Back To The Future

Not being one to rush into anything, I finally visited West Hartford’s Blue Back Square over the weekend.  I hadn’t been boycotting it, I just hadn’t had the occasion to visit.

It seems to be a delightful place.  The Dearly Beloved and I enjoyed a lovely meal at Rizzuto’s, which happens to be owned by a Mets fan.  (We talked.  He’s a New York guy, but even his surname couldn’t make him a Yankees fan.)  As we left the restaurant, it was encouraging to see all the people shuffling from one place to another, enjoying their evening.  (Unlike, say, downtown Hartford.)

But what most struck me about Blue Back Square is that they went out and built a brand new “downtown” to give people a place to live, work, recreate, dine, shop and entertain themselves.  Just like the old downtowns.  Except this one’s kind of like a movie set. 

In the late sixties and early seventies, downtowns died at the hands of the malls, which brought “downtown” to the ‘burbs, under one roof. 

Now we’re back outside.  There really are no new ideas, are there?

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About Gerry

I've been covering Connecticut news and sports since 1974. I know, I don't look that old.
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11 Responses to Back To The Future

  1. Doug says:

    and the odd thing is, west hartford’s downtown was fine. there already were plenty of people outside on la salle and farmington and main. good for them for doing a nice job. but you’re absolutely right that other cities could have used this kind of development.

    if you haven’t been to middletown lately, it’s worth a visit. they main street there is fairly vibrant with a new york feel.

    back in the 80s and early 90s it had a depressed, blighted feel to it like some of our other cities that haven’t had any new investment. but it’s a positive place now … at least it has been in my visits there.

  2. jan says:

    i agree totally. and i live there. middletown is the place to eat.we have so many restuarants for every taste and lots of little funky shops. we still have empty store fronts but doesn’t everyone? we have a nice place called the fishbone cafe.it’s off of main st on court near the court builing that has great food and good music. and let’s not forget la boca!

  3. Gerry says:

    Funny you both should mention Middletown. One of our favorite restaurants is there, and we go fairly frequently. Agreed that the city has had a nice comeback over the last couple of years.

  4. Nothing like Northampton, Mass. for a real, and I do mean real, downtown experience. The one you describe, in West Hartford, is probably pretty much like one we have down here. It’s called The Market Commons, a combination of retail, restaurants and expensive condos. It was constructed on the Air Force Base where I was station for a year and a half back in the 60s. They leveled all the buildings that were there when I was there. A real Back to the Future feeling every time I go down there. It’s about 25 miles from where we live. You’re so right, Gerry. These things do look like movie sets. And I get the feeling sometimes that half the people I see walking the streets of the Market Common are extras, people paid to make the place look vital.

    There was one of these market common shopping theme parks up in Rhode Island. It’s located in the town of Wakefield, which has a dandy old fashioned downtown shopping area that reminds me of Northampton. The market commons down the road? I call it Fakefield.

  5. Gerry says:

    Northampton’s metamorphosis has been nothing short of amazing. It was a dump when I went to UMass.

    And what do Northampton and Middletown have in common? Colleges as a vital part of the downtown area. (Though as I noted on your blog, Terry, UMass boys and Smith girls never, ever mixed.)

  6. Linda says:

    I grew up in Milford. The Connecticut Post Mall was not enclosed at that time and it was a fun place to hang out. The best part was that it didn’t prevent people from also enjoying downtown Milford and the stores and restaurants it had to offer. You could enjoy both in the same day. When they enclosed the mall, downtown kind of died. The shopping has gone away, but it does has some great restaurants. But to tell you the truth, I don’t visit the mall or downtown anymore. I miss the old mall and downtown.

  7. Reading this post made me understand whats wrong with cities like Pittsburgh, and Kansas City….no downtown activity after 5 PM. All the people in the downtown, go home to the burbs! And the cities are dead!

    Hell, when I was a kid even Torrington had a downtown..some good restaurants, the Warner Theater, shopping (and the stores stayed open in the evening!), ice cream parlors, etc…

  8. I’m thinking, Gerry, of NoHo in the early 70s. Not what it is now, but it had its charms. Fitzwilly’s had just opened. Roberto’s on Pleasant Street had the best pizza in the Valley, next to Aqua Vita in Hadley. The Watering Hole on Pleasant Street was a great working class bar.

    And Amherst had its spots. The cellar bar at the Drake Hotel on Amity Street had the best restroom graffiti. Great place to shoot pool and knock down some brewskis. And can’t forget the Rusty Scupper. Yogi Berra’s kid Tim hung out there. Another UMass guy.

    Ah! I’m missing the Pioneer Valley. But will be spending some quality time there this summer. Let me know if you’re gonna be in Northampton.

  9. Gerry says:

    The Aqua Vita. God, I consumed heroic amounts of alcohol there. (So I suppose I have to add, “not that I’m proud of it.”)

    The Drake…the Scupper. Good and happy times.

  10. Geno says:

    Hope you had the meatballs at Rizzuto’s. Just like mama used to make.

  11. Gerry says:

    Ironically, I did. And I rarely order meatballs. And you’re right, only better!

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