MERIDEN — The city will receive nearly $420,000 from the state to begin the Meriden Green extension and acquire the former Castle Bank building for flood control and to continue its linear trail project, state officials announced this week.
Both projects will address the city’s flooding problem with the Green extension featuring a sensory park in addition to daylighting more of Harbor Brook up to Cedar Street. The former Castle Bank is planned for demolition.
The grants were part of $6.2 million in funding to protect and preserve open space statewide, announced by Gov. Ned Lamont’s office. About $5.5 million supported the purchase of 3,000 acres of land and more than $700,000 went to distressed communities to promote the use of open space in urban settings.
The funding for the Meriden Green project was covered under the Urban Green and Community Garden Program, administered by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
“This is to establish a green space,” said Howard Weissberg, director of Engineering and Public Works. “We’re going to be using it for our plantings and landscaping. It’s a unique site.”
The Meriden Green extension eliminates Mill Street and creates a sensory space with a small amphitheater, play areas, and multi-medium artwork. The uncovered brook adds a water feature. Along its rolling topography will be meadow and riparian plantings, a touch garden with seating wall and elevated plant beds and water access to the brook. It is estimated to serve as a classroom and cost $5.5 million, Weissburg said.
“The Meriden Green expansion project will introduce a fully immersive ecological, environmental, and sensory experience unrivaled through the city’s green spaces and most any public park in Connecticut,”
according to the city’s grant application. The park is “utilizing universal design principles to develop spaces that can be fully enjoyed by patrons of all ages and abilities. Garden areas will be designed to highlight specific sensory experiences.”
The city is expected to match the grant funds.
“The $400,000 is definitely a nice contribution to partner with DEEP and take care of the plantings and landscaping,” Weissberg said.
The former Castle Bank on Hanover Street also sits atop Harbor Brook in a flood plain. The city hopes to acquire the property and demolish it for open space and continue the Quinnipiac Linear trail downtown. It is in the appraisal process now.
The parcel is also part of the city’s Harbor Brook Flood Control and Linear Trail Master Plan. If acquired, it will help the city link the completed section of the trail to the Meriden Green and other parts of the city.
The $18,000 in grant funding won’t pay the cost of the building but the land the building sits on, Weissberg said.
The land and building are owned by Commercial Real Estate Holding LLC, and appraised by the city at $590,000, according to city records.
This is the second grant the city received for work on the Harbor Brook Linear Trail system.
In January 2021, the state awarded the city a $600,000 grant to complete what city officials have described as a "critical piece of the Harbor Brook Linear Trail system." The grant was funded through Connecticut’s Community Grant Program.
That part of the project involves redesigning the stretch of Coe Avenue between Bradley Avenue and Hanover Street. In the city's application for the grant, city officials described existing conditions that include "fair to poor asphalt sidewalk and areas of significant sidewalk damage.”
The most recent project improved those conditions by installing a 10-foot wide multi-use trail that would be near a reconstructed Coe Avenue. The project also replaced the current traffic light at Coe Avenue and Hanover Street, with a new light that includes a fully actuated pedestrian crossing signal, according to a description of the plans.
Officials hope in the future the project would encourage other commuters to bike or walk to work or to access public transportation.
City Councilor Michael Rohde, who was mayor during much of the Meriden Green development plans, praised the state for working with the city on its flood control and trail development.
“It’s the continuation of our renovation downtown, the Green is an award-winning Green,” Rohde said. “It meant closing the old Mills area, and creating a renaissance by taking a 50-year old structure and putting in a beautiful outdoor space for children and families. That is remarkable.”
The city is about 70 percent finished with the flood control project with work remaining on the Cedar, Cooper and Center street bridges. Channel work is also needed along East Main Street.
City officials have known for several years that the former Castle Bank building would have to be demolished as part of the flood control project.
‘Downstream there are some issues coming though the area where the bank is,” Rohde said. “We are also going to redo the driveway to Hanover Towers because it’s kind of awkward. It’s going to be an upgrade to that whole area.”