MERIDEN — More than $3 million in funding for the Hub project has been added to the State Bond Commission agenda for next week’s meeting and is expected to be approved. The city has been awaiting the final sum of money in order to complete the project and turn the dormant site into a park that doubles as an area for flood retention.
For decades, the Hub has been an underused 14.4-acre site in the center of the city. The former site of the Meriden Mall, the International Silver Co. and numerous other businesses, the Hub has been vacant since 2007.
Funding for the project comes from numerous state and federal sources, but $7 million of the full $13.5 million budget had been delayed since it was approved by the state legislature in 2007. Last year, the State Bond Commission agreed to provide $3.85 million for the project with the promise that the final $3.15 would come some time in the next calendar year.
“Despite having tremendous potential for economic and transit-oriented development, for decades the Meriden Downtown Hub has sat underutilized and plagued by chronic flooding – but no longer,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in a statement. “With this investment, we are making the Meriden Hub the center of transit, commerce and culture that it was meant to be and will continue to work with municipal partners to advance similar capital projects around the state.”
Malloy, who chairs the Bond Commission, is responsible for setting the agenda. The commission is scheduled to meet Friday, May 30.
Although work at the Hub is predominantly for flood control, the final $3.15 million is slated for most of the park improvements including a pedestrian bridge connecting Pratt and State streets and an amphitheater. Flood control improvements include uncovering Harbor Brook, which flows through an underground culvert, and creating a flood retention area to prevent the kind of catastrophic floods that have periodically impacted downtown.
As a result of the redevelopment, which started early this year, 3.4 acres of the site would be completely removed from the 100-year flood plain and be available for economic development. City and state officials have discussed the possibility of locating multiple buildings on the site with affordable housing, commercial and office space.
Republican Mayor Manny Santos said he was pleased the funding is expected.
“Without it, it wouldn’t be a park, just a retaining pool,” he said. “I hope we get that money because it will give us the opportunity to complete the work that’s been very public out there. I’m looking forward to receiving those funds.”
State Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, D-Meriden, also said she was excited about the funding, which will help correct downtown’s flooding history, create jobs and “strengthen our local economy.” The project, she noted, ties in with several other projects including a new transit center on State Street for an improved rail line, traffic improvements and housing projects.
“This new funding will help complete the flood control improvements that are already underway, and aid in the transformation of the empty lot at the Hub into a community park,” she said, also thanking Malloy.
Bartolomeo will face Leonard F. Suzio in the coming November election for state Senate. While Suzio said he was encouraged by the funding, he has concerns about the impact the overall transit-oriented development project could have on downtown. More commuter rail trains and traffic could lead to congestion.
“I think everybody in Meriden is cheering for the success of the project,” he said. “My concern about the downtown project is the total lack of planning for the traffic congestion created by the success of the project.”
City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior said the funds will boost the city’s flood control efforts.
“This is a real good year for flood control in Meriden with this project, the detention work on Westfield Road and the bypass culvert work on the Columbus Avenue Bridge, and then the demolition of the former Church and Morse and Liseo buildings,” he said. “This is a real big advance to flood control in the city.”
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