Most of us understood all along that a state which cannot meet its obligations ought not to borrow hundreds of millions more to renovate a failed and decrepit downtown arena. Unfortunately, a few of the folks who still don’t get it are on the state Bond Commission, and (at the governor’s behest) will vote today to borrow another $40 million to begin the XL face-lift.
They can say that’s all they’ve committed us to, but having put in $40 million to start the job they will soon be back for the rest, claiming it doesn’t make sense to stop part-way. That’s called good money after bad, and it applies to every dollar we have spent on the Hartford civic center — which started life (old-timers may recall) as much a retail mall as an event facility.
They built the mall into the arena because they knew that otherwise the facility would constitute a dead zone right in the heart of Hartford: four city blocks where nothing happens all day long, every day. That’s what it has become, and the sooner we admit it, stop wasting money on it and let someone find a use for the land that puts it back on the tax rolls, the better off we will be.
We can’t stop the $40 million from being bonded for the civic center, but maybe we could make sure it’s put to a good use —razing the blighted building and hauling off the rubble.
Then what? Cleaning it up and making it surface parking would do more in the short time to help area businesses than the multi-hundred-million-dollar renovation now planned. Then perhaps investors can start rebuilding the sort of low-rise mixed commercial/residential space that was there before that neighborhood was destroyed.
In time, the urban landscape we so prize when recreated in places like Blue Back Square could be restored where it belongs, in the center of our capitol city. That’s not a quick fix— there are no quick fixes for Hartford— but it would be a natural and permanent solution.
State Sen. Joe Markley, a Republican, represents Southington.