Bushnell Gardens will connect Main Street to Bushnell Park, and is a critical component of the iQuilt Plan. It will complete the GreenWalk, bridging the Capitol to the Riverfront, and with it the iQuilt Plan achieves its mission, which is to promote walking, biking and transit by creating a vibrant gathering place through enhancements of the downtown pedestrian network, to promote culture and hospitality by linking downtown destinations and highlighting their historic and cultural significance and lastly, through innovation and sustainability, bringing water management and sustainable design to downtown Hartford. But if we cannot realign Gold Street, then there is no space to create Bushnell Gardens. And without Bushnell Gardens, there is no link to Main Street, and no GreenWalk. The entire iQuilt Plan would be seriously compromised, right at its very heart.
The planned realignment of Gold Street was conceived in 2008, at the very beginning of the iQuilt initiative, to achieve a major public benefit: the unprecedented eastward extension of Bushnell Park all the way to Main Street. A walkable, green connection from Bushnell Park to Main Street is the critical missing link and lynchpin of the GreenWalk, a one-mile pedestrian promenade from the Capitol to the Connecticut River. The GreenWalk helps organize and connect Hartford’s extraordinary cultural assets. It is the centerpiece of the iQuilt Plan, and is one of the reasons the plan has garnered national attention and awards. The realignment of Gold Street is critical to the GreenWalk’s — and the iQuilt’s — success. For decades, the edges of Bushnell Park have been nibbled away by road widenings, resulting in the loss of several acres of park land; the Gold Street realignment will create the first expansion of Bushnell Park in 150 years. That expansion along Gold Street is called Bushnell Gardens, and it will add 1.5 acres of usable green space to Bushnell Park, with teaching gardens, a park house, a cafe, a bike station, and other wonderful facilities. This vision for Gold Street and Bushnell Gardens, has been presented publicly on more than 60 occasions, and has been perhaps the single most warmly embraced feature of the iQuilt Plan. The entire iQuilt Plan would be seriously compromised, right at its very heart.
The current alignment of Gold Street dates from the 1970’s, and is anything but historic — it was engineered for the convenience of commuters in automobiles. The new realignment of Gold Street is designed, by contrast, for pedestrians. The realignment creates a new pedestrian promenade from the Travelers and the Atheneum through Bushnell Gardens all the way to Hoadley Gate, (which is incorporated into the design). The fact that the current triangular lawn south of Gold (which is City property) has been an unused leftover space for more than 40 years demonstrates that the current alignment is an impediment to the revitalization of downtown Hartford as a vibrant walkable district. The new alignment will accommodate vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians; create an active new public park space for Hartford; and help secure the iQuilt’s benefits for future generations.