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This site is a project of The Bristol Press to gather together ideas of what 2035 will be like in Bristol, Plymouth, Plainville and Southington. Please join in the conversation by submitting your thoughts to bristol2035@gmail.com.
You are more than welcome to contribute cartoons, photographs and links to other sites.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bristol will retain its 'small town feeling'

Former Mayor Mike Werner weighed in with these thoughts:

While Bristol will continue to change, it will always have that small town feeling.  I mean that in a good way.  Most people grew up in town; they know everyone else either through their school affiliation or through youth athletics or via their volunteer activities.  People of Bristol may complain about their home town, but they always come together to figure out solutions to their problems.  The volunteer involvement of Bristol people is unsurpassed by any other community I know.  This will not change by 2035.

The Center Mall will be fully developed.  I see the Superior Electric industrial park filled with new businesses as well as some old ones who’ve expanded locally.  The hospital will continue to evolve, expand and be a critical part of the city despite all the competition and legislative challenges they’ll face.  The Boys’ and Girls’ Club, with the help of ESPN, will be completed in its new site and will be a focal point for youth activity in town. 

Traffic on route six will of course continue to be a nightmare.  The new route 72 extension will cause more problems than it solves.  There will still be no parking at City Hall.  In 2035 both Tom O’Brien and Barbara Doyle will still be serving the Board of Ed.  Art Ward will be gearing up for the next election, and Greg Fradette will still stop at Dunkin Donuts every morning at nine after he gets the mail from the Post Office.  

Sunday, December 13, 2009

ESPN proves a savior?

I know I said only people who give their real name would get their comments posted as separate entries here, but someone who called himself "Nostradamus" wrote this as a comment on the Press website and because the guy can write, here it is anyway:

Let's start in the recent past and work our way into the distant future.

Bristol's West End, Rockwell Park, Muzzy Field was a vibrant thriving facet of the Mum City. The beloved, often feared, God-Father Julie Laresse made sure that equality and morality maintained an equal balance in local sports venues and life in general in this fair community. People referred to each other as Mr. and Mrs. So and So.

Davis Drive was subsidized housing for folks who were down on their luck due to circumstances largely beyond their control. They lived in quiet shame, doing everything humanly possible to elevate themeselves to a higher social platform and move out of Davis Drive. These were decent, honest, hard-working people, whose children went on to be doctors, teachers and even a police chief.

Senior citizens could safely stroll down Summer Street to browse the many quaint shops along Main Street at any time of the night. The beat cop knew all of the people on his block by first name as did the citizens know him.

Let's fast forward to the year 2010.
The West End is little more than a pile of crumbling, decayed low-income rubble. The few flourishing businesses will soon founder and die because it'll be too dangerous for un-armed customers to safely transit the area. Julie Laresse will be rolling in his grave. People now refer to each other as YO! BRO! I aint no HO!

The vacant Mall lot will remain vacant for another 13 years due to the crushing statewide economic downturn. The Main Street area is now traversed by frightening looking psychopaths on release from CVH. They plod along, shouting incoherant threats at passing cars. They seek heat and temporary refuge in public places such as the Dunkin Donuts foyer or hide in the hallways at city hall, crouched with a plastic bag full of soiled clothes and returnable cans.

Davis Drive residence have long since abandon the hope or desire to leave the security of subsidized housing and social assistance programs. It is far easier to collect free money than to seek employment in a job market where there is no employment.

The old beat cop has now been mobilized in order to serve the increasing demands of the public. With fewer resources, a zero increase budget for the last 10 years, the beat-cop drives a car in and through Main Street and the West End as fast as possible. As local businesses fail, the tax base lessens, as does funding for public safety advancements. The bare minimum is what Bristol can afford and even that is on shoe-string budget.

Let's fast forward to the year 2020.
The city of Bristol Connecticut becomes a veritable black-hole. Most people of substance have long since moved out. No business can survive in Bristol CT. No person in their right mind would want to be in political office. Nothing of advantage in any way exists for someone to hold office in Bristol CT.

All vestiges of anything decent and innocence is gone. Bristol has become a hell-hole in the literal sense of the word. Public services have been stripped to the bone. Making due with little is now the only way that the police force can operate. Cops drive tiny cruisers with 2 officers per car. Criminals are now brought to a State-Wide holding facility with onsite court and judgement center. Municipalities and State administration of justice is cost effectively served much better this way. No more need to support a large police department facility, city hall, or public works. Police and Fire services are regionalized.

