An iQuilt Kind of Week

With civic projects, sometimes when it rains it pours, and iQuilt is no exception. For some reason there has been a lot of iQuilt-related-buzz this week—from photoshoots and presentations to the first, exciting glimpse at what’s to come.

For those of you who might not be familiar with the name “iQuilt,” the iQuilt Plan is a new culture based urban design project for the City of Hartford. Basically, iQuilt aims to link downtown Hartford’s cultural assets—theatres, museums, landmarks and parks—with a “greenwalk” of open spaces from the riverfront to the Capitol across Bushnell Park. The goal is to make the city more vibrant, accessible and walkable and to provide a visual “language” to make the city easy to understand and less intimidating to visitors. The name iQuilt comes from the project’s “patchwork quality,” linking together various cultural desinations into a city-wide quilt.

Originally proposed by the Bushnell as a way to connect the performing arts center with the rest of downtown, the plan has grown to include projects designed to spur housing and retail development, expand and restore water features to historic Bushnell Park and reimagine Main Street as a lively, active and walkable destination. The City, the State, the Arts Council, the MetroHartford Alliance, Riverfront Recapture and a number of other organizations all have a hand in making the project a success. Will Wilkins, Executive Director of Real Art Ways probably puts it best when he says, “it’s not that there’s nothing to do in Hartford—it’s that there’s no where to do nothing”‘; iQuilt follows the models of other successful urban planning projects that make cities more open, creative places to gather.

Photo shoot with iQuilt Partners

On Tuesday, I sat in on the Business Improvement District’s quarterly board meeting and had the pleasure of meeting Doug Suisman, master urban planner and Hartford native who’s been hired to design and manage the iQuilt plan. He gave a wonderful, dynamic presentation about what’s been achieved so far and what we can expect in the months and years to come—to be honest, I’ve heard the presentation a few times before, but it never disappoints. It’s hard not to be excited when seeing the sketches and renderings the planned river in Bushnell Park, or see the soon-to-come Bushnell Gardens expansion or imagine Hartford’s streets on a new “road diet” designed to make them more walkable (and bike-able). If you want to know more, make sure you visit iQuilt’s web site and download the 120-page plan overview. Warning: it’s a big file, but well worth the read.

After I got back to the office, Cathy and I dashed over to an impromptu photo shoot with some of iQuilt’s biggest partners: the Mayor, representatives from the Bushnell, the Wadsworth and the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

iQuilt signs on the corner of Trumbull & Asylum Streets.

Then, I got word through Dwelling in Downtown’s Facebook group that we’d get to see the first, physical “instllation” of the iQuilt plan on Wednesday, March 7—a directional signpost affixed to the back of the walk signals on the corner of Trumbull and Asylum Streets. It’s a really cool use of exsisting dead space, and I love the idea of listing the walking minutes to each destination inside the directional arrows. Smart. Really smart. (Also: excuse my crappy iPhone pics).

iQuilt is an evolving project, so news comes out in dribbles and spurts. But stay tuned for an upcoming announcement about a large-scale community event this fall where you can see—and experience for yourselves—the exciting future of iQuilt.

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