Middletown Moves Forward in Riverfront Redevelopment Project

Efforts are underway to better connect downtown Middletown to the city's riverfront. The project also consists of revitalizing the area.

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Middletown is looking at a project that draws more attention and activity to a rather underutilized area.

"As generations went by, the city center got separated from this beautiful waterfront and this tremendous commercial economic recreational asset that we have in the city," said Mayor Ben Florsheim.

The work to reconnect and revitalize the riverfront is already happening. Some of the more immediate changes have included replacing the boardwalk and the railings.

Some may also notice construction because the owners of Eli Cannon's Tap Room, a popular restaurant in downtown Middletown, are expected to remodel what was once Harbor Park and call it Tate's Harbor Side.

"Their plan is exactly what we want for the riverfront. It's partnership and community," said Bobbye Knoll Peterson, acting director for economic and community development.

One man from Hartford said he's frequented the river for more than 20 years.

"We're waiting for it to open up because it's the only spot on the river to go. All these marinas have nowhere to go except down to the beach," Keith said.

One woman who spent 50 years in Middletown remembers what the area was like with a restaurant overlooking the river.

"I've always been drawn to this area. Harbor Park used to have a very active social atmosphere. Good food, bar, you could eat outside, live music," said Paula Tranchina of Portland.

Another regularly comes to the river to walk.

"People who know about it enjoy it. You can go from right here under the highway and go to the restaurants in Middletown," said John Pagano of Clinton.

While the master plan includes making improvements to this underground tunnel, it aims to build a pedestrian overpass over Route 9. The project is also a way to reconnect the city to its history.

"One of the things that I am most excited about is we think about returning to the riverbend and reclaiming our history with the river, and this plan does honor that history," Peterson said.

Plans to create a memorial that acknowledges the slave trade on the Connecticut River is also in the works.

City officials say the changes won't be immediate and while they still don't have a firm cost, they plan to be thoughtful in their efforts.

"It is going to be a place where we can play and we can recreate and we can also learn about the history of the community," Peterson said. "What I can say is it's not something that folks should be concerned that there's going to be a huge development and it's going to impact them largely and immediately. That is not the plan."

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