Community Solutions, with Michael Singer Studio, conducted an HIA of the development of a revitalization and sustainability plan for Northeast, a neighborhood in Hartford, Connecticut. The HIA examined how changes to existing land use, utilities, housing conditions, open space, and access to transportation and healthy food could positively affect residents’ health, safety, and economic opportunities. Specifically, it focused on intersection improvements, vacant lot renovations, maintaining and expanding tree cover, and defining ways in which Keney Park could become a more active resource and more economically productive for the neighborhood.
The HIA recommended two intersections to prioritize: Five Corners and the intersection of Waverly and Charlotte streets. These are the two main intersections leading from the core of the Northeast neighborhood to schools and amenities, and Five Corners is adjacent to the M. Swift & Sons building, a former gold leaf manufacturing factory on 2.6 acres, which will be redeveloped by Community Solutions. The HIA also recommended that Northeast develop a Safe Routes to School plan, and Community Solutions is seeking community partners to form a coalition for this effort.
The Hartford city assessor’s office provided a list of the 107 vacant lots in Northeast and their owners. Each lot has unique characteristics that will help determine how it will be renovated. Potential uses include playgrounds, rain gardens, planters and tree boxes, outdoor gym facilities, and community gardens. Community Solutions will work with project partners and engage community residents and local institutions to take into account their aspirations and concerns as these spaces are transformed. Vacant lots near the Swift factory and the Five Corners intersection will get priority.
Keney Park, one of the largest urban parks in the northeastern U.S., has woodlands, open meadows, trails, recreational and athletic facilities, and unique features including a pond and pond house, and equestrian amenities. The north and west borders of the Northeast neighborhood are defined by Keney Park, but residents do not regularly utilize the park. Through surveys and community meetings, the HIA found that residents perceive the park to be unsafe. To address this perception and residents’ concerns about employment and economic activities, the HIA recommended increasing safe access to Keney Park from Northeast and exploring alternative land management practices. Two ongoing efforts will help the park be more inviting to neighborhood residents: Friends of Keney Park is working on a trail improvement plan; and the city of Hartford is opening views into the park for the police department, primarily by clearing perimeter vegetation. Additionally, the HIA recommended that pedestrian entry points to the park from Northeast be formalized and maintained. Alternative land management such as utilizing livestock for vegetation control, provides an opportunity for creation of a Northeast-based business. Community Solutions will explore establishing such a business with potential partners and can subsidize rent for office space and vehicle and equipment storage within the Swift factory redevelopment.
The HIA also identified other opportunities to improve health and well-being in Northeast around air quality, green infrastructure, and public transportation. Community Solutions will support initiatives in these areas but is not leading these efforts. These areas also are not included as core components of the Northeast Neighborhood Sustainability Plan.