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Archive for the ‘Blue Back Square’ Category

It’s West Hartford Center Days …

Posted by whforums on January 10, 2009

So, until next Thursday, 1/15, West Hartford Center is having its “West Hartford Center Days” (actually started this past Thursday … they run a week). Now, justifiably, I’m sure many of you are asking the question “What’s a West Hartford Center Day?” Well, essentially it’s a giant sidewalk sale in the middle of the January cold and snow … think of it as West Hartford Center does Alaska, but without the glaciers.

More than 150 shops are participating (says the town website), and most of the sales are actually in the stores, so you can stay toasty while supporting local businesses that need your support. Restaurants in the Center/Square are getting in on the action, too — get a list of participating restaurants here (you’ll have to select today’s date from the calendar at the top of the page).

My wife and I recommend the sales at Crate and Barrel (I know, I know … not a local business. But the sales are great!). The sales on the top floor suck, but on the bottom floor, they’re out of this world. We got a rocking dish towel for 2 bucks, Christmas gear at 60% off, and spice jars at 60% off. Score.

If you see other good deals, feel free to spread the word to your fellow “consumers” below …

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Posted in Blue Back Square, West Hartford, West Hartford Center, West Hartford Restaurants | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

To Take You into The Weekend …

Posted by whforums on December 19, 2008

Two quick West Hartford Centery tidbits:

1. The town has signed a contract with Parcxmart for a debit/credit card on-street parking system. The card could also be used as a debit/credit card with participating local merchants. Sounds like, at least initially, you’ll run into a $500 limit, so if you find yourself spending a lot of money in the Center, you may have to recharge the card quite a bit. Expect to see the “West Hartford Center Credit/Debit Card” to launch in “first quarter 2009.” Get the full press release here.

2. Let me point you to the work of Andy Perez. Perez was tasked with the job of creating a web ad (dunno if it’s destined for life beyond the web?) for West Hartford Center. If you’re a process oriented person, you can see the process he followed, as well as his own blog post about the ad, on his blog. If you’re one of those “product-only” people, you can watch the ad on the “center and square” website (I had no clue until recently that that site existed).

Andy, I think the ad is great (especially the dancing Noah statue — if Noah could dance, well, I think you stone-cold got his moves)  — if you hadn’t said so, I’d never have guessed it was your first ad. But for the next draft, I need some of those credit/debit cards to float by, too.

Enjoy the snow.

Posted in Blue Back Square, Media, Parking, West Hartford, West Hartford Center, West Hartford Restaurants | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Monday Morning Quick Hits

Posted by whforums on November 16, 2008

Four quick hits for your Monday morning.

1. This piece from the Hartford Courant about Superintendent Sklarz’ salary and benefits. Bringing in a new superintendent will bring significant short term salary relief (we’d hope), and maybe some of those more extreme benefits (like $6,000 for driving your own car) could go away, too. The picture associated with the story is priceless (as long as you’re not the superintendent!).

2. The Courant also offers up this informative (though generally optimistic) read of BBS. Condos are still available if you want in (or can afford to get in).

3. A quick, positive review of The Counter over at Adventures through Connecticut. The wife and I have eaten at The Counter (I’m something of an english muffin fiend, and the idea of putting my burger on an english muffin was a vague form of heaven) and thought it was great. Surprisingly hard place to get into — but once PF Chang’s opens (have you seen the front of PF Changs and how it’s reshaped the mall? That’s for another post …), I’m sure that will relieve some pressure …

4. Most importantly, check out this post about Regionalism and Greater Hartford over at The Greater Hartford Real Estate Blog. It’s an informative and essential read for anyone interested in the topic of regionalism or the general future well being of the communities we share.

Posted in Blue Back Square, Quick Hits, Regionalism, West Hartford, West Hartford Restaurants, WHPS | Tagged: , | 10 Comments »

Celebrate (or Mourn) Blue Back Square’s First Birthday This Weekend

Posted by whforums on November 7, 2008

Either way, you get cake.

