Welcome 2019! It’s time to start fresh for the New Year. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.
First and foremost, 2019 will be a year focused on the budget. With a new governor and legislature, combined with one of the most dire state budget deficits in recent memory, we will be closely keeping an eye on any impacts to us. We have long known this was coming and have worked to strike a balance between maintaining services to residents and businesses and any effects on taxpayers. We will be fierce advocates in Hartford to ensure that we are receiving our fair share of state funding for our community.
One of the most transformative changes coming to New Britain will be the opening of the renovated Main Street bridge overpass, which has been affectionately named the Beehive Bridge. The signature honeycomb side structures will be installed beginning in the spring.
This aging bridge has long been in need of physical repairs and this project afforded us the opportunity to create a more welcoming gateway to our city and passageway between downtown and the East Main Street business corridor. I am continuing to advocate on behalf of the city to receive these highly sought after grant funds from the state and federal government.
When North-Oak area students return to school in the fall, they’ll be welcomed with a newly renovated Smalley Elementary School, thanks to a $40-plus million rebuild that is reimbursed by the state.
It will add 12 additional classrooms and many safety upgrades to keep our children safe while they learn. The city leveraged the project by supporting the investment and holding the debt for the school district. Our children deserve the very best!
Downtown will also take on a new shape. Several long-vacant or underused buildings, including the old Burritt Bank building and 222 Main St., have new owners and are prime for a new era of prosperity and activity. Watch for the transformation in the spring.
One-hundred employees recently moved into CMHA’s new offices at 233 Main St. and they will be bringing another 150 later this March, bringing new working professionals to our downtown community. A block away, the first phase of Columbus Commons will open at the former site of the New Britain Police Department.
This development will initially bring more than 100 new residents to our downtown; it’s one of the largest projects both in terms of size, economic impact, and number of housing units. Feet on the street will definitely add a sense of excitement.
Another change I’m excited about are the improvements coming to our parks. At Chesley Park, plans are underway and will include new basketball courts, a new playscape and updated landscaping. The renovations come on the heels of work to A.W. Stanley Park, which will feature a new pool, playing fields, basketball courts, and more. You’ll get to enjoy the changes at A.W. Stanley Park once the warm weather makes it our way. We’ll also be fighting for state funding to dredge the ponds at Martha Hart and Stanley Quarter parks, as well as continue our plea for road and sewer funding upgrades to Allen Street.
Important quality of life issues will also remain top priority. Expect to see more blighted properties cleaned up, more landlords being held accountable, and more changes to neighborhoods all around our city.
In the springtime, our “Bees Across New Britain” public art project will also take flight and create some more buzz for New Britain.
We have a number of other initiatives and developments in the works too. I encourage you to support your local newspaper, where you will be the first to know! What’s your New Year’s resolution?
Erin Stewart is the mayor of New Britain.
This article originally appeared in the New Britain Herald on January 8, 2019.