New Britain, Connecticut, is split by a highway overpass—which is also the city’s main street. Will a high-design walkway bridge deep divisions?
by Kriston Capps
New Britain takes a lot of pride in its favorite son, Elihu Burritt. A metalworker who advocated for peace, abolition, and temperance as a diplomat for President Abraham Lincoln’s administration, the “Learned Blacksmith” coined the Latin phrase that serves as the town slogan: Industria implet alveare et mele fruitur (“Industry fills the hive and enjoys the honey”).
Burritt is even responsible for the city’s official emblem, the beehive, which appears on everything from stadiums to the city seal. Now, city leaders hope to apply some New Britain honeycomb to a highway overpass—one that’s been a problem for the city for almost 40 years.
That highway is Route 72, which was steered right through New Britain back in the 1970s. The overpass itself is the city’s Main Street. According to Mark Moriarty, director of public works for New Britain, the aim of the new overpass is to stitch back together two severed parts of downtown.
“For quite a long stretch, it’s unfriendly,” Moriarty says. “One side of Main Street is flourishing more than the other.”
The “Beehive” overpass—the work of civil-engineering firm Fuss & O’Neill, designers Pirie Associates, and architecture firm Svigals + Partners—will be the centerpiece of a new plan to create a more walkable downtown. The project aims to relink New Britain’s downtown with its Little Poland neighborhood by building a standardized, pedestrian streetscape across what is now a fairly desolate overpass between the two.
Copyright 2015 The Atlantic Monthly Group.