Elements of Urbanism: Hartford

August 27, 2008 18 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Billed as New England's Rising Star , Downtown Hartford has come alive after suffering from a series of major urban renewal mistakes.

Tale of the Tape:

Hartford Population 2007: 124,563 (City); 1,189,113 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1784)

Jacksonville Pop. 2007: 805,605 (City); 1,300,823 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Hartford (177,397)

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2000-2007)

Hartford: +3.5%
Jacksonville: +15.86%

Urban Area Population (2000 census)

Hartford: 851,535 (ranked 45 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 882,295 (ranked 43 nationwide)

Urban Area Population Density (2000 census)

Hartford: 1,814.3
Jacksonville: 2,149.2

City Population Increase from 2000 to 2007

Hartford: +441
Jacksonville: +69,988

Tallest Building:

Hartford:City Place-535 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet

DowntownResidential Population:

Hartford: 1,200
Jacksonville: 2,500

Ties to the Insurance Industry:

Hartford: Hartford is known as the "Insurance Capital of the World" because it is home to many large insurance companies. Locally based insurance companies include Travelers, Aetna, The Hartford, The Phoenix Companies, Inc. and Hartford Steam Boiler.

Jacksonville: A few decades ago, Jacksonville was known as the Hartford of the South because of its high concentration of insurance company headquarters. Mergers and acquisitions eliminated many insurance company headquarters that used to characterize business life in Jacksonville.

Urban infill obstacles:

Hartford: Interstate 91 completely blocks Downtown Hartford from the Connecticut River.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.

Common Downtown Albatross:

Elimination ofadjacent urbanresidential districts- Front Street (Hartford), LaVilla (Jacksonville)

Professional Sports:

Hartford: In 1997, the city lost its professional hockey franchise, the Hartford Whalers, but efforts are being made to bring an NHL team back to the city. City officials and developers are talking about the possibility of a new city arena to house this team.

Downtown Hartford

Downtown is home to such corporations as Travelers, The Hartford Steam Boiler, Phoenix Insurance, Prudential Retirement and United Technologies Corporation most of which are housed in office towers constructed over the last 20-30 years.

Downtown is also home to the Hartford City Hall, the Hartford Public Library, which is undergoing a major expansion and renovation, the Old State House, which is one of the oldest state houses in the nation, the Wadsworth Atheneum which is the oldest public art museum in the country, The Travelers Tower, Bushnell Park, and the State Capitol and Legislative Office Complex.

Along Main Street Capital Community College and the Hartford Public Schools offices are located in the former G. Fox and Company Building. The newly renovated University of Connecticut School of Business is located at Constitution Plaza. The newest addition to downtown is at the edge of downtown at Adriaens Landing where the Connecticut Convention Center and Marriott Hartford Hotel have recently opened, the major addition to downtown has been the recent completion of Hartford 21 which is a 36 story apartment tower which has added yet another building to the city's skyline.

Downtown Mall:

Hartford: Hartford 21 (former Civic Center Mall) - A downtown mall the was demolished and rebuilt in 2006 to open up to the rest of downtown.

Jacksonville: The Landing - an indoor/outdoor festival marketplace that turns its back to the downtown core.

Bushnell Park - Located below the State Capitol and legislative office complex, this park consists of rolling lawn, sculpture, fountains, and a historic carousel. It is the first park in the country purchased by a municipality for public use and it was designed by Jacob Weidenmann. The Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Arch, a Civil War Memorial which frames the northern entrance to the park, is the first triumphal arch in the United States.

Aetna Headquarters - The world's largest colonial revival building, the Aetna headquarters is crowned by a tall Georgian tower inspired by the Old State House downtown.

Downtown Fortune 500 companies:

Hartford: United Technologies (39), Aetna (85), Hartford Financial Services (95)
Jacksonville: CSX (261), Fidelity National Financial (435), Fidelity National Information Services (481)

Connecticut Convention Center - The 540,000 square foot convention center is now open, and overlooks the Connecticut River and the central business district. Attached to the center is a new 409 room, 22-story Marriott Hotel (opened late August 2005).

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Hartford: Connecticut Convention Center (yb. 2005) - 140,000 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1986) - 78,500 square feet

Parkville (Park Street)

Parkville takes its name from its location at the junction of the North and South Branches of the Park River.

The area, similar to others surrounding Hartford, was primarily farmland through much of the 19th century. In 1878, residents tried to secede from Hartford, claiming they were over-taxed merely because their land was not developed. By the early 1880s, the expansion of the adjacent Frog Hollow neighborhood, coupled with the extension of the railroad line southwest towards New Haven, forever changed the complexion of Frog Hollow.

In 1907, Royal Typewriter was built along the railroad tracks and other factories moved into the neighborhood, stimulating the need for housing for workers. The early population of the neighborhood was Irish, followed by French Canadian, Scandinavian and German. Today, the neighborhood has a large population of Portuguese, Brazilians, Vietnamese, and Puerto Ricans.

Culture and building heightsaside, the scene along Park Street would be similar to the scene on Hendricks or San Marco Blvd, north of European Street Cafe.