That got me to thinking back about all of the broken promises made to us, the people of Hartford. Why are we duped into so many false starts? And we continue to fall for it hook, line and sinker
It seems like we have become much more gullible over the last few years.
Lets start with the Adrien's Landing Redevelopment project. If we had believed everything we were force fed for that, we would all be watching Tom Brady throwing touchdown passes today where we used to pay our gas bills at CNG on Columbus Boulevard.
We all know the end result of that broken promises. A "krafty" businessman, Robert Kraft used Hartford as a pawn in his plans to get a better deal for a new stadium in Massachusetts. Who could blame him? Most scammers know an easy mark when they see it, and I doubt you could get much easier than a desperate Hartford City Hall . Despite not having their anchor football stadium, the Front Street project had gained momentum over the last few years and now does generate some traffic for Hartford business. Unfortunately the tax revenue to the City is still pretty slim, but at least it has created some decent jobs.
But as a City , I guess we never learned our lesson that Stadium deals, as a matter of public policy are not good ideas. And in the end they usually are much more costly than any benefits realized. Let me fast forward a few years to the Yard Goats deal. This should probably be the poster child for broken promises to the City.
The only ones that seem to be benefiting from this are the team owners, the Solomon brothers. All we heard during the processs were the buzzwords to grab the support of Hartford residents. The biggest being "JOBS". Now the question needs to be asked, where are they? What are the real numbers? Give me the names of 20 Hartford residents employed gainfully on the jobsite. Give me the names of 10 Hartford contractors working on the job?
One of the other buzzwords that always draws attention is "DOWNTOWN SUPERMARKET" . Where are the plans for it? It sounded good at the time to potentially fill a much needed void. Affordable quality food for Hartford residents. There actually was more progress on this before the Yard Goats deal was ever announced. The potential developer that the City had been dealing with pulled out as soon as the deal was announced. I have not heard anything solid since.
And remember all of the original drawings announced with considerable fanfare showing the Hooker brewery and its rooftop patio highlighting the stadium project ? One word, D-E-A-D. Now that part has been replaced by Hard Rock Café. It was surprising to note that the Hartford Courant reported that no proposal has formally been submitted for the project by Hard Rock Café.
Is there anyone at City Hall, Development Services ,or for that matter Centerplan that has any basic understanding of business concepts ( Centerplan is the developer for the stadium project) Has anyone ever heard of a "MOU" (memo of understanding) That is where the basic concept of the development should be laid out. Who is going to do what? Laying out funding, scope , job promises, tax breaks etcetera, etcetra.
A "MOU" would keep us from looking like fools as we normally end up doing when the headlines fade and all the potential for free publicity has been gained by developers willing to use Hartford.It would also let us know that Centerplan and the City actually have a plan of action and a clear definition of what "DONO" is envisioned as , instead of the seat of the pants approach we have been willing to settle for so far.
Maybe the plan is to sandwich the Hard Rock Café in between the supermarket and the affordable market rate housing we were promised. Unfortunately we are the last ones to know what is planned, although I'm now sure that even the "powers to be" know what they want. I think it is that old philosophy that if you throw enough against the wall, something is bound to stick. That philosophy unfortunately makes for very messy walls and probably very limited benefits for the people of Hartford who so sorely need a "win".
Maybe if we can't clean up our own act with sound business practices, we luckily can count on law enforcement and related Grand Juries. That saved us from the Perez era and promises to rescue us from millions of potential losses from the Wooden/Kennedy era Council reign with Dillon Stadium.
And while I am at it on broken promises, what is up with the "welcome mat" to Hartford as you exit Route 2. Remember the old Channel 3 site. that was demolished after 3 was driven to the suburbs by a less than friendly City Hall. We were sold a bill of goods for an environmentally sound, state of the art office building with rooftop patios and terraces. Are we still giving tax breaks for that property?
What ever happened to the luxury condos slated for the old YMCA on Jewel Street. I can answer that one quickly..... NOTHING. Northland's gentrification of that property never took place ( Well, I guess maybe it did succeed, the facility was shut down). A building that used to allow Hartford youth to interact and play basketball alongside future US Senators, politicians and other leaders was effectively shut down as another broken promise to Hartford's people. It sits empty and decaying today.
Enough is enough. We have a suite full of lawyers in the Corporation Counsel's Office that should be deigning these announcements to protect our interests as a City instead of just making empty headlines for developers. I want to see these projects succeed, but I also want to see our interests protected.