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Design Committee
The origins of the Farmington Avenue Alliance began in 1996 when a group of West End residents, concerned about the future of Farmington Avenue in Hartford, met to discuss how the neighborhood could stop the evident decline of the street and restore it to a grander, more economically vibrant place.

Recognizing the importance of Farmington Avenue as a gateway to downtown and to points west, it was decided any planning effort must encompass the neighboring Asylum Hill area as well as the West End. In a spirit of cooperation and collaboration, a 20-member committee, the Farmington Avenue Joint Committee (FAJC) was formed. This committee was comprised of residents, businesses and institutions in Asylum Hill and the West End.

From the beginning the Farmington Avenue Joint Committee shared core values. It saw a need to revitalize Farmington Avenue not just as a pretty boulevard but also as a means to improve two urban neighborhoods. Community building was a guiding force in both the development and design of the final plan. The key constituencies –residents, businesses and neighborhood institutions – who will most benefit from a revitalized Farmington Avenue, were involved throughout the planning process and adopted the following vision statement to guide its planning efforts:

We envision Farmington Avenue in Hartford as a gateway to the City, as a charming and beautiful public realm, as a vital urban place that serves the residents of the neighborhoods it passes through, and as a Grand Avenue uniting Greater Hartford's western suburbs with Downtown Hartford. This renewed Avenue supports a high-quality mix of unique commercial, cultural, professional, residential and academic activities; it is home to some of the most important institutions in the Capitol Region. The Avenue is a place where elderly people feel safe and where parents are comfortable bringing their children. It is a profitable business location. It is a center of entertainment and recreation. Streets and facilities welcome pedestrians and bicyclists. Commercial buildings and public improvements complement the architectural heritage of the adjacent residences to create a unique sense of place. The Avenue reflects the diversity of families and life styles that is one of Hartford's most valued features. People are drawn from around the region to this vibrant center of community life.

By the year 2000 the Farmington Avenue Joint Committee had raised nearly $200,000 from the City of Hartford, foundations and area corporations to fund a plan for the Avenue. Project for Public Spaces, nationally known for their grassroots-based planning successes, was hired by FAJC to work with the Committee and community to develop the plan. Throughout the year the community was engaged in developing the plan by participating in design workshops and public forums, by helping gather and process survey data collected from residents, businesses and employees, and by conducting parking surveys and walking audits of Farmington Avenue.

Efforts to inform the public included establishing a resource center, featuring a prominent window display, at the Mark Twain Branch of the Hartford Public Library on Farmington Avenue and writing columns in the Hartford Courant. Nearly two dozen newspaper stories appeared in the Hartford Courant, Hartford Business Journal, Hartford Advocate, Hartford News, Hartford Inquirer and the WECA News.

The plan was completed and presented to the public in January 2002. The Farmington Avenue Plan covers the entire street within the City of Hartford from its origins near Union Station in downtown Hartford to the West Hartford line at Prospect Avenue. The document proposed a redesign of the street and upgrading of the commercial districts. It was well received and FAJC and the planning firm were highly praised for their involvement of stakeholders in the planning process.

Once the plan was completed, FAJC shifted into an implementation phase. First, it began to focus on its organizational structure. The group needed to transform itself from a committee into a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization so it could attract funds. Previously it had relied on fiscal arrangements with existing agencies to accept contributions on its behalf. While FAJC was able to cobble together enough funds to undertake the planning, not having tax exempt status created a barrier for funding from some sources and would inhibit the group’s ability to obtain funds in the implementation phase. In June 2002 the Farmington Avenue Alliance (FAA or the Alliance) was incorporated and received its IRS tax exempt status two months later.

While FAA worked on developing its organization, it also took steps to move the plan forward. The Commission of the City Plan in August 2002 endorsed the Farmington Avenue Plan. The Court of Common Council endorsed the plan three months later in November 2002. More significantly city staff and council members agreed the plan should receive financial support and the city administration began to put in place a way to fund the design and engineering work necessary to reshape Farmington Avenue.

In August 2003 the administration released a Request for Proposals to hire an engineering team to develop construction documents to implement a portion of the plan. However, the firm hired by the City, URS, did not begin work on the project until August 2005.



Implementation plans for Phase 1 construction, an area between Marshall Street in Asylum Hill and Denison Street in the West End are ready. However, work has been delayed until 2012 so that it can directly follow a Metropolitan District Commission project that will replace the 1876-era water main currently under Farmington Avenue.

 

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