2020 Awards of Excellence: The Beehive Bridge
World famous as the home of invention and manufacturing for over 200 years, New Britain’s downtown is itself being reinvented along with the 2015 arrival of CTfastrak. Capitalizing on this new transportation hub, the city of New Britain is implementing an energetic Streetscape Improvement Plan and Wayfinding Projects to revitalize and energize the downtown.
Downtown New Britain continues to experience an economic revival. Transformative projects by downtown developers are reshaping the downtown environment and paving the way for a dynamic, vibrant city with a healthy life of emerging restaurants, retail shops and arts organizations.
New Britain’s Beehive Bridge connects the downtown and Little Poland neighborhoods with an iconic structure that merges function and form, solving the connectivity problem and creating a space that draws people to the area. This bridge that was designed to be singular is truly bringing people together.
The nearby New Britain CTFastrak Station sits on a state-owned bridge allowing Main Street to cross over Route 72. The former Main Street Bridge, which was neither walkable nor bikeable, separated two areas: the City’s vibrant Little Poland neighborhood and downtown New Britain. The City recognized it had an opportunity to connect the two neighborhoods with an iconic bridge would create the conditions for future investment in downtown.
While economic development was the main driver for this project, the City recognized a unique opportunity to do something different. The six-year long design and creation of The Beehive Bridge facilitated a spirited community input process representing the heritage of the city and embracing a bright future. The vision that emerged was authentic and adventurous – New Britain is not afraid to be itself!
As envisioned in Phase 8 of New Britain’s Complete Streets Plan, the finished bridge is a unique problem solver. Five lanes were reduced to three, to both reduce traffic speeds and to allow for bike lanes and significantly wider sidewalks. Additional Complete Streets components include trees, plantings, and a pedestrian enclosure in the shape of a 12 foot-tall beehive. Thirteen-foot-tall aluminum bees anchor the four corners of the bridge and the entirety of the bridge is surrounded by a “honeycomb”, which serves as a sun screen while reducing both wind and noise. The curved walls create a dynamic shape that changes overhead as one walks the length of the bridge.
New Britain’s downtown is on a roll. Under construction is Columbus Commons, a $58 million mixed-use, transit-oriented development with 160 new apartment units within walking distance of CTFastrak and the Beehive Bridge.