Friday
Mar282014

Public views phase 3 of streetscape project

NEW BRITAIN — A more inviting Central Park.

That was what a PowerPoint presentation landscape architect that Michael Cegan put on Thursday evening showed residents and business owners who had questions on how changing the park would affect the downtown.

Cegan held a 75-minute presentation and question-and-answer session in City Hall with about 25 people who raised concerns ranging from bike racks, the size of trees, planters and new benches in the park. The redesigned park is expected to look like a European-style square with brick design when it’s completed in the fall of 2016. Cegan said Central Park “is old, tired and isolated” and said the new look would be more open and enticing.

Many of those who spoke and attended the informational gathering liked what they heard.

Steve Amato, who owns Amato’s Toy store on Main Street near Central Park, said, “I like that it (the park) will be opened up so it’s not hidden. Hidden space is for people to hide and some of the activities (going on now) are not appropriate.” Amato said he’d favor having bike racks right outside his business, saying many customers often bring their bikes in his store when shopping.

Stephen Hard, a member of the board of directors of the Downtown District, said after the presentation, “I’m thrilled. It addressed many of the problems we have now. Today, it (the park) is not inviting. It creates a sense of entering a space and then being cut off from everything around you. I feel comfortable with the idea of opening it up.”

Hard added, “It will restore the prominence of the Civil War monument. The sight line will be better.”

Gerry Schwartz, who lives on Knollwood Drive, asked more questions than anyone else at the presentation. His queries ranged from benches to having tables with chess boards so the public could be engaged to having more flowers in the park.

Of the park now, Schwartz said, “It’s a waste of space and totally uninviting. The benches look like they were built to keep people out. None of them face each other. I’d like to put something there that attracts people. Right now, you climb over the benches, eat lunch and leave.”

The meeting Thursday was to discuss the third phase of the $4.1 million — of which $3.3 million will be paid through two federal grants — streetscape project. That phase, which is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2015, would entail enlarging the park by about 10 percent; creating a new brick plaza and fountain in front of TD Bank; and taking down existing trees and planting new ones.

Cegan said the input from the public was “very positive.” In response to Schwartz’ question on the benches and their current location, Cegan said, “The benches now are a great barrier to get into the park. They are isolated in the center of the park. The benches will be removed.” He said there will be a “more intricate sitting area around the Civil War monument.” That, he said, will include granite seat walls and new metal

benches.

Robert Storace can be reached at (860) 225-4601, ext. 223 or at rstorace@newbritainherald.com.

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