The only people that seem to thrive in Bristol CT USA is the street urchins. The mentally insane and professional homeless. They wander the streets by day in tattered mounds of ragged clothes, pushing rusted shopping carts full of stuff. They have no problem living off the land and become the only vestige of humanity on Bristol streets. The streets themselves are cratered, pot-holes, and nearly impassable from a crumbling infrastructure. This is of little concern as few remaining residents of Bristol CT USA own a car.

Fast-Forward to 2035.
The world becomes unified for economic and social purposes. There is no more racism or inequity among countries. Wars as we know it have ended. There are no more battles to fight. The world's precious remaining natural resources are augmented by natural reclamation and renewable energy initiatives on a global scale.

Mankind however has one primal urge that cannot be sated. The need to compete against one another! Gone are the blood baths of the past, now replaced by SPORTS. Sports become the food by which humans now appease their lust for confrontation. To this end, the city of Bristol CT USA becomes a new world mecca in 2035!

ESPN will further annex and expand it's physical plant. The entire length of Rt. 229 from the Southington line to the intersection of Rt-6 will become ESPN property. The entire boundary of Bristol will eventually include housing for world-wide employees, professional athletes, and on-air personalities. The income and revenue generated by the ESPN dynasty will be equal to a mid-sized world power. Bristol CT as we know it today will be totally razed to the ground. It will become a giant Phoenix rising from the ashes. Infrastructures, underground transportation systems, mono-rails, shopping centers, amusements, housing, digital communications, aqua-culture, and educational facililties beyond the wildest dreams of Disney/Epcot visionaries of today.

BESPN (Bristol-ESPN) will be the epicenter of worldwide unified entertainment.

Mr. Laresse will smile down on Bristol, one last time.

Unfortunately most of us reading this will not be here to see it.

Let's try to get this rolling... with trains?

So in 2035, will Bristol have taken a leap back to the future to restore the commuter rail service that vanished from the Mum City half a century ago? Will there be a train station or two? How would it matter to the lives of Bristol residents if we have rail? And what if we don't? How will people get around on roads that already seeming ever more congested? Is there another answer? What does the future hold?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bristol can come back to life

Bristol resident Brian Wolverton offered this:

Predicting what the world, or the city, will look like in 35 years is a tremendous challenge. In these times of uncertainty, it isn’t clear what the community may look like in one or two years, and the changes that happen thereafter will build upon the choices we make along the way. What I can do is share my own thoughts on where things may be headed, and to do so honestly and without any value judgments or undue favor in the direction of optimism or pessimism. I share these thoughts as a private citizen only, and not as a representative for any body or organization I may lend my services to, and I don’t pretend to have any more likely of a vision than any other contributor… these are simply my thoughts, and no one is an authority on the future.

Economy- Over the course of 25 years, the economy in Bristol and in the US is likely to see a number of peaks and valleys, but in light of growing competition abroad and the leveling effect of communications and shipping technology, we’re not likely to see the levels of prosperity experienced in the 90s, notwithstanding some great technological breakthrough. Even then, Bristol may not be well-poised to take advantage of any new growth markets that may spring up, due to the high level of development and aging infrastructure in the northeast. Bristol’s manufacturing sector is likely to continue its decline, but may see some regrowth if some of the larger employers are able to survive the current downturn and evolve with changing market needs. If manufacturing completely bottoms-out, it may experience some resurgence once market forces bring wages, taxes, and property values the northeast in line with other parts of the country and the world.

Regardless, I think Bristol is likely to benefit primarily from its robust shopping district along Route 6, as well as for its supply of affordable housing which will likely be in high demand as single-family home ownership becomes less feasible for working Americans. A lot of homes will be converted to multi-family properties, or be replaced by apartment complexes if entire neighborhoods go vacant. New England, and the United States in general, are likely to mirror present-day Europe in terms of their transition towards accepting a more modest quality of life, which may sound depressing but will ultimately be for the best, I think.

The Downtown area could potentially see a resurgence if it is successfully integrated into the robust artery of commercial activity that is Route 6, though I tend to consider it somewhat of a longshot given the socio-economic realities surrounding that section of the city. A good long-term strategy would involve focusing improvements on the areas closest to Route 6, to draw people in and expand upon existing success and visibility in the region. Route 72 will certainly open the door, but something will need to invite people in before any benefits can be experienced from the highway expansion. Hopefully by 2035 Rt 72 may extend straight through to Rt 8, which would grant some easier accessibility to that whole corner of the state.

