Similar to many cities across the country, Middletown, Connecticut, is seeking to revitalize its riverfront to both improve the public realm and spur real estate development. Now, following a review process of 21 applications, the city has awarded New York City-based architecture and urban design firm Cooper Robertson, in collaboration with engineering and environment services firm Langan and economic development specialists Karp Strategies, the commission to develop a master plan for the area.
The plan dates back to at least 2014 when the city released the “Middletown Riverfront Redevelopment Commission Final Report,” which defines the study area as broadly running between the existing Harbor Park and a jumble of residential and industrial properties to the south, all of which are bounded to the west by the Chester Bowles Highway. If the approved master plan is anything like the initial concept plan, then residents can expect a riverfront trail, improvements, and expansion of Harbor Park, a community boathouse, and a host of wetlands restoration landscaping.
In a press release from the City of Middletown, Cooper Robertson project director Mike Aziz issued the following statement. “Cooper Robertson is honored to have been selected by the City to support this transformational project, and we are excited to begin working with the Middletown community to develop an inclusive vision for the riverfront. Cooper Robertson understands the importance of putting the public and community at the center of the planning process, and we look forward to working together with residents and City staff to develop a riverfront plan that is sustainable in the broadest sense of the word — environmentally, socially and economically.”
Middletown is certainly not alone when it comes to the ambitious redevelopment of neglected or severely polluted riverfronts, and one could even argue that a competitive streak has developed between cities within this developing trend. For example, on a larger scale, Studio Gang and SCAPE are presently leading a comprehensive revamp of the Memphis riverfront, while Michael Van Valkenburgh is designing a new 92-acre park in Buffalo on the shores of Lake Erie.
There is plenty of work to still be done before shovels can even hit the ground. As reported by The Middletown Press, the city will announce dates for the public engagement initiative that will introduce the master planning team to the community and flesh out a rough timeframe and budget for the project. Until then we will bide our time and see what this corner of the Connecticut River has in store for the years ahead.