Sunday we looked at how Meriden can go about engaging the youth, what has done and the general interest level. Oh, you missed it? No worries - click this and you can recap it.
Sunday Morning Jason Zandri posted his thoughts on his blog about Meriden’s pans. Zandri is a former Wallingford town councilor and he ran (unsuccessfully) for mayor last year. You can access his blog, Wallingford Politico, here.
It’s been interesting to hear from other towns, when possible, about Meriden’s plans. Zandri isn’t the only one in Wallingford concerned about Wallingford’s planning vs. Meriden’s. The fact is, Meriden has years of planning completed, changes on the way or already having taken place and they continue to plan for the future.
Now, I haven’t heard from a ton of other places. It’s not like a lot of other towns are planning for the high-speed rail either, but a handful are. But if you talk to state officials, they seem pretty enthused about where Meriden is in this process.
That said, there’s not a whole lot downtown right now making me jump out of my seat to run downtown that wasn’t there over the last few years. It’s not something that will happen overnight. That last sentence is something that has been repeated numerous times over numerous years. But it’s true. You need to do the planning first. Then you can change zoning to open the area up for developers, make projects happen, change the traffic if there is an issue, etc.
I won’t post it all, but that spurred a Twitter convo between myself, Jason, and a friend of mine who is a Meriden native and interested in seeing the downtown be revived. A few years older than me, he has been hearing about revitalization all his life.
The point is, he is someone in his mid-30s. While he would love to see downtown change, it’s been a long time coming. With a family, who knows how much he is jumping around from bar to bar like those in their 20s.
Now, I’m 25. Would I be willing to jump from bar to bar on a night my wife is taking care of the kids? Probably. Would he? probably. I’ve got other friends who travel to Wallingford every weekend to go to the bars, socialize, etc. Others go to Middletown, sometimes West Hartford and wherever else.
The fact is, if there are a grouping of nice bars in downtown Meriden, they will be used. But people feel safe going to Wallingford now where they know they will show up and there will be things to do.
Obviously this whole plan isn’t for bars though. There’s a living aspect, a traveling aspect, a working aspect, etc. And you have to wonder what is first the chicken or the egg - do you get people living there first or get restaurants/bars there first? Do restaurants/bars even bother if there aren’t any people there? It’s complicated.
So will a hypothetical man, 35-years-old with a family, want to move into this downtown? No, probably not. We live in a world and area where we’ve gotten kind of used to our suburbs and inner cities. But would a 25-year-old without a wife, without kids, want to live in a downtown? Possibly. What about a downtown with all of these amenities? Probably. They do it now in Middletown. Ok, Middletown has Wesleyan. They do it in New Haven. Ok so there’s Yale and other schools. It certainly helps having a large school that draws additional people to downtowns. Meriden has Middlesex - a commuter school. Downtown West Hartford is younger though.
No matter what, Meriden won’t be a downtown West Hartford, East Hartford, Hartford, Middletown, whatever. It’ll be something different. And whether it works, who knows. But city officials are building and planning toward something. And Zandri would rather there be planning than just enjoying what’s there, hoping it all works in the long run. People in there 20s? Well, some prefer to be planning for the future and others who just enjoy what’s going on and hoping it all works in the long run.