Ten years ago their neighborhoods on Hartford's south side were plagued by drugs and crime, residents said. Then the city began tearing down old buildings, clearing the way for Hartford's "Learning Corridor" of freshly minted magnet schools next to Trinity College.
On Thursday a beaming crowd of politicians and community activists broke ground on the latest round of revitalization: a grassy lot on Colonial Street where they envision 18 houses for first-time homeowners.
The development is organized by Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance, a nonprofit group that works to improve conditions in Hartford's Frog Hollow, Barry Square and South Green neighborhoods. Twenty families are already on the waiting list for the new single- and two-family homes, five of which the alliance plans to complete by autumn of next year. By 2009, the finished development should boast 10 single-family houses priced at $160,000 and eight two-family homes selling for $249,000. In all, the homes will contain 26 units.
Families making up to $96,000 a year can apply to buy the homes, bringing what the alliance sees as a much-needed influx of income into the community. To qualify, families must attend first-time homeowner classes and secure their own mortgages. John Rosenthal, of the Southside alliance, said he hopes retailers will be encouraged to follow.
"It's a little bit more of a moderate-income project," Rosenthal said. "For the last 20 years we've been developing low-income housing, so now we're at the point where we're ready to diversify."
Some neighbors are not sure they're ready.
Across the street from the now empty lot Thursday a freshly built model home stood in contrast to the old, red-brick buildings next door. A group of neighbors hanging out near one of the older buildings said they were glad to hear people were working to improve the neighborhood, but worried about some of the unintended effects revitalization may have on the community.
"This is the low-income people that live here," said Maria Lopez, 43. "It's good for the neighborhood, but the rent is going to go up."
The private home project is the fourth phase of a $7 million revitalization plan that has been a decade in the making, said state Rep. Kelvin Roldan, D-Hartford, who lives just blocks from the proposed site.
"When they started this, I was just a kid," said Roldan. "It's very different now. But you can't do everything at once."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at