Vision for downtown discussed at forum

By Jennifer Coe - ReminderNews
Windsor Locks - posted Thu., Jan. 31, 2013
Chris Ferraro from Fuss & O’Neill made a presentation to about 30 residents. The slide show depicts a downtown Windsor Locks with ample housing, retail and transportation options. Photos by Jennifer Coe.
Chris Ferraro from Fuss & O’Neill made a presentation to about 30 residents. The slide show depicts a downtown Windsor Locks with ample housing, retail and transportation options. Photos by Jennifer Coe.

A public forum for Windsor Locks residents was held on Jan. 23 to present the impending plans to rejuvenate the downtown area and address the future of the historic train station.

Representatives from the town as well as the engineering consulting firm Fuss & O’Neill were present to discuss the work which has been done thus far to study the movement of the train platform from its present location and the possibilities of redevelopment. Chris Ferraro spent time giving a presentation to the 30 or so residents gathered. It portrayed a vision of Windsor Locks which can compete with other area towns to offer quality housing and commercial retail in coming decades.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Windsor Locks to turn itself around,” said Ferraro. “This vision plan will build community around a common direction,” he said, something that has been lacking since the 1960s and 1970s.


High-speed rail

In what Ferraro referred to as not just a localized issue, but an “initiative nationwide,” Windsor Locks can expect to see commuters getting to their destination via many high-speed trains which will pass through town. The train station will be moved to a more central location and the historic station will be “completely renovated,” he said.

With the New Haven to Springfield line inevitably coming, Windsor Locks could potentially be a very important stopping point on the route that the firm’s researchers expect to double by 2030.

When asked by state Rep. Peggy Sayers (D-60) about why the new high-speed rail train track would not be brought through into Windsor Locks any earlier than is presently planned, a representative from the Connecticut Department of Transportation said that the money to do the whole project is just not there right now.


Bridge and Main streets intersection

“Nobody can argue that the Bridge Street and Main Street intersection is a traffic problem,” said Ferraro. “That won’t change whether the train station gets moved or not.” He proposed to the listeners that perhaps if Chestnut Street was made two-way, then maybe some of the traffic could be diverted. “There’s an opportunity [for motorists] to possibly bypass that intersection,” he explained.

It was also mentioned that perhaps, with this change, a through-way road could be created between the library and the middle school, connecting the two buildings. The firm would like to encourage Windsor Locks to make use the of the middle school fields at times for concerts, and a road like this would facilitate something like that.

This was met with a negative response from resident Mickey Danyluk. “I can’t believe we have such a beautiful library and you would take that and put a roadway around there increasing traffic around a school,” he said.


Retail and housing

Ferraro considers the Montgomery Mill real estate the most attractive redevelopment opportunity downtown Windsor Locks is offering right now. What he calls a potential “catalyst project,” the development of a hotel or hotel/restaurant or apartment complex at that site would bring new living quarters and retail to the area.

“Montgomery Mill is one of the saving graces of downtown Windsor Locks,” he said.

Other retail areas Ferraro included in his discussion of the downtown area include: 2 North Main St., Dexter Plaza and historic train station area.

In all, when downtown Windsor Locks is developed to its maximum potential, a total of 675 new living units could be made, he said. These units would specifically seek to capitalize on the increase of baby boomers and single professionals seeking homes.
Although some expressed concern, others expressed support of Fuss & O’Neill’s vision for Windsor Locks.

“I strongly support this,” said Neil Cunningham. “It is a real opportunity for Windsor Locks to get some development going.”

“It’s a great vision,” said Con O’Leary, a member of the Board of Finance. “It’s moving forward. It’s important we have commercial development.”

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