Two weeks ago, USLAC released a statement highlighting unfair hiring practices by management at RJ Julia Booksellers, the managing company of Wesleyan’s new book store, which is scheduled to open later this year. Specifically, USLAC brought attention to workers being promised interviews at the new bookstore and having to wait months for an interview. According to the statement, several nonwhite employees were told that they didn’t fit the “RJ Julia Experience.”
USLAC made three public demands of RJ Julia and the Wesleyan administration in response to these accounts:
1. Give all current bookstore workers the opportunity to keep their jobs if they wish to.
2. Guarantee that returning workers will receive at least the salary and benefits they had been receiving before the move.
3. Inform workers immediately about any changes in their workplace and allow them the chance to discuss these issues freely without fear of losing their jobs.
Monday afternoon, a delegation of students voiced their concerns to the RJ Julia general manager outside of North College after a meeting between two students and the general manager was interrupted by a fire alarm.
On Wednesday, Michael Roth spoke to a crowd inside 413 Main Street and announced plans to move the Wesleyan Bookstore to that location by next semester. Construction will begin in December and is expected to be completed by next spring.
“We’re committed to strengthening the ties between campus and Main Street,” said Roth. “Relocating Wesleyan’s bookstore is a major step in the direction, and I am so delighted that R.J. Julia Booksellers, with their phenomenal reputation, will be our partner in this effort.”
The announcement follows an initial proposal by Roth to move the bookstore back in April, in an effort to increase Main Street’s potential as a cultural hub for Wesleyan students and faculty as well as Middletown residents. The new 12,000-square-foot space is designed to host more events than the current Broad Street location, and “will improve first impressions for prospective students and families,” according to a Wesleyan Newsletter post following the announcement.
Courtesy of Amy Nawrocki herself:
Award winning poet Amy Nawrocki will be reading from her latest collection Four Blue Eggs on Friday, April 11, 2014 at 5:00 at Broad Street Books, Wesleyan’s Bookstore and Cafe. Amy is the author of 4 poetry collections and 2 Connecticut History Books. Four Blue Eggs was a Finalist for the 2013 Poetry Prize from Homebound Publications.
Date: Today, April 11th, 2014
Place: Broad Street Books, 45 Broad Street, Middletown, CT 06457
Cost: Free and open to the public
It’s pretty much what you thought would happen: once you left Middletown for spring break, things got interesting. The ongoing saga over the proposed Washington Street commercial development entered a new phase of visibility when community activists, parents, children, professors, and students took to Wash and High St. for an hour yesterday afternoon, cycling around the intersection to present their opposition to the potential development to motorists.
Wesleyan’s institutional involvement in the decision opened with a proposal to move Broad Street Books to the new complex, if built. Though the bookstore plans were quickly canceled due to a chilly reception from the Wes community and Middletown, the administration is still contracted to sell its property in the area to the developer, Centerplan.
Below, see some interviews featuring Jen from Kid City ’88 (hello!) and Maggie Masselli ’16 (hi!), as well as footage of walk-signal coordinated crossings. More information after the jump; comments, corrections, and points of information welcomed.
In case you somehow missed it, there has been a lot of talk since last semester about a proposed development that could find itself right next to Wesleyan’s campus on Washington Street, between High and Pearl. For those who have strong interest and/or opinions about this topic, Middletown’s Planning and Zoning Commission is holding a public hearing on Wednesday, February 27th at 7 p.m. that will address two zone-change proposals that could either allow or prevent this development from happening.
Specifically, the hearing will address the developers’ zoning code text amendment proposal — which would allow for more commercial development on Washington Street to go forward — and that of avid opponent to the development Ed Mckeon, which would make the zone under consideration become eligible for residential use only, thus preventing the development from going forward. More information about the two zone change proposals can be found here, but disregard the original pre-Nemo hearing date.
If you want to attend and/or testify at the hearing, here is some important information:
What: Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission Public Hearing on proposed zoning code text amendments
Where: 245 DeKoven Drive, Council Chambers (in City Hall)
When: February 27th at 7 p.m.
If you plan on testifying: try to arrive before 7 p.m., and bring at least one printed copy of your testimony. You will only be given a couple minutes to deliver it, so make it concise.
For extensive reporting on all things Washington Street Development, check out the links after the jump (provided by the WSA).
Wes, 1; Centerplan, 0.
A week after last Tuesday’s Bookstore Relocation Open Forum—during which students, faculty, Middletown residents, and alumni came together and spoke out against the Washington Street development with unwavering fervor—Assistant Vice President for Facilities Joyce Topshe and Associate Vice President for Finance Nate Peters confirm that Wesleyan’s bookstore is staying precisely where it is:
On the basis of strong community sentiment, Wesleyan has decided not to relocate its bookstore to Washington Street. Objections to the bookstore relocation (and planned development) included concerns about pedestrian safety, increased traffic, and disruption of the residential neighborhood. Wesleyan had signed a non-binding agreement with the developer, Centerplan Companies, to give the University the opportunity to discuss the proposal with its community before reaching any conclusions. On November 27, Wesleyan held an open forum on the proposed relocation, and the views of faculty, staff, students and neighbors from Middletown who participated were strongly against the proposal. Wesleyan also sought and received community input on a blog it created about the proposed relocation, and Wesleyan administrators received emails from and held conversations with individuals and campus groups.
