Ten Point Plan for Waterbury
Economic Development is a long term progressive goal; it is not a one-shot opportunity. It’s about building a foundation and adding to it. Some recent examples: Lowell, MA, Burlington, VT and even Providence RI. These cities can show us the way, and even they are suffering through the economic recession.
These are a few of the fundamentals we continue to focus on. They are not comprehensive but worth considering:
• 1. Build upon what is “unique” in our city, e.g. the Palace Theater, Seven Angels, UCONN downtown. From these attributes we can market and attract residents from outside our city. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) is a great example of partnering with hundreds of people from outside our borders.
• 2. Market the unique qualities and attributes of our community: Location, Affordability, Workforce and Safety – L.A.W.S. We need to continue harping on this message. It resonates with business people and future investors from across the region. Coming out of the recession we want to emerge a good place to do business.
• 3. Compel young people, couples and singles to live downtown. We will not save our downtown unless we can get people to live here. We need medical residents from the hospitals, students from UCONN and Post University and young professionals who want an affordable urban experience. No one will open a store, retail business, or new restaurant until we improve the foot traffic downtown. We need more market rate housing – so called “mixed use” – with residents living upstairs, and businesses operating downstairs. Waterbury has thousands of seniors living downtown but it will take an influx of young professionals to revive economic activity.
• 4. Demolish several of downtown’s blighted buildings. Portions of upper South Main need to demolished, where there are ugly, empty, blighted buildings that have been sitting for years. We can add new surface parking, walkways and lighting to this new open space. We should consider knocking down buildings in the lower North Main Street area as well, including the failing parking garage behind the old bowling alley.
• 5. Connect the “improvement projects” from the north and south end. The new north end school will present an opportunity to update and improve the entire north end running into downtown. The Loyola Project will offer the city an opportunity to improve a deplorable area that is like a spreading cancer. These projects will halt the decay but we need to keep up the momentum into the downtown area, a logical next step.
• 6. Address parking, a longstanding issue. First, let’s make the portion of West Main Street directly in front of the Immaculate Church one-way and make it diagonal parking adjacent to the Green. This will create dozens of parking spots in a very busy area, a benefit to the Mattatuck Museum, the Immaculate Church and the YMCA.
We should allow parking everywhere. Along Center Street, on both sides, put some meters up – or, even better, get rid of the meters and allow limited, enforced 2-hour parking. Mark the tires and ticket anyone exceeding the two-hour limit as other cities do. You’ll only need one person to patrol for parking and it will put an end to the crazy “meter feeding” that goes on all day. Allow free parking in the ramp garage. The garage is already paid for so why not? It would be interesting to compare the cost of employing all the meter readers, administration, etc. to the revenue from parking tickets.
• 7. Buses: we need to get them off the Green and moved from the Brown Building corner. Moving them just two blocks from where they are would even make a difference. The battle continues.
• 8. Create more activities for families and children. CoCo Key Water Resort, the new Hamilton Park Athletic facility are a good start. Main Street Waterbury, The Spirit of Waterbury and other community organizations do a fabulous job on Halloween, at the annual Brew Fest and during holiday times. We need to create more events and have them as often as possible. There is not much else for families with small children to do. Perhaps making Howland Hughes a “family center” with continuous activities would be a winner.
• 9. Focus on Brownfield development. We are poised for some major environmental cleanup at the old Chase Industrial Commons and Cherry Street. The city should make this the most affordable industrial space in Connecticut. We have federal dollars for the clean up, let’s make these two locations the best, most affordable, most accessible commercial properties in the area. These properties are not presently generating much tax revenue. Anyway, we can afford to lease them for next to nothing in order to create jobs.
• 10. Continue to keep taxes down. As we hopefully head out of this recession we need to hold the line on spending and lower taxes, to make our commercial space attractive.