Government- In light of the economic outlook, which right now is quite grim, local government is likely to undergo some major transformations just within the next 5 years. Even if the economy rebounds, the damage that has been inflicted in the form of the national debt and massive State deficits will pose a fiscal crisis for numerous years to come, and resistance to tax increases will force significant reductions in service. A resurgence of county government is likely at least within the next 10 years in order to enhance efficiency and provide services for communities that are not able to weather current and future economic storms.

Alternate means of producing revenue will be a necessity, including local sales taxes and a growing number of public entrepreneurialism and self-funded services. Bristol’s mayoral government is likely to be supplemented by a professional administrator, as government becomes increasingly technology-driven and as increased regionalization limits the freedom of local political free-will.

A lot of the regulatory functions, such as building inspection and zoning, may be pared back out of necessity, and a lot of the bureaucratic processes for licenses, permits, and so forth, will be largely computer-driven. With more services becoming regionalized, it’s likely that City Hall will ultimately move from its current location to something smaller and better-suited to the community’s changing needs. The downside of deregulation will be a lower quality of new construction and development ventures.

Community- The character and culture of the community will be strongly influenced by demographics. Current trends strongly suggest that the Hispanic population will make up a much larger percentage of Bristol’s residents, so the influence of Hispanic culture and aesthetics will definitely be a shaping force in Bristol's future. There may also be some influx of young professionals from surrounding communities, as the towns in the Farmington Valley become cost-prohibitive to even the most educated and talented young people as they enter the workforce.

As manufacturing jobs become increasingly scarce, skilled trades such as plumbing, HVAC, carpentry, and so forth will take its place to a large degree, especially as buildings age and are not often rebuilt. The education system will ultimately refocus its efforts towards preparing more students for available job sectors, and colleges will focus on professional and technological fields, with a de-emphasis on liberal arts education.

As resources become scarce for law enforcement, many things which are now illegal may be decriminalized, or enforcement efforts may be so significantly reduced that few arrests are made. Focus will be placed primarily on dealing with violent crime and crimes against property. Someone from 2009 who is teleported to 2035 may see things for sale that they might find shocking.

Technology- Green technology will certainly be much better developed, as non-renewable resources become scarce or depleted. Solar panels, geothermal pumps, turbines, and electric fueling stations will be commonplace. More people will be using busses, but hard forms of mass transit like light rail and subway will prove to be cost-prohibitive outside of urban centers. While home electronics and gadgets are bound to be much more advanced, other things such as appliances and home and gardening tools may return back to basics for the sake of energy conservation. Computer technology will be prevalent, and with the maturation of nanotechnology, phones and computers can be integrated onto virtually any surface, even clothing. Physical currency will no longer exist in general circulation, as virtually all transactions will be conducted electronically.

Great strides will take place in medical technology, but the accessibility of that technology will be limited. Health care, of course, will reach a crisis point within the next several years, so the system will be fully re-structured (hopefully for the better) by 2035. A lot of medical technology may be placed into the patient’s hands, with testing, diagnosis, and prescriptions performed over the computer. The more well-off may even have sensors implanted that can detect and report health issues instantly.

Overall, I do not see Bristol becoming a ghost town as some may fear, nor do I see it as remaining the same or becoming any kind of ideal. The City will hopefully see more good times, and will certainly get its share of bad times as well, and it will most certainly change in ways I think much of the nation will change. Communities and regions have life cycles much like businesses do, and unfortunately the northeast and Midwest have aged significantly since their haydays. Times of growth will benefit less developed regions like the South and West the most, as Connecticut struggles to shed itself of a hard infrastructure built around different times and needs. But if the right investments are made, and if the city proves willing to make sacrifices to prevent itself from completely succumbing to poverty, it will come back to life during better times and remain a relevant part of America’s future.