According to WSA Finance and Facilities Committee Chair Andrew Trexler ’14, he and WSA Pres Zachary Malter ’13 met with Peters and Topshe last week and “conveyed a broad range of student opinion, which was predominantly opposed to the move and the development.”
Ed Thorndike ’89: “Closing is not something that we view as an option.”
Yesterday I liveblogged an open community forum in PAC 001 regarding the proposed Washington Street commercial development and Wesleyan bookstore relocation. Considering recent controversy, I expected to hear some forceful arguments from community members. My expectations were exceeded. If you missed the 90-minute discussion, a quick glance at the liveblog coverage might hint at the passion with which students, faculty, alumni, and Middletown residents spoke out against the proposal. Some of the major complaints addressed traffic concerns, Washington Street safety, threats to local businesses, whether or not downtown really needs national chains, disregard for historic structures, permanent changes to zoning laws, Red & Black Cafe, skepticism towards the developers’ stated desire for “linkage” and “community,” and, ultimately, the character of downtown Middletown itself. Succinctly put, there’s a lot wrapped up in this proposal.
Inspired by many of the voices expressed at the forum, I stuck around afterwards to interview a few of the more outspoken community members. Some brief video statements appear past the jump. They feature two Wesleyan alumni (both of whom live and work in Middletown) and one current professor.
If my reporting seems one-sided—admittedly, I’m no fan of the proposal myself—it’s worth clarifying that of the 150 or more attendees at this forum, not one spoke up in favor of the development. Nobody seemed to like the idea. Nobody seemed to believe it will provide the “linkage” and “community engagement” it’s supposed to offer.
Greetings from PAC 001, where an open forum on the proposed bookstore relocation is about to begin. Seats are filling up quickly; so far I spot about 20 or 30 community members, a suited Centerplan representative, a small handful of students, and one or two professors (including Susanne Fusso, famed Professor of Russian Language and Literature). The average age in this room is probably well over 35, which is interesting. Where are all the students? (Update: As of the start of the forum, many more students have streamed in, and there are probably well over 130 people here, of pretty much all ages.)
Community members both inside and outside of Wesleyan’s campus have weighed in on the proposed development. Many, like Wesleyan alum and parent Jen Alexander ’88 and Red & Black owner Ed Thorndike ’89, are against it. Mayor Drew, on the other hand, is all for it, mostly on the grounds of job creation. If recent comments are any indication, there will be some strong views raised at this forum.
Wesleying’s liveblog coverage begins past the jump.
Despite all the brouhaha over the potential Wesleyan bookstore relocation—including dissenting voices from Middletown resident Jen Alexander ’88 and Red & Black owner Ed Thorndike ’89—Mayor Dan Drew remains committed to supporting the development on economic grounds. In a press conference on Wednesday, Drew praised developer Bob Landino’s proposal as a potential job-creator in Middletown. As Middletown Patch reports:
“This will bring a $6 million influx of funds into the Middletown economy,” said Mayor Dan Drew. “It will create 30 full-time jobs in the development complex.”
Joining Drew at a press conference in council chamber of city hall were Robert A. Landino, president and CEO of Centerplan Construction; Gerry Daley, longtime chair of the Economic Development Commission; and Larry McHugh, president of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.
Drew also compared the model to William and Mary College (though this slab of Washington Street is at least a few blocks from Middletown’s “historic downtown”) and praised Landino’s connections to the Middletown community (read: he’s not from “New York or Boston or Chicago”):
The people of Middletown (as well as some Wesleyan students) hath spake on the potential relocation of our campus bookstore, and sentiments seem to be negative so far on both sides of the town-gown divide.
Though Mayor Dan Drew spoke today in approval of the project, saying it would bring new shoppers into Middletown, an editorial in the Middletown Eye by Wesleyan alum and local Wesleyan parent Jen Alexander ’88—originally entitled “Don’t Bring That Horse Inside City Gates,” apparently—thinks just the opposite. She sees the structure as a 10,000 sq. ft behemoth that, with its national chains like Starbucks and Chipotle, would mainly bring people in from the highway and back. Middletown has had a rough history with nationally branded retail; the departure of Sears and Woolworth’s from Main Street many years ago, according to Alexander, led to a long period of blight. Now that Middletown has a rich variety of independent businesses, especially coffee shops like Klekolo, “it would be a shame if Wesleyan—dear, independent, iconoclastic Wesleyan—was the backer that started us back on the road to Anywhereville, after we’ve come so far,” Alexander writes.