Sponsored by CBS Radio, BBS’ first birthday party has all kinds of strange goodies for you, like free flashlights, free tooth whitening, and “one free workout” (you’ll have to decide the ideal order in which to undertake these activities. There’s a jeweler offering free cider, but I fear this may only complicate things …). Whole Foods is serving up the cake, but it’s only good whlie supplies last, likely giving an advantage to those who can watch the cake be deployed from their windows (*shakes fist at the wealthy*).

Anyway, food, fun and entertainment this Saturday at BBS from 11-3. Rain date is Sunday 11-3. I think it would be great to see supporters and opponents of BBS sharing cake — it’s sort of the “West Hartford” way of breaking bread, yes?

Check out the flyer (it’s a .pdf) here.

Posted in Blue Back Square, Giant Cake, Things to Do, West Hartford | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Casting Your Votes, Down the Ballot

Posted by whforums on October 17, 2008

A couple of quick links this morning as we shift our attention to our next trip to the “privacy screens” — the November 4th election.

First, check out whctv’s programming schedule. Last night, they started showing pre-filmed debates for the 18th, 19th and 20th House districts as well as the 5th Senate district. These debates will keep running through the 4th of November.

If you’re into meeting the candidates more than you’re into watching them on local access, there’s a Candidate Forum at Blue Back Square’s Outdoor Gathering Space on Sunday from 2-4. This is a great opportunity to engage your local democracy by expressing your concerns to those who represent you and your family. It’ll also give you a chance to educate yourself about those names on the ballot that might otherwise make you feel under-informed. Check out a flier for the event in .pdf form (yeah, it’s going to start a download in some browsers) here.

And if you’re not registered to vote, register already. If you’re eligible and unregistered, what’s wrong with you?

More Guest Posts? “If You Build It …”

I’ve sent an email to Larson, Visconti and Fournier asking them to submit guest posts to WH Forums in the last week of October. No promises that we’ll hear from the candidates, but maybe if you folks make enough noise …

Posted in 2008 Election, Blue Back Square, Federal Government, Local Democracy, Media, West Hartford | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Help Me Quaker Green, You’re My Only Hope

Posted by whforums on September 4, 2008

For “whatever reason,” we’ve been written up in “My Midwest Magazine,” the in-flight magazine of Midwest Airlines (I know, I know – there’s a Midwest Airlines?).  Focusing mostly on the Quaker Green project (though also somewhat on Blue Back Square), the article essentially argues that, in this down economy and slow real estate market, West Hartford – and Elmwood particularly –  is a boom town.

And certainly there’s some truth to this.  If you take a look at what’s being said on the Greater Hartford Real Estate Blog and in the West Hartford News, it seems like there’s good reason to believe that the real estate market in West Hartford is at the very least percolating, and certainly not as badly affected as the national market generally.  But what’s particularly revealing about this article is not its supposed shot in the dark accuracy re: our real estate market, but instead the developer infused enthusiasm  that cynically seeks to portray the 60,000 of us as either a national salvation or, at the very least, some sort of new urban, old New England utopia.

The article argues that Elmwood is undertaking a “terrific upsurge in business development, with two new national chains building “in the area” (Price Rite and ALDI).  The article also says that with “business booming in Elmwood, there may be hope in an otherwise faltering real estate market.”  (Such that: America, on bended knee, speaks to us and says:  “Help me, Elmwood, you’re my only hope.”)  And who gets the credit for this boom?  Well, according to the author, “one developer polished a diamond in the rough – and transformed an enitre section of town in the process.”   In other words, if Elmwood is the Obi-Wan of a nation’s real estate crisis, we’re supposed to believe that Quaker Green is the Obi-Wan of Elmwood’s own crisis.

And if you’re buying all the optimism, the folks at Quaker Green would like you to know that 8 out of 20 condo units – and half of Quaker Green’s townhouses – are still available.  And I’m sure all of this sounds pretty good when you’re stuck on the tarmac in Milwaukee.

But let’s just imagine you are stuck in the tarmac in Milwaukee, and maybe you’ve heard something about some square … read about it in the New York Times or on some web ‘zine or something. Well, the article is quick to point out that the spaces in BBS, “a new, high-end live-work-play development,” are mostly being sold to “empty nesters … often as second homes.”  Doesn’t sound too live-work-play, does it?

