New Britain Has Seen Many Positive Changes

ERIN STEWART: New Britain has seen many positive changes

Time flies. I just marked five years serving as your mayor. When I reflect on the past, I feel gratitude for the positive changes that have come to our community. Those changes couldn’t have happened without you.

Since the end of 2013, more than 80 new businesses have opened in New Britain. These new businesses include Costco (which took more than a decade to come to fruition), ice cream shops, two breweries, restaurants, small manufacturers, and large aerospace companies. Many others have expanded their presence here, helping to create additional job opportunities for residents. In all, more than 900 new jobs have been added in town in that time. You successfully work and shop and support these businesses-that’s what communities do.

Long vacant, anchor properties like 235 Main Street (The Plaza), 222 Main Street, and the Burritt Bank building have all been sold to new owners and will soon be transformed into spaces where hundreds of employees will work and where residents will shop in new retail outlets.

The landscape of our City has changed with the opening of CTfastrak and the completion of four phases of our downtown complete streets masterplan, while phase 5 (The Beehive Bridge) is underway and planning for phase 6 has started. CTfastrak has opened up many opportunities for transit-oriented development, like the $58 million Columbus Commons project at the site of the former Police Department. Visitors and investors see the value in our community.

We’re a smarter, greener City with the addition of solar panels, fuel cells, electric vehicle charging stations, and LED lights in City buildings. We’ve revamped our City website, expanded free wireless internet, launched the blight reporting app SeeClickFix, created a crime reporting website, and initiated many other projects that are saving taxpayer’s money and protecting our environment. All of these projects benefit us as residents.

Our quality of life has been enhanced through new recreation features and park improvements: we’ve invested millions of dollars in our parks, upgrading playing fields, playscapes, and ramps for those with disabilities. Chesley, A.W. Stanley, Washington, Veteran’s Stadium, Stanley Quarter, and Central Park are all updated. We’ve also made a concerted effort to tackle blight by knocking down unsafe structures and have beautified our neighborhoods through public art projects like High Voltage Art and the street mural on Jubilee Street. We’ve invested millions in new school renovations and have fiercely advocated for our fair share of education funding.

Our finances have been stabilized: we’ve had four straight years of Grand List growth, hired a new Finance Director, increased our credit rating, and have found creative ways to seek out new revenue and collect outstanding bills from people and companies who were holding the City back.

We’ve become a more compassionate City: we’ve ended chronic family homelessness through our Building Hope Together initiative, partnered with CCSU, the Ana Grace Project, and our local school system to teach our students the importance of respect and that “love wins.” We’ve also started a new initiative to help people struggling with opioid addiction to get them the treatment they need.

At our Police and Fire Departments, we have made it a priority to increase the diversity of the men and women who are serving our community, along with investing in new equipment and tools to help keep everyone safe.

Most importantly, we’ve increased our community pride and morale. We’ve brought back much-loved events like Main Street USA and created new traditions, like a summer music series, a downtown farmers market, and food trucks in Central Park. Residents are chipping in and taking pride in our City by picking up trash, reporting blight, and planting trees to beautify neighborhoods.

From my family to yours, I wish you all a very happy holiday season and a happy new year! I can’t wait to tell you about all the surprises we have in store for 2019.

This article originally appeared in the New Britain Herald on December 4, 2018.