OPINION: A lot going on in downtown Meriden

OPINION: A lot going on in downtown Meriden

You can’t help but notice a certain momentum — dare I say optimism? — developing downtown in Meriden, an area which for decades has resisted optimism with stultifying force.

I don’t know. I was away for a bit, and the effort to catch up revealed item after item of what appeared to be good news down there.

There is, for example, a deli. Ho hum. There are delis everywhere, you could say, and I’m not going to get into an argument about it. But this is not just a deli, it’s the first commercial tenant in the new transit-oriented downtown area.

You may remember that considerable effort and expense went into fixing the flooding problems there. For years excessive rainfall would turn the Hub into a version of Venice, notably absent the gondolas or other charms associated with the Italian city.

Now there is charm in downtown Meriden as well. You can’t deny it. It’s in the form of this nice park they put above the flood control, next to a new train station and refashioned housing. There are concerts. There’s a farmers market. 

If you’re familiar with the film “Field of Dreams” you know the line, “if you build it they will come.” That was about baseball. In the case of Meriden, we’re talking about businesses and people. If you build it, as in a nice area that won’t flood any longer, will they come?

Answering that question involves accepting small steps, and that is what makes the N.Y. Deli & Krispy Krunchy Chicken, which already sounds like fun when it comes to munching, an important — you could even say essential — addition to the first floor of the Meriden Commons I. The line-up includes a deli counter, cafe-style seating and coffee bar. They might start serving breakfast there.

What else? The expanding La Poblanita Grocery and Deli is applying to sell beer and wine, another contribution to the liveliness of the transit-oriented area. “To date there has not really been a convenient restaurant to relax and enjoy a beer or a glass of wine just steps from the new CTRail station in Meriden,” was a promotional-sounding observation from a business recruitment specialist to the Record-Journal. So soon there will be, it looks like.

Plus, the diner is coming back. What was once Justin Time and Cassidies Diner on West Main will now be called the Landmark Diner. The eatery had been going on there for more than 70 years, so why stop now?

“I’m kind of excited and nervous at the same time,” said Samir Hassan, a Meriden native who’s running the place, pretty much summing things up for the Silver City in general.

These and other indications of momentum make all the more bewildering the City Council’s decision not to give the Meriden Public Library, which in case you don’t have your GPS handy is also downtown, the funding it needed for a renovation and expansion people would have taken pride in. If you look at all the effort that’s been put toward downtown it just seems silly to have come up short there. Just like schools, libraries are pathways to the future, and that’s what I thought this transit-oriented obsession was supposed to be all about.

In any case, for a long time the city has faced the challenge of countering negative perception, which can be a very tough thing to rally against, and it’s the little things like delis and selling beer and wine — and libraries — that help. Plus, Pratt Street no longer looks like an aircraft landing strip.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or jkurz@record-journal.com.