Each year the City Journal recaps the biggest stories affecting New Britain in the past year. Here are our Top 10 for 2017.
- Howey House Breaks ground on North Street
In May, the Connecticut Department of Housing awarded a Competitive Housing Assistance for Multifamily Properties (CHAMP) grant of $2.145 million to fund the construction of 11 units of permanent supportive housing on North Street in the city.
The funds were part of $28 million in CHAMP grants announced by Governor Dannel P. Malloy and the Department of Housing and were awarded to the Friendship Service Center, which will own and manage the new building.
The City of New Britain committed $252,000 in HOME funding to support the North/Oak project, and arranged for the acquisition of the land it will occupy.
Located at 180 North Street, the three-story apartment building will provide 11 efficiency and one-bedroom units of permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals with mental health and addiction issues, with two units designated for veterans. Case management staff employed by the Friendship Service Center will be based on-site to provide services to the residents. Construction will begin in early June and finish one year later, and the building should be fully occupied by fall 2018.
- Experience the New Introduced
In an attempt to re-brand the City, officials unveiled the new slogan and logo, at the New Britain Museum of American Art on Jan. 24.
The logo is of a honeycomb that is also a bee in flight design in yellow and black. The slogan, chosen from four by the City Journal Facebook group, is “Experience the New”. The word “new” is a bold maroon and “britain” is gold in lower case.
“This is an exciting day for the City,” said Mayor Erin Stewart. “The question we asked was what is our City brand? How are people describing New Britain? We have been known as ‘Hard Hittin’ New Britain’ and it’s a logo that stuck because of our successful sports teams. But is Hard Hittin’ really what we want to stand for?”
The new logo has been on a variety of materials including advertisements, promotional items and television commercials.
- All America City for Second Year
In June, for the second year in a row, the National Civic League named the City of New Britain an “All-America City” in recognition of the community’s efforts to boost school attendance, stem summer learning loss, and increase grade-level reading skills—particularly among low-income families.
The efforts are led by the Coalition for New Britain’s Youth and a group that includes City officials, parents, educators, health and social service agencies, and other members who are committed to improving the lives of New Britain’s youth—from birth to age 24.
Twenty-seven communities from across the country were in the running to receive the coveted All-America City Award—America’s oldest and most prestigious community recognition.
On June 19, 2016, the National Civic League first named New Britain one of only 10 towns and cities from across the country a 2016 “All-America City” based on partnerships in the community that have led to reducing chronic absenteeism among students, a decline in youth obesity rates, and a drop in summer learning loss.
- Bees Across New Britain Announced
In 2017 New Britain began a venture involving 25 six- foot Bees.
“It is a new art project and we are calling it Bees Across New Britain,” said Mayor Ering Stewart. “The City and arts through the City is teaming up with the arts alliance to bring this project across town later this year. It will be very similar to the extremely successful cows in West Hartford.”
In the winter/spring of 2018 the installation of the Bees will take place. In late Spring of 2018 Bees Across American Celebration and auction will take place.
Some ideas for Bees were mentioned as Hardware City Bee, Doctor Bee, Mechanic Bee, Attorney Bee, Teacher Bee, Worker Bee, Secretary Bee, Bookworm Bee, Dancing Bee, Theater Bee, Bar Bee, Ice Cream Bee, Realtor Bee and Historian Bee.
- Columbus Commons Breaks Ground
A group of over 50 people including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, Mayor Erin Stewart, members of the State delegations and others turned out Oct. 17 for the groundbreaking ceremony of Columbus Commons.
In 2016, the City of New Britain designated Xenolith Partners and Dakota Partners as the developer of 125 Columbus Boulevard, the former site of the New Britain Police Department. The developer plans to create Columbus Commons, a two-phased, mixed-use development that will include two, five story L-shaped mixed used buildings with approximately 160 residential units, an interior courtyard, and retail and/or office space on the first floor. The expected total cost for both phases of the project is $58 million.
The location of the development is steps from New Britain’s downtown CTFastrak station and is one of the City’s first major Transit Oriented Development projects.
- No State Budget Leaves City in Limbo
For months the City did not know if it would get less money, more money or the same amount from the State. It caused a delay in sending out car taxes.
But, New Britain was better prepared than most towns for the delay.
Mayor Erin Stewart said her administration took many steps including city department heads being asked to determine what a 15 percent cut to their budgets would look like without impacting any services to the citizens.
Stewart also put a stop to all non-public safety infrastructure projects until further notice.
“It is not business as usual at the City,” said Mayor Stewart in October. “All purchase orders are being reviewed through my office in order to curb spending.”
The City also looked at ways to raise revenue. The City entered into a contract with Taxserv – a collections agency that will help collect old outstanding motor vehicle taxes.
In addition, the City’s Finance department looked under every rock for savings.
“My responsibility is to the residents of New Britain. We did not increase taxes this year and are staying the course by living within our means,” Stewart said. “At the end of the day, I am hopeful that there will be a bipartisan agreement that will keep cities whole.”
In the end a bi-partisan agreement was reached on the budget which still resulted in several projects being delayed and fund cuts.
- Stewart Wins Third Term
Mixed emotions filled the Back Nine Tavern No. 7 as Republican Mayor Erin Stewart won her third term as Mayor of the City over Democrat Merrill Gay, but many other Republicans lost seats.
“Can’t stop! Won’t stop!,” said Stewart as she took the microphone for her victory speech after winning 5,395 to 4,306. “Thank you New Britain. This is an awesome night. We stand here tonight united. We stand here tonight victorious. We stand here tonight ready to fight for the next two years.”
Stewart won her first election four years ago over incumbent Democrat Tim O’Brien. Two years ago she beat out Democrat John McNamara in a landslide.
Stewart ran that she took the City from a $30 million deficit to a $15 million surplus and boosted the City credit rating by four notches, growing the Grand List, adding more than 45 new businesses, and creating hundreds of new jobs.
- Manafort Indicted
New Britain native Paul Manafort Jr., President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, was indicted Oct. 30 as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
He is facing 12 counts, including conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy against the United States, being an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements and other charges.
- Springer Wins MVP
New Britain native George Springer III not only won the World Series with the Houston Astros on Nov. 2, but took home MVP Player honors as well. Springer had 5 home runs in 7 games.
Four of those homers came in four consecutive games, making him the only player to hit a home run in four straight games of the same World Series.
His eight extra-base hits and 29 total bases are the most ever in a single World Series. The five homers are tied with Reggie Jackson (1977) and Chase Utley (2009) for the most in a World Series.
Following his MVP performance he appeared on Saturday Night Live.
Springer was the City Journal’s winner of New Britain Person of the Year in 2015.
- Movie Filmed in New Britain
Nothing drew more attention this year in New Britain than a film called “A Very Merry Toy Store” starring Mario Lopez, Melissa Joan Hart, Mario Cantone and Billy Gardell.
It was filmed at various locations throughout the City this past summer including Amato’s Toy Store, Central Connecticut State University and Miss Washington Diner. Court Street was the setting for the Christmas Festival.
Many city residents played roles as extras as well as met and took pictures with the stars.
Shown on Nov. 26 on Lifetime, the movie was about Connie Forrester (Hart), a young single mom, and Will DiNova (Lopez) who each run a small, family-owned toy store in New Britain. The two, along with their families, have been business rivals for years. Then a big box store, Roy’s Toys, opens right before Christmas. In order to save their businesses, the two band together and in the process, find love in time for Christmas.
The film was made by Synthetic Cinema International and is available to watch on demand.