MERIDEN — Joseph Geremia lives just outside the city’s transit-oriented district.
Three or four days per week, he boards the 8:40 a.m. Hartford Line train to his job at the Capital Region Development Authority. Sometimes, his daughter, Josephine Geremia, drives him from their Lambert Avenue home to the station, but many days he makes the 15-minute walk to the train.
“I take my train and try to get my steps in,” Geremia said. “I love going to work and hearing people say ‘you wouldn’t believe the traffic.’”
Geremia grew up on Pettit Drive in South Meriden and moved to Rocky Hill before returning in 2018. Although they live just outside the official border of the transit-oriented district, the family takes advantage of the train and bus.
David Beers, Josephine Geremia’s boyfriend, is from Hartford and the couple visit each other by rail. Josephine Geremia, who shares a car with her father, uses her U-pass to ride the bus free to her classes at Middlesex Community College campuses at Platt High School and in Middletown. The U-Pass covers any mode of public transportation and is included in her tuition.
She and Beers convinced Joseph Geremia to take the train.
“You’d be surprised at how much you don’t need a car,” Josephine Geremia said.
The younger Geremia, who is also involved in Hartford Stage, takes the Hartford Line to rehearsals and performances. Hartford Stage performers told her about plans for a black box theater downtown at 143 W. Main St.
“Most people are really excited about it,” she said. “It will bring more people and I love the theater.”
As the chief financial officer for the Capital Region Development Authority, her father knows the value of boosting economic development and also supports the theater project.
“Meriden needs to work on its image,” Joseph Geremia said. “I walk the Green and Hubbard Park. Those are nice assets.”
Geremia said the early morning trains are filled with professionals, many young. Ridership drops in the afternoon, but resumes in early evening.
“The 7 a.m. or 8:20 a.m. both are packed, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. they’re packed,” he said. “If people actually used it they would realize how much better it is.”
Jackelyn Orellana has lived in a new apartment building at 24 Colony St. in the heart of the TOD for two years. She sees many of her neighbors waiting for trains on the platform as she walks to the Community Health Care Center on State Street. One neighbor is a young attorney who commutes by rail to Hartford.
“When I moved here from Miami I came by train,” Orellana said. “Now I see a lot of my neighbors using the train or the bus.”
Orellana enjoys life at 24 Colony St., because it’s much quieter than Miami and her 2-year-old son has “100 grandparents” that live in the building.
Access to transportation is important when you don’t have a car, she said. But she would like to see more family-friendly festivals, children’s activities and a playground.
Local artist Edward Rivera, who works at Feel Fresh on West Main Street, has lived in a studio loft apartment on Colony Street for several years.
“I like downtown because it’s close to my job,” Rivera said. “And I needed space to do my art.”
But for nightlife, he heads to Hartford, New Haven or New York.
“I leave Meriden because there isn’t any entertainment,” Rivera said. “You gotta go through hoops to put something together here.”
Landlord and city restrictions on the hours night clubs can be open and other limitations hurt downtown, he said. But he’s glad to see the city eliminated its prohibition on tattoo and piercing shops.
Rivera is getting married and moving out of his loft soon, but he’s not leaving downtown. His whimsical murals can be found along West Main and Colony streets and he isn’t finished yet.
He’s talking to the owner of 55 Colony St. about turning the current recording studios into an artists’ lounge offering curated shows from larger cities, beer, wine, jazz and acoustic music. The lounge would offer paint nights and other activities in collaboration with Gallery 53 on Colony Street.
“It would help both of us,” Rivera said. “My goal is to beautify Meriden and make it an art destination.”