Thursday, August 9, 2007

Liberty Square to be built as planned

Despite the fact that the Common Council put the onus for negotiating concessions to design plans for Liberty Square, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the design as presented.

The design does feature a slightly longer building than the one originally planned, but three major points of criticism were not addressed by the commission. Critics of the plan, including me, pointed out that the entrance/exit across a Main Street sidewalk was a pedestrian hazard and an accident waiting to happen. We also criticized moving a 150 year old house, with historical significance, to lay blacktop for 10 parking spaces. And we argued that the parking lot built along Main Street would create a gap between buildings which is in direct opposition to all acknowledged design concepts for downtown streetscapes.

With very few questions even raised, the panel voted to accept the design. They even rejected a design modification recommended by the Police Department for a curb bump out at the entrance/exit on Main. Police said the bump out would signal pedestrians and autos that the area was a caution zone. Lawyers for the developer and the P&Z thought it would be too difficult for snowplows to negotiate.

In good news, developer David Nyberg was granted permission to develop apartments in an unused industrial building on Stack Street in the North End. Nyberg is a noted developer whose philosophy is to re-use old buildings, and has done so to great effect in New Haven, Hartford and Worcester. The P&Z almost rejected the plan when a neighboring connected industrial building complained about parking. Nyberg interrupted a motion, promised to make good on parking problems with neighbors, and came out a winner. Ironic that this developer who is creating dense housing, with his own money, and is passionate about Middletown's possibilities, was almost sent packing by a panel that seems to be operating out of a 1960's concept of urban development.

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