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THE GENERAL PLAN

Purpose of the Plan of Development
Communities grow because of a combination of public and private activities. Private initiative is responsible for building stores and factories and homes and for carrying on the business ventures by which the community earns its living. Public action by the City, and sometimes by the State or Federal Government, provides the streets and highways, establishes parks, builds schools, installs sewers and water mains and in general assures the physical environment and facilities with which the community can function. The purpose of the Plan is to record the best thinking of the community as a whole about its future physical development. Some of the objectives of the Plan may be accomplished promptly and therefore need immediate consideration. Others are long range, to be put into effect at some future date. Therefore, the Plan must constantly be reviewed by city officials and interested citizens and brought up to date at frequent intervals.

The general statutes direct the Planning Commission to "prepare, adopt and amend a Plan of Development." This Plan is to show the Commission's recommendations fo future use of land, for types and densities of residential development in various areas, for proposed streets, for parks and playgrounds, and for the general location of public buildings and utilities. The law requires that the Plan be based on studies of "physical, social, economic and governmental conditions and trends...to promote with the greatest efficiency and economy the coordinated development of the municipality." Another provision of the law requires that all proposals involving the location, acceptance or abandonment of streets or the location of a park, playground, school or other municipal buildings or public utility or public housing or redevelopment must be submitted to the Planning Commission for its advice before any action is taken. If the proposal is disapproved by the Planning Commission, it can only be adopted by a two-thirds vote of the City Council.

Middletown and the expressway system
Middletown is appropriately named since it lies in the geographical center of Connecticut. It is and always has been a crossroads town. Its location on the Connecticut River once made it the largest community in Connecticut. River traffic and later the railroads gave it importance as a trading and manufacturing center. The pattern of its future development has now, to a considerable degree, been set by the State's overall plan for a comprehensive expressway system. When this is completed in this area, within another decade, Middletown will lie on three of the most important arteries. A more complete discussion of the highway pattern is included in the chapter on Circulation Plan

The Interstate Route 91 crosses the City somewhat west of the center and its presently under construction. Route 9 is the north-south thoroughfare of the lower Connecticut Valley and will shortly be reconstructed both north and south of Middletown as an expressway. The present Route US 6A is an east-west main highway running across the State, although at present it follows a circulation route and passes through numerous towns. It is now being relocated and rebuilt in Meriden, where it has an interchange with both Route I-91 and the Wilber Cross Parkway. Eventually it will be rebuilt through Middletown as an east-west expressway.

These expressways will make Middletown easily accessible to all parts of the State and to principal points of the New England-New York seaboard areas. This will place the City in a strategic position to attract new industries and distributive enterprises. Branch offices of large-scale concerns wishing to cover the Connecticut territory will find this a very central location.

Similarly, the highway system will encourage the growth of the neighboring towns of the Valley, to whom Middletown is a metropolitan center. This in turn can mean a substantial growth in the retail segment of the City's economy. Another factor which will be helped by better highway access is the evident growth of Wesleyan University. Expansion of its many activities beyond its undergraduate field will bring more people to Middletown and consequently create a demand for more commercial services.

Basic Principals of the Plan
What kind of a community are we planning for? How big will Middletown be? Population trends of both City and region are discussed in the next chapter, with the conclusion that Middletown should plan today for an ultimate population of around 65,000 people. Connecticut is now one of the fastest growing states in the east. the Midstate Region, comprising of Middletown and its six surrounding towns, is growing at a slightly faster rate than the State as a whole. Although Middletown has shown a relatively slow growth in recent times, its strategic location and the land and facilities which it has to offer point to a considerable increase over the next few decades.

Middletown has many desirable characteristics as a place in which to live: ample open spaces, scenic beauty, pleasant residential neighborhoods, little congestion or overcrowding. In addition to its own sources of employment, many other centers of work opportunities are being placed within easy reach by the many highway improvements now existing or in prospect. To preserve Middletown's amenities and the characteristics which make it so desirable, the future development should follow a pattern of relatively low density, with plenty of open space, similar to its present aspect. The plan has been developed with these factors in mind.

