city for everybody in the area.

  57. JTS

    Jay – too late, WH is the center for dining, upscale shopping, etc. in central CT. Hartford will have an extremely tough time to catch up to where we are. Front street makes that clear, even w/ billions spent and millions in subsidies on the table, that area can’t get off the ground. WH needs to accept the fact that we are a city, the simple truth that there are 63K of us puts to rest the idea that we’re a town. what we need to do is continue to have smart planning that makes WH better, and development that helps us to achieve our growth and revenue needs. I for one would love to see bishops corner and corbins corner get torn down and turned into a mixed use, pedestrian friendly area like blue back. Smart growth of the commercial grand list is pretty much the only answer for our town, b/c residents will never put up with a wholesale slashing and burning of educational and other services.

  58. Don Carter

    I read a quote somewhere calling West Hartford the new Westport or becoming like Westport. I think we need a plan as to where we are going next. And I don’t want it to be the new Westport.

  59. JTS

    What was the conext of the Westport comment? Is that a bad thing b/c we’re getting too upscale or too downscale? I’m honestly not sure how to take that, I know very little about that town.

  60. BMHW

    Like I said, Harry is a good guy, it’s just a shame to see him constantly puffing his chest/that of the council on behalf of BBS on every message board post involving it in the known universe. It’s almost shouting. If you believe in BBS, stand back and let it speak for itself.

    I concur with an earlier post, which put into words what I couldn’t totally understand last night- it does feel a little bit like a Hollywood set. You can’t tell me how well they planned for the future if you’ve tried getting off the Park Road exit in the last 6 months, or seen the sidewalks/roadway of BBS. I hear that they wanted wider sidewalks, but it seemed a little like they had nice open spaces and very small avenues for pedestrians to get to them.

    Is it all just a pretty facade (re: Hollywood look), or is there something deeper? That’s the type of thing I was alluding to in terms of years from now looking back and only then being able to logically declare success/failure etc.

    ps- Can anyone clarify BBS in terms of handicapped accesibility? It seems like there was an unfortunate Seniors vs. Generation X vibe to the whole battle, and to see that the main entrance from North Main to the rear of the library appears to be a lot of concrete steps seems troubling. I don’t think they intentionally made it such, but I worry overall about a seperation of the center; the original one and BBS, for the new hipster type (which I’d like to consider myself 😀 ).

  61. turtle

    BMHW, I completely disagree with you about Harry. There is a big noise machine out there, and I for one am grateful to any public servant who is willing to get out on the internet and present the facts, and engage the public.

    After your post I checked out the Courant forums and of course the Bitter Brigade was out in force. (You know who you are, sweethearts!) Good for Harry for providing some counterpoint to the same old chorus of malcontents.

  62. Don Carter

    Estimated median Westport house/condo value in 2005: $1,030,000

  63. Don Carter

    JTS,
    In further response to your question. That comment was in an article in either the West Hartford News of West Hartford Life. It was someone off the street’s reaction to BBS. I do keep hearing the word “upscale” associated a lot with the changes in WH and that concerns me. I think we have always been a somewhat “upscale” and that has been part of what makes the town very desirable (as well as the schools.) But we need to watch how far we go with more “upscale” growth. Because with it, naturally comes higher prices. There needs to be a balance. Otherwise we will become a Westport and a lot of people that live here now or want to move here will be priced out of town. Part of what make WH what it is today is a wide range of ages, income, background, etc. I shouldn’t slam Westport, but my impression is that our kind of diversity doesn’t exist there.

  64. I’m actually surprised that no one has commented on how many jobs BBS has created in the area. And I don’t mean the construction jobs. While retail jobs might not be the most glamorous and high paying, they are affording people to make some additional income, some of which might be spent in West Hartford.

    Are there any figures available that indicate how many of the new employees are actually West Hartford residents, or how many jobs have actually been created (full and part time)?

  65. JTS

    Thanks for the additional info Don, I know what you mean by WH potentially becoming too upscale. Like most I would prefer an upward trend rather than the opposite, but like yousaid, as a town we don’t want risk of losing the different kinds of diversity (ages, income, ethnic) that make WH a great place.

  66. Town Hall Guy

    So now that there are pay booths with gates to get into town hall parking that are too small for fire engines to fit through, what happens if there is a fire there (God forbid)? What genius allowed that to happen?

  67. K

    Are they too small though? That sounds like an unfounded assumption. I’d want to see that verified before sounding the (so-to-speak) fire alarm. It would greatly surprise me if that weren’t taken into account. Also, fire engines are actually surprisingly tight in the hips. At any rate, let’s get the facts before throwing that out there.

  68. They will let it burn down and raise taxes to build a new one. We are on to you, Mayor.

    Then they will use it in their next campaign and call it “development”.

    Someone call WHFD and have them sent Quint 1 to drive through. I’m sure West Hartford’s brightest minds made sure our tower truck can get through there.

  69. Gary Reger

    Luckily, if Joe Vsiconti has his way, we’ll have a volunteer fire department that car drive its own cars through with garden hoses.

  70. anonymous

    Does anyone know what will be going where the old mobile (I think) station was on the corner of Farmington and Raymond?

  71. David Jones

    As of about a week ago there were no specific plans for the Mobile station site. Mobile owns the property.

    I spoke to the person who is hoping to purchase it and he does have some ideas as to what he wants to do, but since he hasn’t finalized the purchase it is premature to discuss it’s ultimate use.

  72. jay

    Anybody see the story in the Courant today about the fight at Barcelona and two guys arrested with a gun? This is why we have to be careful about letting the Center become too much of a city. A destination for families is one thing, but a late night hang out for drunken thugs is another. Keep the bars and the nightlife in Hartford.

  73. Jay,

    Things happen, even in the best area’s. We can not continue to run away from this reality, as it will follow us. Be positive and accept that we dont live in a bubble.

    Your Uncle D

  74. Congratulations to West Hartford for being able to make this a reality. They dreamt it, fought for it, voted for it and made it a REALITY.

    Why can’t Hartford do this?! We’re jealous in Hartford!!

    http://www.hartfordscoop.com

  75. Hartford government is retarded. For years they have had a great pool of businesses to work with, yet they just screw them until they leave.

    Race cards, smokey deals, screwing the business community, I mean please – Complete idiots.

    They needs some smarts at the top who can connect with the business community.

  76. bike racks could really help you secure your bike when you leave it .;~

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