Hartford downtown redevelopment clears another hurdle

By JOE VANDELAARSCHOT - Daily News

Feb. 10, 2016

Economic development in Hartford got a boost Tuesday night due to action by the city’s Common Council.

The council approved a contract with development consultant Vandewalle and Associates to continue advising the city for at least a year on implementation of a downtown economic development plan created by the company, changes in the city’s Smart Growth Plan and a certified survey map of a planned housing development that will add dozens of housing units to the city.

Aldermen approved the contract with Vandewalle with little discussion, but before the Common Council meeting the Finance and Personnel Committee recommended approving the contract after some discussion.

“The contract calls for Vandewalle and Associates to be paid $5,000 a month for a year as part of the contract,” said City Planner Justin Drew. “As part of that contract, they will advise the city on the possible creation of another TIF district, help recruit new business and help retain current businesses, and help market the city.”

Drew said as part of the agreement, the city will pay about $45,000 of the yearly cost of Vandewalle’s services with the remaining $15,000 being paid by the Hartford Economic Development Corporation, the Downtown Business Improvement District, the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce and First National Bank. The four groups worked together to hire Vandewalle to create the redevelopment plan, which has been approved by the Plan Commission and the Common Council.

“It’s possible the city could recoup these expenses if and when a TIF district is created as part of downtown redevelopment,” said City Administrator Steve Volkert.

Alderman Barry Wintringer said during the committee meeting that he “wholeheartedly backed the plan.”

Part of the plan for downtown redevelopment calls for the construction of a downtown hotel, creating catalyst businesses and developing more housing in the area. Changes in the city’s Smart Growth Plan call for the designated use of an area along Highway 83 be changed to allow for a new multi-unit housing development by area developer Mark McCune.

Tom Hostad, executive director of the Hartford Economic Development Corporation, said approving the Master Plan changes and the downtown redevelopment plan are parts of another step to aid economic growth.

“Housing is just one of the items that local business owners have said they need more of to retain and attract employees,” Hostad said. “They are increasingly seeing employees leave for jobs that are closer to where they are living.”

Leaders of business and industry in Hartford have also expressed to city and county leaders the need for a reliever transportation route to allow shipments to get to and from their businesses quicker and safer.

“I’ve been assured by county officials that they are working hard on solving the traffic problem through the city’s downtown, which is also a safety issue as well as just a transportation issue,” Volkert said.

When one alderman questioned why in 2005 the county let a reliever route proposal die, Mayor Joe Dautermann said to look forward instead of backward.

“We have a heartbeat now, let’s keep the momentum moving,” Dautermann said.