Conversation with Jamie Bratt, Director of Planning and Economic Development for the City of Hartford

What are some projects that are exciting for Hartford and the surrounding area?

You know, I'm a big believer that incremental change in smaller projects throughout a district can sometimes have an even bigger impact than one individual mega project.  For example, did you know that Downtown Hartford has delivered almost 950 apartment units in the past four years, and the average occupancy of all the projects combined is 92%!?  Talk about a pent up demand for urban living.  Those feet on the street, plus about 2,100 new state employees on constitution plaza and an additional 2,000+ students and faculty from UCONN joining the higher education concentration in the city - that all adds up more people, more purchasing power, more community, more vibrancy.  And that's what the downtown really needed most.  You should see more retail follow on the heels of that residential wave.  Plus there are about 600 more units in the pipeline for the next 3-5 years.

Another project I just love is Coltsville.  So many of us remember the dilapidated campus for so many years.  And for me that blue onion dome is like a barometer for the city.  So now when people see that whole campus looking gorgeous and occupied, that's a positive harbinger for the city as a whole.  Thanks to some incredible champions in the political realm, the public and the private sectors, Colstville now boasts loft style apartments, thriving school buildings and offices, etc.  It took decades.  I like to look at that project as a reminder not to give up when the going gets tough.  The National Park Service has adopted the park and the Colt buildings as a national park, which is an incredible honor especially for an urban park.  NPS will be restoring two of the oldest and most fragile of the colt buildings into their museum and visitors center, with tours including a trip up to that iconic onion dome.  And if that wasn't enough, how about Thomas Hooker Brewery returning to Hartford with a tasting room and gorgeous outdoor patio right there in the colt complex?  The bar is milled from 100+ year old timbers from the Colt Shooting range.  Fantastic!  See you there later this summer!


What are your hopes for the city?

I hope that through economic development, the poverty rate and the crime rate and the mill rate will all go down. I hope millennials in Texas will one day use Hartford and cool in the same sentence. I hope the nearly 100,000 people who come to Hartford every week to earn their paycheck and go home to another lovely place will go out of their way not to bash the city.  Rather, I hope they will go out of their way to tell their friends and family something good and personal about Hartford.  I hope they will play Keney Golf course once in a while and bring their clients there too (it's BEAUTIFUL!).  I hope they'll have their kids birthday parties at Bushnell Park Carousel, or grab a bite to eat at the Bear's BBQ, or taste the latest brew at Hanging Hills, or join the board of a local nonprofit.  I hope EVERYONE will see the Yardgoats play at Dunkin' Donuts stadium.  I don't get worked up that some folks choose to live in Simsbury or Glastonbury or anywhere else.  Keep in mind that if this were Chicago, those towns would likely just be neighborhoods inside the city!  New England just does things on a micro scale.  But especially for the many thousands of people whose Hartford job pays the bills, I sincerely hope they show Hartford some love.  For those of you already doing that, I truly THANK YOU.  Keep up the good work and spread the good word!