OPINION: Meriden left a mess behind on Cook Avenue

You’ve probably been told to clean up your mess. At some point of your life you’ve likely heard that at least once, likely many times. It’s good manners to avoid leaving a mess behind. Most of us learn this as children.

An area of Cook Avenue in Meriden, specifically 116 Cook Ave. and the giant building across the street, are a mess that was left behind. A giant mess, a mess that has proved impossible to clean up for a quarter of a century.

Think of all the patients, of the babies being born, of the medical careers involved. Twenty-five years is a long time. Lives change, dramatically, during a period of time like that.

But Cook Avenue has not changed. Grass still grows through the cracks in the pavement. The area is still the dilapidated remains of Meriden-Wallingford Hospital, at one time a source of great municipal pride, and the medical office building across the way. I think I had lunch there a couple of times.

What happened is part of a long story, about two Meriden hospitals that were combined into one, a move that drew a lot of controversy and animosity, and then a move, not all that long thereafter, that sent the offspring to the outskirts of the city. Out by the mall, out by one of those Hanging Hills.

It’s not that it was a bad idea. It was a great idea. Meriden’s hospital needed new life, a new way of looking at health care and how hospitals would operate in that new world, along with becoming part of a much larger network. All this was big change, and there were those not happy being dragged along.

But look what happened: MidState Medical Center. The first Connecticut hospital built in a generation, and a lot of excellent, dedicated staff to go with it.

Times change so fast it’s easy to forget the difficulties and focus on the here and now. Put today’s hospital up there with the other Silver City jewels, including those Hanging Hills and Castle Craig atop them, including the municipal course, Hunter, including the airport, including the Boys and Girls Club of Meriden, including Girls Inc. I’m leaving lots of jewels out; you get the idea.

But you can’t forget the past if it’s there staring you in the face, incessantly, and that’s what that area of Cook Avenue does. It stares along with a lot of other buildings whose origins are all but forgotten. Factories, mostly. It’s not for nothing Meriden was regarded as an ideal war community in the Second World War. It was a very productive city.

New England has a sort of not very proud tradition of leaving things behind and not cleaning up a mess. That’s what all the brownfield sites are about, after all, and cleaning things up is not often a straightforward proposition. But there has been some action (hello, Meriden Green) and intentions of turning these buildings into something useful again — and there is no more worthy a candidate than that old hospital building.

City Economic Development Director Joseph Feest has been pitching some good ideas to a committee of the City Council that involve116 Cook Ave. and the former hospital, and one of the more appealing parts is the proposal to tear them down, or at least most of them. He has an idea of turning the area into a very friendly place, something residents will be able to take pride in.

I say, finally. Go for it.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at jkurz@record-journal.com.


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