Hartford lost two great and good people last week.
Alan E. Green was raised in the city's Rice Heights housing project, at a time when the projects were wholesome and safe neighborhoods. After a long and productive career in philanthropic and housing work in Hartford and New Haven, he came back to the city to head the Hartford Housing Authority, to cap his career by trying to make public housing again function as he believed it could.
In four years, before illness forced his resignation late last year, he made significant progress. Completing a process begun in the 1990s, Mr. Green initiated the demolition and redevelopment of Nelton Court, the last of the old World War II-era federal housing projects. He executed a much-needed makeover of the authority's scattered site housing, to make his homes indistinguishable from the others in the neighborhoods. He began to pay attention to the areas around public housing, looking to increase commercial, retail and employment opportunities for residents.
He had hoped to get to the redevelopment of the aging Westbrook Village and Bowles Park projects, believing it the chance of a lifetime for the northwestern part of the city. That work is moving toward the front burner.
Mr. Green, who died at 66, was a sturdy, steady, intelligent and empathetic man with ready wit. When an interviewer remarked that he had kept the housing authority out of the corruption mess that ensnared former mayor Eddie Perez a few years ago, Mr. Green remarked, "I really like waking up in my own bed." Mr. Green gave countless hours to numerous community causes. To know him was to like him.
When you drive into Hartford and see the whimsical smokestack next to I-84 east, or when you stop in Bushnell Park and enjoy the carousel, you are seeing the work of one of the most inventive and engaging people to bless Hartford in the past half century, the inimitable Jack Dollard.
Mr. Dollard was what some call a hyphenate: an architect-artist-activist, and even that doesn't cover his contributions or his great zest for life. As head of the Knox Foundation, he oversaw the creation of playgrounds and community gardens around the city, designed the original Hartford Stage Company theater and co-directed the Downtown Revitalization Plan. He brought the carousel to Bushnell Park and designed its building. He served as chairman of the City Planning Commission and was the first chairman of the Design Review Committee for downtown and major city avenues, a major step in improving the quality of building in the city.
A very talented painter, Mr. Dollard once had a show of his paintings in a building he designed, the former Aetna education center that is now the Lincoln Culinary Institute. He was a consultant to Aetna for 18 years under a contract that allowed him to do architectural and planning work for area nonprofits — a great gesture by Mr. Dollard and Aetna chairman John Filer.
A bearded, stout, Falstaffian presence, Mr. Dollard was at home at the ballet or the racetrack, the Capitol or the softball field (he played well into his 60s). He was a constant font of urban planning ideas.
Two decades ago, for example, Mr. Dollard sketched an idea for a Farmington Avenue corridor, which he suggested could include a trolley that ran from Farmington through Hartford and on to the University of Connecticut, and would be the heart of a linear regional neighborhood.
In 1990 such an idea was visionary; now trolley corridors are being created or revived in dozens of cities across the country.
When word came late last week that Mr. Dollard died at 82 at his retirement home in Mexico, friends wondered if anyone had touched as many people in Greater Hartford, or if they would ever meet his like again. Probably not, and probably not.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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