Some Blue Back Square Musings from 2008
Posted by whforums on August 5, 2008
I wasn’t around when Blue Back Square was going up – I was living in upstate New York, receiving off and on updates from my parents, first about this “new development,” then about “Blue Blood Square” … I didn’t really understand the design or scope of the project until I moved back to West Hartford. In fact, all I really knew was that my parents had voted against it as often as they could.
Since I’ve moved back, I’ve seen a ribbon cutting ceremony, I’ve seen Blue Back mostly filling in – I mean, we’ve even got our library back. And you know what? I like Blue Back Square, and had I been living here at the time (not knowing what propaganda was swirling) I think I would have supported it – mixed use development that takes the hub of town and expands it as living space, library space and shopping district? Get me a performance space and life is beautiful.
And this sentiment seems to be generally shared across town – at least, whenever I walk through BBS, there are people all around – either shopping or window shopping. There’s no question the area is alive, and, as yet, it doesn’t seem to be killing West Hartford Center proper. In part, that’s because BBS is still a destination – something people in the region have heard of (and it’s gotten a lot of press) and want to see. And yet even as I write all of this in celebration, I can’t ignore that I perceive BBS with some fringes of concern. Chief among them – how long will BBS remain a destination, and how long will it remain unique? And once it’s no longer a destination – can we, the residents of West Hartford, support it?
I ask because of this article in the Norwalk Advocate that discusses the development of “Blue Back” like space in Norwalk. Ken Narva of Street-Works (the managing development partner of BBS) says of his development: “This is Norwalk, this is not West Hartford, people get tired of hearing about Blue Back Square,” Narva said. “But it is relevant because Waypointe is a mixed-use development with three uses – retail, residential and office.”
The essential question for me is this. If people are “tired of hearing about BBS,” at what point will people become tired of visiting BBS? What happens to BBS – and the Center, when BBS is no longer the “it” place, or, at the very least, as it ages? I think about the debacle of Constitution Plaza (which didn’t start out as a debacle), in part because, in 20 years, some of the wonderful, large spaces in Blue Back will likely be divided (and we’ll certainly see our share of empty storefronts). And I also worry that, with several new restaurants on the way, West Hartford can only support so many. When the visitors dry up – then what?
Just some Blue Back Square musings from 2008 …