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Innovation in the Land of Steady Habits

Posted on by Jessica Inacio

Innovation in the Land of Steady Habirs

They say there are two seasons in Connecticut: winter and construction. We are well into construction season, we can see roads, buildings and other projects being worked on throughout our state. Some are just simple maintenance. Others are new ideas coming online. One new project a few blocks from my home in south downtown Hartford, is a mixed-use gas station, with a convenience store and food market as well as eight apartments above.

There has been some talk amongst my neighbors about who would want to live by a gas station—is this a viable option? Having seen the renderings myself and having watched the progression of the building, the apartments face Main Street rather than the gas station and both the gas station and stores will satisfy a need in that neighborhood. It is also the first piece of development in the Bushnell Neighborhood, which the city hopes to convert from primarily surface lots to include new residential properties.

As we look to get rid of many of the surface lots in Hartford, I think to the parking lots I’ve seen in other places. In Europe, I have seen many parking lots built under buildings, entering at the street level of the property and continuing lower. I have also seen their use of technology to highlight vacant spots—using red and green lights to indicate availability which can be seen before turning into a lane. This makes parking much more efficient and minimizes cars from circling the same lanes over and over again.

Our cities are looking to minimize reliance on cars and increase multimodal transportation. This is key especially for the younger generation that prefers to walk, bike, or take public transportation. However, at least until Connecticut’s transportation between towns and cities improves, cars will continue to be a necessity for most residents. New England, compared to the rest of the U.S., is like Europe in that it is older and must work with less developable land to accommodate new needs and attract visitors and residents alike.

In addition to construction season, it is also vacation season! What have you seen in your travels that show innovative uses of space? What will you bring back from your next trip that can be incorporated in your community?