You can check out the article here.  I’d be interested to hear your reactions – and I’ll start with my own:

We must resist the flattery of capital that develops “the news” in order to portray itself as each of our salvations.

Posted in Blue Back Square, Elmwood, National News, Sorry I'm So Cynical, West Hartford, West Hartford Center | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

“Mixed Use” Development and The Means of Forgetting

Posted by whforums on August 20, 2008

You’ll have to forgive me if it seems this post is piggy-backing on the conversation that’s happening over at Talk of West Hartford (an ongoing discussion about the successes and failures of BBS) – I was going to add another comment over there, but the more I wrote, the more it seemed clear this was going to be its own post.

It seems to me BBS begs a larger question than its parking garages (or even its own success or failure – which, let’s face it – we’re not going to adequately judge after the short gestation of nine months). And, though I don’t think a lot of you are going to like what I’m about to write, the question BBS begs is a regional and ethical question.

I caught some justified flack in response to my post about the Hartford shootings – people said that my call for greater regional responsibility was long on rhetoric and emotion and short on concrete ideas. And I think that’s true – when I wrote what I wrote, I was sorting through my own emotional reaction more than I was proposing solutions. I’m a critic, I’m a “feeling perceiver,” but I’m no politician – proposing solutions isn’t my strongest suit.

But as I’ve continued to sort, in my own mind, the disparity in dialog between West Hartford’s concerns (the cost of parking garages) and Hartford’s concerns (poverty and its consequences), one thing suffocates me – the energy West Hartford spends in its public spaces (everywhere from Blue Back Square to this blog) to create what amounts to a “Hartford amnesia.”

Blue Back Square makes a sound example of this. BBS was marketed as “mixed use development,” and it certainly is mixed use development. It’s shopping, living and it’s gathering – it’s your 21st century plaza, awash in brand and capital. And while I’m not always so crazy about capitalism, I’m willing to accept BBS for what it is. But in so doing, what BBS hides – or worse, what BBS encourages us to forget about, as we talk about it or walk through it — is that, as a new development, it has a social and ethical role beyond its own borders that it does not seem to be fulfilling. In other words, by mixing its properties and zoning, and by labeling itself “mixed use,” Blue Back Square actively encourages us to forget just how not mixed it is in the context of its region. It doesn’t take a genius to tell you that BBS was not designed with economic diversity in mind – but we seem to gloss over this essential problem in our dialog about it. As much as we talk about taxes and garages and LED lights, the greatest problem with Blue Back Square is that it lacks the economic and human diversity that will ultimately help the entire region grapple with the segregation poverty induces.

That all seems somewhat roundabout. We know who BBS is for, and that’s fine. We know who can live there and who can shop there, and that’s fine. I have nothing against those who do, and I’m not on any high horse – I’ve spent money at Blue Back Square, too. But I would challenge the town of West Hartford to make its next development project – its next mixed use project – a smart growth project. I would challenge the Town of West Hartford to make its next development project a project that welcomes economic and social diversity by making housing affordable and by making the focus of that development not its jeans stores or restaurants (which it may very well have) but rather the opportunity of access that is the bedrock of our ideals. It’s not that I don’t understand that development is more about money than ethics – it’s that I’m demanding that we begin to more seriously consider the ethical, democratic, human and regional implications of our development. In the end, it’s not about who we’re inviting in to what we develop – it’s about the passive, invisible and too often forgotten discrimination against who we’re keeping out.

West Hartford, Blue Back Square, and our bickering about it, is missing the point. The greatest problem isn’t the cost of the garages (though, as time goes on, that may prove to be a problem), the problem is that the development we undertook, by the nature of its exclusivity, induces an amnesia about the problems of our region and our own responsibilities in their light.

Posted in Blue Back Square, Ethics, Regionalism, West Hartford | Tagged: , , , | 14 Comments »

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 …

Posted in Blue Back Square, West Hartford, West Hartford Center | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »