“We are trying to ensure the open, beautiful park will not have obstructed views.”
We understand, and concur with, City Councilor Sonya Jelks’ concern that the 14 acres of lovely, green parkland known as the Meriden Green — which was built at a cost of $14 million and many years of effort — won’t be harmed by the final pieces of the downtown plan soon to be built.
The concrete block of apartment housing in the northwest corner of the Green, near the amphitheater, is going to get larger as Pennrose Properties finalizes designs for more housing, which will be 80 percent market-rate and 20 percent affordable — the reverse of the ratio for the housing already built. The second site is along Pratt Street across from the firehouse, where a third site is being considered for a restaurant or other commercial use.
There’s nothing new here. "The locations of those (planned area developments) were always part of the development plan," said City Councilor Brian Daniels, the former chairman of the Economic Development Housing and Zoning Committee.
But as people have come to the Green for concerts, markets, car shows and other events, and have become accustomed to the wide open spaces downtown, we can only urge that the final pieces of the puzzle be designed so as not to ruin the effect that’s been achieved so far.
"I'm reserving my opinion until they reveal a comprehensive plan of what design, the cost and economic value to the city," Jelks has said.
The two big reasons for building the Green in the first place were to control flooding and to give downtown an economic shot in the arm. Therefore, market-rate housing is seen as a key, to bring in people with disposable income to spend downtown.
Filling those apartments “with people with jobs and money, that's not a bad thing,” said Ross Gulino, a local landlord and developer who sits on the Planning Commission. “I only get excited when I see it's real.”
The next phase of construction is intended to make it real. But let’s develop with caution. Let’s keep the Green green.