ZoneHartford: A Transformative Citywide Form-Based Code

Recipient: City of Hartford
Partners: Fitzgerald & Halliday, Inc.; Codametrics, Inc.

 

Opportunities & Challenges

  • The City of Hartford is at a tipping point as the city comes under mounting pressure to either sell off or leverage development of many of its abandoned or underused public and private parcels and buildings, to ease the property-tax burden on residents and businesses.
  • The city population increases by approximately 50% during weekdays as a result of commuters into the city, yet there is 20% office vacancy and 40% retail vacancy in downtown. 22% of downtown Hartford land is taken up by parking – and this does not include on-street parking. Since 1960, surface parking has grown 300% in downtown*.

Highlights

  • ZoneHartford is a comprehensive and complete overhaul of the City of Hartford’s zoning language, the goal of which is to reduce redevelopment burdens, advance smart-growth principles, and promote environmental stewardship.
  • The new code is visionary in its sustainability components, but it’s important to mention the “small stuff” that will likely do just as much to encourage private investment in Hartford’s neglected urban core.
  • ZoneHartford provides clear written and graphic direction, removes uncertainty by making most uses/building types “as of right”, and eliminates costly parking requirements that also inhibit Main Street pedestrian orientation.
  • Community engagement was extensive, and involved a two-year public process involving over 100 community, business, and stakeholder meetings and a diverse 14-member advisory group – in addition to the City’s Planning & Zoning Commission. In the end, the zoning code was adopted unanimously.

The Return On Investment

  • Since approval of the new regulations, the City reports 264 Historic Review applications; 159 zoning permits; 58 site plan reviews; 30 variance applications; and 13 special permit applications.
  • Hog River Brewing Company, in the city’s Parkville neighborhood, opened a new tap room – made possible by a reversal of the city’s previous ban on making and serving alcoholic beverages under the same roof.

What’s Next?

  • Major development approvals under the new regulations, a number of which utilizing the new “campus overlay format”, include:
    • Bowles Park Master Plan (Housing Authority site 300+ units)
    • Westbrook Village Master Plan (Housing Authority site 300+ units)
    • Swift Factory Historic Mill Redevelopment in the Promise Zone (North Hartford)
    • Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) special permits for Ana Grace Academy and Middle School buildings (rehab and expansion of existing buildings in the Coltsville campus)

*UConn Department of Landscape Architecture, Design IV-Urban Planning & Design class research: Hartford Urban Planning and Design, Fall 2016.