A community's existence rests basically on its economic opportunities. Middletown benefits especially from three sources: its industries, its retail trade and the income brought in by its institutions, especially Wesleyan. The economic background for planning, is treated more fully in the Chapter on Economic Background for the Plan. A fourth economic opportunity is also mentioned, namely the potential attraction of the City's location on the expressway system for distributing businesses and for sales headquarters or branch offices of concern whose activities cover the whole State.

The general plan for the whole city area is contained on the General Plan Map. This map shows the areas allocated for industrial use, as more fully described in the industrial development section of this chapter. Because of the importance of the Central part of Middletown in the community's economic development, special study has been given to the central business district and the surrounding areas, including the blocks between the principal business area and the Wesleyan campus west of High Street. This detailed plan is contained in Map of the General Plan: Central Area.

Urban Renewal and Middletown Center
Wesleyan University has expressed the intention to carry out an extensive program of expansion of its physical plant. At the same time the City has been conducting a thorough study of urban renewal under the Community Renewal Program. Current provisions of federal legislation covering urban renewal (Section 112 of the Housing Act) provide that the City may receive as a credit towards its share of the cost of a renewal project the amount of certain expenditures made by a college, university or hospital for acquisition of land for expansion if it is within or near the renewal project. Much of the expenditures which Wesleyan has been making and appears likely to make are eligible for this credit. The Community Renewal Report just cited gives preliminary figures to indicate that Middletown could undertake a very extensive renewal program in the central business district at little or no cost to the taxpayers because of these potential credits. This makes it practical to carry out a much more far reaching plan for the area than would otherwise be possible.

    The chief attributes of a good downtown area plan are:
  • Easy access, which in Middletown means primarily vehicular access from all parts of the City and surrounding region.
  • Ample and convenient parking facilities.
  • Convenient pedestrian ways within the area and its several parts, which means that component parts, such as the retail complex or the administrative center, should be compactly planned so as to reduce as much as possible the distance a person must walk.
Region access to Middletown's "CBD" will be principally by way of one or another of the expressways. These arteries and other thoroughfares are more fully discussed in the chapter regarding the Circulation Plan. Route 9, the principal north-south artery of the Valley, traverses the eastern edge of the central district. As explained in the Circulation Plan, the completion of Route 9 as an expressway will mean the elimination of all local traffic on Acheson Drive. Therefore, this plan provides for improvements to DeKoven Drive as a local thoroughfare. The location of the proposed Route 6A expressway is placed as close to the central area as possible, since it will also serve as a connector from Interstate Route 91 and much of the traffic which it will bring to Middletown will be destined for the "CBD." The Plan also provides for a principal thoroughfare connecting the industrial and residential areas in the north-western part of the City, as well as Route I-91, with the center. Other important thoroughfares leading to the center are Washington Street, South Main Street, Main Street Extension and the Portland Bridge.

The volume of traffic coming into the "CBD" will increase as the City and the center grow. At present most of its funnels into Main Street, which at the same time contains the principal commercial center. With the heavy investment in retail facilities on Main Street, where four-fifths of the business of the City in the general merchandise, apparel and kindred categories is done, it is evident that Main Street should remain as the business center. A further discussion of the present and potential volume of retail business is contained in the Chapter on the Economic Background of the Plan. Middletown's retail center must achieve the characteristics of a modern regional shopping center, with adequate parking and good pedestrian facilities. This it can only do if Main Street is relieved of its heavy traffic and becomes primarily a facility for parking and access to stores and other buildings and a way which can be easily crossed by pedestrians.

In order to accomplish this and to provide for future traffic, the Plan provides for a ring road around the entire center, picking up traffic from all of the approaches and feeding it into convenient parking facilities.

The portion of the ring road south of Washington Street can largely be accomplished as part of the first priority urban renewal project. On the east it follows an improved DeKoven Drive, on the south the existing expressway connector to South Main Street and on the west a widened Pearl Street and its extension to Hubbard Street. Here it will mark the division between the "CBD" and Wesleyan University. Expansion of activities by Wesleyan will result in a considerable increase in traffic to some of its proposed installations, which can well be served by the ring road.

