New Britain is working to undo past planning and transportation decisions that resulted in a downtown road network that is overbuilt and greatly favors vehicles over pedestrians with their Complete Streets Master Plan for Downtown New Britain. This innovative comprehensive plan garnered them CMSC’s 2014 Award of Excellence for Public Space. The award was sponsored by local developer Jasko Development and Webster Bank.
Most planning projects identify further work to be performed that requires additional investment, and the Complete Streets Master Plan for Downtown New Britain was no exception. In total over $25 million of Complete Streets / Streetscape enhancement work was identified in this master plan. But as a testament to the Plan’s success the City was able to use the work performed to compete for and win a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) TCSP Grant for $1.3 million; a State of CT Transit Oriented Development Grant for $750,000; and a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Bus Livability Grant for $1.4 million, among other grant monies.
In urban cities, many planning documents like the Complete Streets Master Plan for Downtown New Britain are also directly affiliated with a single mayor’s agenda, and are often disregarded if there is a change of administration. Not so in New Britain. While the planning and implementation process associated with the Complete Streets Master Plan for Downtown New Britain has spanned three mayors representing both major political parties, the strong support of City leaders for this project has never wavered.
The Master Plan looks at five distinct study areas that, when combined, make up downtown New Britain. Each of these five areas serves a different purpose, and will require a different level of effort of improvements. The study areas themselves largely focus on the Main Street corridor. Through this Master Plan, the intent is to establish a common look and a distinct sense of place throughout the downtown area, which will be accomplished through Complete Streets-inspired streetscape design standards that will be constructed as funding becomes available.
This comprehensive Master Plan includes the following components: Downtown Parking; Bus Connectivity; Wayfinding & Historical Signage; Public Art & Monuments; Bicycle Connectivity; Palette and Design Standards.
A group of participants including the Downtown Streetscape Working Group, City of New Britain (Mayor’s Office, Public Works, Planning, and Parks Departments), New Britain Downtown District, Polonia Business District, Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) & ITBD, Central Region Council of Governments (CRCOG), and the Project Consultant Team (Urban Engineers, and Richter, Cegan and Webb Landscape Architects) came together to create the plan.
- New Britain’s Complete Streets Master Plan has led to increased interest in the downtown by outside developers, and an invigorated belief in the future of downtown by the community as a whole.
- Even before the planning was complete, the City was able to supplement the planning work with nearly $4 million in grant money toward the construction of streetscape improvements, some of which have been completed, some of which are underway.
- In less than three years the project leveraged a small investment of federal H.U.D. grant money ($212,500) to develop a comprehensive Master Plan that has already resulted in the City being awarded over $9 million in competitive state and federal grants. Additionally the Complete Streets construction will help support private investment and job growth downtown, as well as CTfastrak ridership.
- The planning was managed as a community-based project and run through a working group that involved a wide range of stakeholders, each of which has a vested interest in the revitalization of downtown. The Working Group membership was extremely diverse, both culturally and professionally – from the Broad Street Polish business community, to area artists, to representatives from the local university, to municipal officials and developers.