By John Murray

   Neil O’Leary ran his 2011 mayoral campaign on the central theme of economic development, and he promised, if elected, to deliver a more aggressive approach to business recruitment. O’Leary also  vowed to raise the city’s profile by taking Waterbury’s message of opportunity on the road. And in the first ten months of his administration O’Leary has traveled more than the previous mayor, who was averse to travel, accomplished in ten years in office. O’Leary attended the National Conference of Mayors in Washington D.C. where he had the opportunity to meet President Barack Obama, he led a small contingent of municipal leaders to Idaho on a fact finding mission about a proposed hospital merger, and this week O’Leary is traveling alone to Kentucky to participate in the Mayor’s Institute On City Design where he will seek innovative ideas on how to solve transportation issues in Waterbury.

   While cities usually pursue state and federal dollars, this gathering is about collecting ideas. Participating cities had to apply and get accepted to attend the conference, and the selected municipalities are Atlantic City, N.J., Cambridge, Mass, Clarksville, Tennessee, Joplin, Missouri, Lexington, Kentucky, Lower Merion, PA, Reading, PA, and Waterbury, CT.

   Each mayor of his or her city will stand and present a design problem their hometown is facing, and immediately after the presentation a group of experts on architecture and design will weigh in on possible solutions. The gathering is a collaborative of municipal leaders, academics, federal transportation experts, and a panel of private sector urban design specialists.

   The focus of Waterbury’s presentation is the Freight Street Corridor and its potential for transit oriented redevelopment. In the conversation is the train station, the greenway project, mass transit and the critical attempts to link all this together to connect Freight Street to downtown. Waterbury’s main question will be – “What steps should be taken today as Waterbury designs its train station renovations to make linkages to the Freight Street corridor that will promote the integration of transportation and land use? And what are the next steps the city should be taking to ensure that the corridor redevelops as a sustainable, livable urban neighborhood?”

   O’Leary is traveling to Lexington tomorrow afternoon, October 10th, and will be the first presenter on Thursday morning. O’Leary will lay out the scope of the problem for 75 minutes, there will be a short coffee break, and then the panel of design experts will weigh in on possible solutions. O’Leary is being prepped for his presentation by city grant writer Kathy McNamara, and Andrew Martelli, a project manager for the Waterbury Development Corporation. The conference ends late Friday afternoon.