ESPN to grow, Depot Square to celebate 20th anniversary

Former Republican City Council candidate Derek Czenczelewski offered this:

I think Bristol will look, aesthetically, much the same that it does today. I see Depot Square celebrating it's 20th-or-so Anniversary with a large celebration of how it was the first step in the revitalization of Bristol. Our parks and schools will still be strong assets to our community and Memorial Boulevard will have added a monument to the current (2010) wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which will have ended some 20 years prior.
Bristol's industry will be made up of nearly 50% technology and information companies, with the service industry still playing a major role in our local economy.
Muzzy Field will have been renovated, and may be playing host to an Independent League team, with baseball still being the most popular sport in town. ESPN will have just celebrated their 55th Anniversary a few months earlier, and will have expanded significantly, thanks in part to the State and Local Government's efforts to make Connecticut a more business-friendly state.
Lastly, Steve Collins will be the newest owner of the Bristol Press, and will travel to work via train on a daily basis.
One could dream right?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bristol to age gracefully

Robert Casar, a Republican activist in town, offered this:

I hope that 25 years from now Bristol is the hub of activity for central Connecticut.

After a restructuring of city schools I see a series of CT state championships won by athletic teams from Bristol High School, which emerged as a powerhouse in the state since Eastern and Central merged into 1 school for grades 10-12. Other changes include 1 school for all city-wide kindergarteners, and traditional neighborhood grade schools for grades 1-5, and jr. high schools for grades 6-9.

I see a restructuring of city government to be leaner and more efficient. Most functions will be managed regionally, particularly offices dealing with land-use, planning and economic development. The town clerk's office will be almost entirely automated, and based on advances in computer security, all functions will be able to be completed via the Internet. Payroll functions and the role of the corporation counsel will be outsourced. In spite of this, city council (and thus, the board of finance) will be expanded, to include 3 members elected at-large.

After enacting an income tax of 1% on all wages earned in the city, Bristol will have bailed itself out of the debt created during the early 2000's. They will keep the tax, however, and use it responsibly to construct a completely new civic center facility housing government offices, courts, and public safety headquarters, as well as athletic facilities (indoor pool and ice rink.) Thanks to new synthetic eco-friendly materials, roads will be impeccably maintained and parks and athletic fields will always be green. Our police officers and fire/rescue workers (the FD will provide ambulance/paramedic service) will be among the best trained and equipped in the state.

Sadly, some of the churches in town will likely be closed due to dwindling attendance, and other institutions may go the way of the dinosaurs as well. It's hard to imagine that all of our veterans from WWII and Korea, and almost all from the VietNam era will no longer be swapping stories around town and that families will be bringing their grandchildren to show them Great-great grandpa's name on Memorial Boulevard.

Overall, with the right vision and the right people in the right places, I believe that Bristol will age gracefully over the next 25 years.

Getting started

To spur things along, let me offer up some themes that some might want to pursue:

TRANSPORTATION -- How are we going to get around in 25 years? Will the roads just keep getting more congested? Will commuter trains or trolleys make a comeback? Are buses the wave of the future?
SPORTS -- What's going to change in the world of sports? Will new sports kick out the old ones? Will Bristol remain a sports-crazy town or is something else going to happen?
BUSINESS -- Is ESPN going to keep growing until it, well, takes over? Is there some other company or industry that's ready to leap into the big time? Is the next ESPN in somebody's garage now? What could it be?
GOVERNMENT -- How will City Hall change? Will the form of government remain intact? Will we have a new city hall building? Is government going to move online? Will we vote on our phones?
NEWS -- How will people find out what's going on in 2035? What's going to be different?
FOOD -- Are we still going to eat the same stuff or will the grocery stores and restaurants shift their offerings in the decades to come? Salad bars were a new thing 25 years ago. What's going to be there in 2035 that isn't around today?
HEALTH -- It's probably a dangerous topic at the moment, but what's the future hold? Will we still have Bristol Hospital? Will we still go to doctors or will we put our fingers in a computer device and have data sent off to Mumbai for analysis? Will we be healthier? Will we live longer?
There's so much more to tackle. This is just a start to get folks thinking.

Bristol in 2035

This blog was set up by The Bristol Press to foster a community discussion of what the city might be like in 25 years. We hope that those who are interested will weigh in with their ideas and comments.
We're also looking for thoughts about what it will be like in the neighboring towns of Plymouth, Plainville and Southington.
We'll allow anonymous comments to posts on this site, but if you want your thoughts posted as a separate entry, you need to provide your name. If you want to provide identifying information about yourself as well, that would be great (i.e., "Steve Collins, a Bristol Press reporter since 1994").
If you followed a link to this post and want to see more, click on the Bristol 2035 logo at the top of the page to see the entire site.