The General Plan: Central Area map illustrates the Plan for the central area. It shows that retail business would be concentrated along Main Street, largely between Washington Street and Church Street. Near the Union Street end there is room for one or more motor hotels. Along Broad Street and between Broad and Pearl Streets there are good locations for office buildings and also for one or two motor hotels and restaurants. The Plan indicates a number of existing buildings, both commercial and public or institutional, which may be expected to remain.

South of Union Park the hospital occupies a large plot and is likely to need more room. The entire area between South Main Street and Main Street Extension will form a superblock, with hospital, professional offices and probably some apartment buildings. East of Main Street Extension and south of Union Street there is another superblock which is indicated for redevelopment as part of the first priority project. This is suitable for housing of various types and could also include offices along Main Street Extension.

The blocks within the ring road north of Washington Street lie within the second priority area proposed for redevelopment in the Community Renewal Program. Redevelopment of this area will facilitate the completion of the north part of the ring road. Land here will be available for future expansion of retail business and for office buildings, as well as for various types of housing.

The General Plan: Central Area map illustrates the kind of urban design which should guide the redevelopment of the central district. it shows how buildings can be placed to give the amount of retail and office space which will meet the anticipated future needs as discussed in the chapter on the Economic Background of the Plan, along with required space for parking. The map shows how open vistas can be maintained to the Connecticut River and its waterfront.

Commercial Development
Although the most important segment of Middletown's commercial activity will continue to be located in the central business district which has been discussed above, there are other areas which the Plan allocated to business uses. These are show on the General Plan map. From the discussion in the chapter on the Economic Background of the Plan and the summary of anticipated future retail expansion in table 7, we see that virtually all of the expansion in the automotive business and in lumber, building materials and similar lines will take place in outlying locations outside the "CBD."

The principal areas which will fill these needs are the outer Washington Street business area and the South Main Street area southward to the Randolph Road vicinity. The Plan also indicates two areas between Saybrook Road and the new Route 9 expressway, one immediately south of their intersection and the other at the interchange with the connecting road to the Canel property. When the proposed local thoroughfare to the Westfield area and its interchange with Route I-91 are completed, there will be a potential area for commercial development at the interchange, as shown on the General Plan Map.

These outlying business areas should be regulated to require adequate setbacks from the street, a low density type of development, proper driveway access, adequate off-street parking and a properly landscaped strip along the road. Regulations of this type should be included in the City's zoning.

Industrial Development
One of Middletown's greatest assets is the existence of a large are of gently rolling land along Interstate Route 91, chiefly on its west side which is very attractive for large-scale industrial development. Here concerns which want substantial sites can find locations where they can have plenty of space with excellent traffic connections. They will enjoy the publicity value of a site along a major highway which has attracted so many establishments to comparable locations, such as Route 128 in the Boston area.

There is one other type of industrial development which has already taken place in the southeastern section of Middletown. The U.S. Government's Canel operation occupies several hundred acres of rugged land and a similar parcel is owned by the Hartford Electric Light Company. The latter is occupied in part by a power plant, but the greater part is still underdeveloped. Another plot of similar size has been considered as the site for another large-scale utility operation. Therefore, the Plan designates this entire area for specialized development of this type of industrial use.

The center of Middletown contains a number of old industrial plant, many of which are greatly hampered by lack of space and by obsolete structures. In order to compete in the future, many of these establishments will be forced to seek larger sites and modern structures. Therefore, the Plan provides for the eventual elimination of industrial uses within and adjacent to the central business district, except for the area lying along North Main Street and the old Berlin Branch of the railroad. This latter area can be expanded, especially to take care of smaller plants which do not require the large plots to be found in outlying districts.

Areas near the corner of Saybrook Road and East Main Street now contains one large and several small industrial plants. These are old buildings, faced with the problem of obsolescence of structure and of inadequate space. We believe that these industrial enterprises will eventually move to other locations. This area is therefore designated for housing and for limited business use.

Residential Development
The General Plan Map shows the proposals for residential development. Portions of the City within which most of the future populations will be found appear on the Neighborhoods Map, eliminating land unsuitable for development and land planned for non-residential uses. These portions constitute the future residential neighborhoods and are the basis of all planning for residential development and for facilities which serve the residential areas. Neighborhood delineation was carefully studied and the neighborhoods were established with boundaries based on major traffic arteries, topographical features, institutional reservations or in some cases historical tradition. These are more fully described in Chapter 5.

