Out with the old, in with the new. While 2013 was certainly an eventful year in West Hartford, 2014 figures to present new challenges and opportunities for the town.
I got out my crystal ball (OK, it’s my laptop) and came up with the following 14 stories (which appear in no particular order) to watch out for in the new year.
1. Delamar Hotel - It’s hard to believe that there is just one motel/hotel in town. That figures to change in 2014, with the much-anticipated Delamar Hotel West Hartford on Raymond Road continuing to move forward as planned. According to its website, the hotel isn’t expected to open until December 2015, but a lot of work needs to be done in the upcoming year.
2. UConn Property - Discussions are expected to continue concerning what will happen to the 57 acres of land if and when the University of Connecticut moves its West Hartford branch into Hartford. The state owns the land and there is no indication what it plans to do with it. However, Town Manager Ron Van Winkle said in September that town staff was already mapping out what could go on the site, but that public input was necessary. This is another issue that likely won’t be resolved until late 2015 at the earliest.
3. First Quarter Development - The early months of 2014 will see a lot of long meetings, as numerous projects make their way through the approval process. In addition to the Delamar Hotel West Hartford, new developments include a 60-unit residential complex at Bishops Corner, a new 6,000-square-foot stand-alone Jared the Galleria of Jewelry expected at Corbins Corner. Sears at Corbins Corner plans to subdivide its lot to make way for a new Destination XL clothing store and Walgreens on Farmington Avenue is looking to tear down its existing small shopping complex (which includes Tangiers) to construct a new stand-alone store.
4. The Year of Bishops Corner - While Bishops Corner has seen a lot of growth recently - particularly at the Marshall’s Plaza - 2014 figures to see that part of West Hartford take off. The Blue Plate Kitchen is expected to open this month and the new 60-unit residential complex where the vacant nursing home is located on Albany Avenue is in development. With those developments, Bishops Corner will take on the look and feel of a second West Hartford Center that will cater to more pedestrian traffic.
5. Tom Moore’s Transition to Superintendent of Schools - With Dr. Karen List retiring at the end of the 2013-14 school year, Assistant Superintendent for Administration Tom Moore will take over as superintendent of schools. Moore received a standing ovation when he was appointed in early November, and the reaction from the community since has been nearly universally positive.
6. Completion of the new Charter Oak International Academy process - It’s been decades since a new school has been in constructed in West Hartford. The final design of the new $44.6 million Charter Oak International Academy is expected to be submitted to the Board of Education in June.
7. What Superstorm is Coming? - I write this only slightly tongue in cheek. In the last three years, the area has been socked by an October nor’easter that knocked out power for more than a week, Hurricane Sandy, Tropical Storm Irene and a storm that dumped 3’ feet of snow. So, what’s coming this year? I’m only looking for suggestions. Please, no wagering.
8. Parking Kiosks in the Center - This is one that seems like it has been discussed forever. But they’re on their way! No more running into stores or banks in a mad dash for change! No more hitting up your traveling companion for quarters! No more (I hope) parking tickets! I can only dream a little dream.
9. The Year of the Dog Park? - Don’t roll your eyes at me. I’m an optimist at heart, and I believe that 2014 is the year for the good people who have been working for so long to bring a dog park to West Hartford. Numerous options - including having it at the Home Depot and at the Reservoir - have fallen by the wayside through the years for several reasons not worth mentioning. Now there’s a possibility of having the dog park located near Whole Foods in West Hartford Center. The bugaboo is the state, which owns a part of the land. I believe - on absolutely no authority whatsoever and in direct contravention of my journalistic ethics - that this will be the year.
10. Continued Discussion and Work on I-84 Park Road Ramp Reconstruction - This is another project that won’t be completed for quite some time, but the work has already begun. And there will be much rejoicing when it’s finished, as that area of town is a hot spot for traffic and safety concerns.
11. Hall/Conard Lights After a Year - The lights were installed in late 2013 at Conard and Hall High to much fanfare. So far they have received nothing but positive reviews. Hopefully residents will feel the same way after a full school year of competitions.
12. Pensions - This has been written about by media outlets (including Patch) ad nauseum. The town’s pension is now funded at about 41.5 percent. The town has a plan to have the plan fully funded, but it will take years to get there. The rating agencies - which are responsible for giving West Hartford its sterling AAA bond rating - appear to be on board with the plan, as the town still has the best rating it can achieve. Not much else there, but it will be mentioned from time to time.
13. Resolution of Justina Pelletier Saga? - To find out about the case, click here. The next hearing is scheduled for Jan. 10. By then, 15-year-old Justina will have spent 11 months - or about 7 percent of her life - in the care of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.
14. Nykki Poole’s Efforts to Raise Money to Adopt Elliott - Poole, a senior instructor at West Hartford Yoga, is seeking to adopt her third child with Down syndrome. In November, she had raised about $6,000 of the $30,000 needed in the effort. Since her story appeared in West Hartford Patch and the Hartford Courant, she’s now raised $16,788. To donate to Nykki’s adoption fund, visit here.