MERIDEN — There have been signs of change and development popping up around downtown over the last few days, literally.
A total of 10 signs either have been or will be installed around downtown, promoting some of the major infrastructure projects that will begin in the coming weeks. The signs feature graphics and renderings of the projects, which include the uncovering of Harbor Brook, the transformation of the vacant Meriden Hub site into a park, the new train and bus station and the demolition of the buildings on the corner of South Colony Street and Perkins Square.
“We want to do justice to what’s coming and make people aware of the projects and the scope of them,” said Mayor Michael S. Rohde. “People who don’t read the Record-Journal and don’t pay attention to some of what’s going on have no idea about the transformational things that are imminently going to happen.”
One sign was placed in front of the former Church & Morse hardware building, announcing the demolition and flood control improvement plans. The two adjacent buildings, as well as the former Church & Morse building, are slated for demolition beginning later this month. The buildings are being cleared for better access to the Amtrak bridge to the rear of the parcel, which needs to be fixed to prevent water backup from Harbor Brook and flooding.
Two signs are being placed at the train station on State Street where a new intermodal transit center will be built beginning in spring 2014. Another is being placed in front of a Colony Street lot, which the station will connect to when completed.
A total of six signs are being placed around the Hub with one in each corner, one along Pratt Street and another along State Street. The 14-acre site is being redeveloped for flood storage space and will double as a downtown green space. The demolition of the former TD Bank building, which stands at the corner of East Main and State streets, is scheduled to begin later this month or in early October, with the rest of the work planned for mid-to-late October.
Manny Santos, the Republican and We the People candidate for mayor in the November election, said he was a fan of the signs after viewing them Wednesday afternoon.
“I think it’s a great idea...it’s important to communicate the future for the city, which we desperately need to do and this is something to look forward to,” Santos said. “The most important thing is what happens afterward and all of it is completed and it looks beautiful. There’s a lot of hard work when it begins in attracting businesses downtown, though I’m sure that the park will do some of it.”
Santos noted the timing of the signs, which in addition to coinciding with some of the work, also aligns with the election season.
“It could be a coincidence,” Santos said, noting that work could be beneficial to incumbents’ campaigns.
Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelsk said she is excited about the work happening downtown and is anxious to get the word out.
“We’re doing a lot of things in downtown,” Burdelski said, noting that some are not aware. “We want to encourage people walking by and driving by and make them aware that there are going to be a lot of changes going on in the near future.”
Rohde said the signs are an effort to market the projects in hopes of attracting a private developer. A private developer recently signed on to a transit-oriented development project in Stamford, as well as in Bristol, where a downtown renaissance project is underway. The Meriden transit-oriented development project has yet to get commitments from private developers, though the Meriden Housing Authority is working with private and public partners to develop housing and economic development possibilities.
“We need to market the space down here,” Rohde said of downtown. “We want to entice private developers.”
Burdelski added that the city has been updating MeridenTOD.com, a website with the latest news on the transit-oriented development in downtown, as well as MeridenBiz.com, a site for the Economic Development Department. When plans are approved for a new electronic billboard, Burdelski said the city plans to take advantage of the hours it is allotted during the year for transit-oriented development purposes.
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