Types of proposed residential development will vary from urban to rural within the city limits. Outlying land within Residential Neighborhoods B, F, G, M and N for rural homes. This should be developed at neighborhood gross density of not more than one family for every two acres. After making allowances for new roads, schools, clubs, playgrounds and similar facilities, this would mean minimum lot areas of at least one acre and in some areas probably two acres.

The greatest part of the Middletown area is planned for a suburban development along the lines of much of the newer housing. The density will vary in a range from one to two families per acres on a gross neighborhood basis. The corresponding minimum lot area should be from 15,000 to 30,000 square feet, which agrees closely with much of the present use. It will probably be developed almost entirely in single family housing.

In the older parts of the City an urban density exists, although there is a little actual crowding. The proposed gross future density of neighborhoods devoted to residential use is from three to eight families per acre, although in certain parcels with adequate facilities for open space, the net density might rise to 16 families to the acre. New developments in these areas will consist mostly of multifamily projects.

A fourth type of housing is shown on the General Plan, designated as "Low Density Multifamily." This is indicated in outlying areas where clusters of housing are appropriate at a somewhat higher density than the surrounding suburban areas. These clusters may contain row-house or so-called "town-house" developments and garden apartment projects as well as single family dwellings. The average gross density in these areas should not exceed six families to the acre.

One of these areas is located along the Connecticut River below the central district. Although it is near a proposed expressway interchange, the area contains several food sites for high rise apartment buildings with splendid views of the river.

Other Features of the Plan
The General Plan map shows how facilities proposed for park development and conservation areas fit into the General Plan. These elements and more detailed plans for school and recreation facilities are discussed in the chapters relating to Long-range school facilities and Recreation, and the School and Recreation map.

The relationship between the proposed uses of land and the requirements for public water supply and sanitary sewerage is discussed in Chapter on this subject. The Water Supply map shows the present extent of the City's water distribution system and indicates the areas which are at to high an elevation to be reached without additional pumping equipment. The Sanitary Sewerage Supply map similarly shows the topographic limits for extension of the present sanitary sewerage system. Areas beyond these limits slope away from the present trunk lines and treatment plants. to serve them will require new installations as described more fully in the chapter on the Water Supply and Sanitary Sewerage.

The Land Use Plan is based on coordinating the development of land with extension and enlargement of the present sanitary sewerage system within its topographic limits and with the installation of a new system to serve the areas draining into the Mattabessett Valley. The Plan is also based on concentrating as much of the development as possible within the topographic limits of the present water supply system.

The General Plan must also provide the necessary facilities for traffic movements in all parts of the City. In addition to the expressway and arteries mentioned previously in this chapter, the Plan shows how some of the present highways and some new streets can gradually be developed to form a system of thoroughfares and "collector streets" to handle the volume of automobile traffic which the growth of the community will generate. This is more fully described in the Circulation Plan.

Middletown at present has no facilities for public transportation other than bus service on public highways, although rail passenger service is available at Meriden. Bradley Field, north of Hartford, has commercial air service to all important points. Completion of the Route 9 expressway and Route I-91 will reduce the time of travel from the center of Middletown to Bradley Field to about thirty minutes, less than the time required from the centers of many large cities to their airports. The future of air shuttle service by helicopter or some other form of aircraft is not certain at the present time. It may be that Middletown may need facilities for such service in the future. A "heliport" requires relatively little room. In connection with the redevelopment of the North Main Street area, it would be possible to provide space for helicopter terminal, which would be close to the center. Filled land near the Mattabesset River would serve the purpose.

There has been discussion in the past of an airport in Middletown. The state and federal authorities have given consideration to such a project and have included a "general aviation airport" in Middletown in the long-range state airport plan. It would have a 3,500 ft. runway. If the City should decide to follow up this project, it could probably get federal assistance to the extent of 50 per cent of the cost of land and runways and state assistance for another 25 per cent.

In view of the nearness of Brainerd Field in the south end of Hartford, it is questionable whether a field in Middletown would warrant the necessary expenditure by the City. Further studies of this matter may be made if there should be evidence of enough potential patronage to make it financially attractive.

 

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