As promised, Middletowners of all stripes delivered a “roving festival of resistance” to the streets of our fine city today. Joined by thousands in countless mass mobilizations across the globe, the local agitators reclaimed a community garden, organized a teach-in, and held a People’s Assembly on Main Street’s Spear Park where a meal was shared amidst a festive atmosphere. The holiday celebrates a storied history of struggle both around the world and amongst Wesleyan students.
This year, the action began around 10:30 a.m. when roughly one dozen celebrants armed with shovels, rakes, mulch, and wheelbarrows took to a vacant lot on Washington Street in a bid to transform it into a People’s Garden.
The lot — which at the start of the morning was an overgrown mess of fallen branches, weeds, garbage, empty bottles, and other debris — was once the site of a small but vibrant community garden established by residents of the local neighborhood. It had since been bought by a speculative landlord who intends to sell the lot to Centerplan Developers as part of their bid to build a strip mall along Washington Street, a plan that has faced stiff resistance from the local community. The goal of today’s action was to “retake the commons,” as one sign read, by reclaiming this land from private interests in order to serve the community.
After some lengthy discussion, the Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission has unanimously approved zoning text changes first submitted by representatives of Centerplan Company, now with substantial amendments. The room was once again packed with members of the public, including many students, faculty, and staff from Wesleyan.
The newly amended changes, in the eyes of the Commissioners, affords the P&Z greater authority to exercise oversight upon actual submitted proposals for development.
As these new changes alter the nature of special exceptions in MX Zones (which include the relevant section of Washington Street), Centerplan will now have to submit a development proposal to the P&Z for a special exception to go forward with their planned development (sans bookstore and in the face of continued opposition by the public). Yes, there will be another public hearing.
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.
Remember that proposed commercial development on Washington Street that everyone got all worked up about last semester? Thought it was doomed when Wesleyan pulled out of the project, opting not to relocate its bookstore?
Think again. According to the Courant, dueling zone change requests have been filed for the neighborhoods surrounding Wesleyan, including that strip on Washington Street where the development would be located. Both seek to change portions of the “mixed-use” and “institutional” development zoning regulations. One of the requests comes from Centerplan developer Robert Landino, who presented the development at an open forum in November and was met with fierce community resistance. The other comes from Pearl Street resident Ed McKeon, an avowed opponent of what he calls a “cookie-cutter strip mall with carbon-copy National Chains.”
As the Courant explains it, Landino’s zone request seeks to permit a building with retail or restaurant space on the first floor, below office or residential spaces:
Attorney Ralph Wilson has filed a request on behalf of Landino, the president of Centerplan Companies who announced preliminary plans in November for a retail development on Washington Street between Pearl and High streets.