Bushnell Plaza's Problems Will Take Big Money To Fix
February 19, 2006
By JAMES C. ROUMAN, Courant Staff Writer
The critics of Bushnell Plaza have
a point. Christine Palm was the latest, on these pages, where she
wrote," Bushnell Plaza, an elevated L-shaped expanse in downtown
Hartford, may be the most overlooked and underused space in the
city." While I agree with her conclusion, it is important that
she and others of like mind understand some of the reasons this
is the case.
Bushnell Plaza is a separately owned
entity from Bushnell Tower, the 27-story residential building adjacent
to it. A privately owned facility composed of an underground garage
and commercial units, the plaza was conceived by I.M. Pei in the
'60s - a time of urban unrest - to have a Kremlin-style front on
Main Street intended to enclose and secure properties that could
be accessed from either Gold or Wells streets.
That the structure is now barren and devoid of aesthetic interest
or purpose cannot be denied by anyone possessing 20/20 vision. Although
large planters with trees were originally situated on the plaza,
these were removed when it became necessary to repair the floor
of the space that began leaking water onto the shops below. And
after multiple attempts and the expenditure of large sums of money
to stem the leakage, the area is seen now by many merely as a failed
attempt at urban design.
Considerable thought, nevertheless,
has been given over time by the owners to producing something that
would be attractive and useful to the citizens of Hartford. One
idea to create a sculpture court in collaboration with the Wadsworth
Atheneum was aborted due to the recurring problem with the plaza
floor. Returning plantings as well as benches to the plaza was considered,
as were numerous other ideas emanating from architectural student
projects designed to find a solution to the "eyesore"
on Main Street.
Every suggestion offering to do wondrous
things, however, calls for the expenditure of large amounts of money.
But whose money would be spent has always been the overriding issue.
Certainly the present owners would welcome reasonable ideas from
developers offering the support necessary to accomplish something
from the laundry list Christine Palm sets forth.
And help from city hall or the
abutting and cash-loaded MDC and the adjacent Travelers Insurance
Co. would not be refused. But the present ownership, weary from
the continuous need to fork over dollar after dollar to keep the
structure intact, is hesitant to embark upon any expensive upgrade
that might require staffing or even incur liabilities without help
from public or private sources to address complaints about a situation
that is both complex and long-existing.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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