by Don Stacom | Hartford Courant
NEW BRITAIN – The functional but dreary Main Street bridge over Route 72 will be transformed into a colorful downtown centerpiece with a distinctive beehive theme by mid-2018, city planners announced Tuesday night.
A $5.6 million redesign of the connection between downtown and the Little Poland section will feature pocket parks on the north end, landscaping and benches, 5-foot-wide bike lanes and 17- to 21-foot-wide sidewalks.
A huge, illuminated aluminum beehive sculpture will stand at the center, and both sides of the bridge will get 10- to 16-foot-high translucent panels in various tones of orange and honey yellow. The top of those panels will follow a gentle wave shape and will be topped with a distinctive LED lighting system.
“This will serve as a signature project to define downtown New Britain,” Mayor Erin Stewart told a small audience of city officials, downtown business representatives and residents at a planning meeting.
The bridge is the latest and biggest phase of a yearslong campaign to attract new housing and business by revitalizing the city’s downtown.
The strategy is to refresh streets that were designed for New Britain’s industrial era by attracting far more pedestrians and cyclists. Stewart’s administration wants to create a livelier, more inviting atmosphere that could bring new apartments, stores and offices to the neighborhood surrounding the main CTfastrak station.
New Britain has been adding planters, bike lanes, benches and decorative lighting along some of its downtown streets, while reducing vehicle lanes. Redesigning the Main Street bridge will take that further, said Mark Moriarty, public works director.
“This will be the most important thing I’ve worked on in my career for changing a community,” Moriarty said.
“It’s not about the bridge, it’s about creating this great place where people could feel they’d enjoy visiting the art and architecture downtown,” said Ted DeSantos of the Fuss & O’Neill consulting firm.
The beehive theme stems from the city seal, which includes a beehive surrounded by bees with the motto “industry fills the hive and enjoys the honey.” That design dates to 1850; Stewart said the theme of community-based mutual success speaks to the city’s future as well as honoring its industrial heritage.
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