A Regional Corridor is Reborn

Posted on Monday, December 5 2011 by Heather Brandon

Three regions come togetherAn area previously known as the Knowledge Corridor is being rebranded and reborn as New England’s Sustainable Knowledge Corridor, thanks in part to a federal grant aimed at improving life in the region in a number of measurable ways.

The areas of work include housing, education, transportation, employment, nutrition, and community resources. Three regional planning agencies are the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission of Springfield, the Capitol Region Council of Governments of Hartford, and the Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency of Bristol.

According to a two-page summary available from the Hartford-based planning agency, the four key components of the three-year initiative are planning activities; civic engagement; capacity-building, including studies; and metrics and information-sharing. HUD has awarded $4.2 million to the combined region for planning purposes.

A number of rather significant moving parts will contribute to the planning work, including a massive sustainability strategy for the region, the integration of regional plans so they are somewhat streamlined, and a civic engagement and public outreach process to ensure diverse participation. A market analysis of bus rapid transit and rail corridor use is anticipated, as well as the preparation of a model affordable housing code and sustainable land use codes for ten municipalities.

Place-based projectsSix specific projects are targeted as models for how place-based improvements can make towns and cities more livable. These are in Springfield, Chicopee, and Holyoke in Massachusetts; and in Enfield, Hartford, and New Britain in Connecticut (see image).

The revitalization of Court Square in Springfield was selected to demonstrate how historic building renovation can succeed for both business and residents in a mixed-use setting. This project has struggled in the past, with the city selecting a developer, and the developer backing off. The building’s interior was in very rough condition when I toured it in late 2006. It is a key project for Springfield, and a very ambitious one to highlight.

A plan for the North Park Design District is in store for Hartford, on the other hand. Creating a bridge between downtown and the neighborhood immediately to its north is a similarly formidable task, but this one will be on paper. The resulting plan will prepare for increased transportation options, affordable housing, and better “economic competitiveness” from multiple factors, including access to better jobs from housing in the area.

A new Sustainable Knowledge Corridor website is being launched this week, with a reception and demonstrations at an event on Wednesday afternoon at Goodwin College. The site is at http://sustainableknowledgecorridor.org, and looks very promising as a way to keep up with activities and voice ideas.

There is also an online survey, available through Wednesday, to pitch in suggestions regarding the new initiative.

More detailed information about the HUD grant can be found at the CRCOG website.

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