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Maria Gilda Racelis' Blog

By Maria Gilda Racelis | Broker in 06040

Turning a Blighted City into a Beauty- New Britain Connecticut

For $22,000, the Berkowitz building in New Britain, Connecticut is on it's way(?) to a transformation from being the biggest eyesore in the city. The decrepit edifice on 618 Main Street is owned by Bainridge Street Realty based in Staten, New York eight and was bought 8 years ago for $225.000.

As part of the deal, the city of New Britain would forgive the tens of thousands of dollars in fines that Bainbridge has piled up for health, safety and building code violations. The sale of the building was reported to transpire in June this year.

"It's first-floor retail and upper-floor apartments have been vacant for years. The reckless abandon, pun intended,  leaves the  property with shattered windows and knee-high grass. Doors are boarded up with warping plywood, trash is scattered around the grounds, and the vast majority of the Berkowitz's dozens of windows are either open, smashed or missing." (Hartford Courant)

Citing the report from Hartford Courant, Mayor Tim O' Brien promised to get tough on owners of severely blighted properties who've allowed conditions to worsen for long periods of time. In December, the council approved his plan to raise fines for code violations to a stiff $250 per day and then place liens when the owners don't promptly pay.

For a building like the Berkowitz, that approach can quickly lead to massive fines because each broken or missing window counts as a separate violation – and another $250 a day.

O'Brien's plan is to offer this buidling to DEVELOPERS. GREAT!!! But the question is HOW WOULD THE TOWN OF NEW BRITAIN ATTRACT DEVELOPERS. Clearly, O'Brien's vision is to reinvigorate and revitalize the town and eradicate the decrepits.

"The greatest inhibitor to enlisting others in a common vision is lack of personal vision.”-James M. Kouzes and Barry Posner. Granting that the mayor has this vision. The implementation of the vision is the biggest QUESTION?  

To ensure that the vision will see it's fruition, FRAMING of the Organizational work is crucial, imperative and primordial. What is a destination without a direction? What is a journey without a destination? What is a path for when it is inaccessible? These questions are not inimical to vision.

One most essential ingredient in FRAMING organizational work with vision is that the conceptualization should be expressed distinctly, intelligibly and enthusiastically to the mayor's team (if there is an assigned team already) to understand wholly and completely the VISION.

When former Governor Ed Rendell took a revitalization project for the State of Pennsylvania, he created the Community Action Team (CAT) to take charge and to detail and forge successful partnerships with local elected officials.(Community Revitalization)

In the State of Iowa, The Department of Economics of Iowa University has proposed that a good organization is necessary to develop and carry out plans for retail development. In most towns, a committee structure usually provides the fairest way of getting citizen input. Typically the committee is originated by the Chamber of Commerce or the Economic Development group. Its primary function is to get the community to focus on the retail sector. The committee should attempt to generate the same kind of enthusiasm for retail development as is usually found for industrial development.(Developing your Town's Retail Potential).

When we read or hear the word “Framing”, we visualize it as essential components of a structure; the part and parcel of an organization; the backbone of a project. These components are carefully joined or glued together to form a structure.

For instance, if am to build to an A-frame home, the joists, studs, beams and foundation should be laid out to conjoin structure which looks almost exactly like the letter A. Hence, right from the start of the homebuilding, the team of workers can visualize clearly what the final outcome should be.

This same rule applies when presenting the project to the sponsors or stakeholders. One of the first things you can do to ensure ongoing support and attention from the sponsors and other influential stakeholders is to set expectations right away and get specific commitments.

Thomas Kendrick, author of Identifying and Managing Project Risk,  emphasized that the sponsors are most enthusiastic and engaged in the project in its very initial phase. “By retaining management’s attention and focus throughout your project, you can use your sponsor’s authority to substantially enhance your project control.”

By defining or constructing meaning to each task or work involved in the project, especially if it requires additional funding, staffing,  travel or training, the sponsors and stakeholders can assign easily in their minds the necessity for such additional requirements. This can secure commitment from your sponsors from the initial phase to the end.  It is like writing a good script sans ontological ending. 


The City of New Britain has a diverse population, and a rich history. Tucked into our many neighborhoods are 1,200 acres of the best park system in the state, sporting complexes and a treasure-trove of cultural attractions waiting to be discovered. (Town of New Britain).

The city housed the Central Connecticut State University which could serve as a direct and indirect partner for business development and support through their main campus and CCSU's Institute for Technology and Business Development.

In this environment,  mixed-use projects can be the favored type of development, offering greater convenience for busy professionals. It will also appeal to both empty nesters and their young adult offspring by providing pedestrian-accessible retail, restaurants, parks, supermarkets and offices. 

The mayor's first and foremost task is to form a committee. The committee should be broadly representative of the whole community. At a minimum the following groups should be represented.

• Consumers

• Retailers

• City government

• News media

• Industry

• Financial institutions

To enhance the operation of the committee, strong emphasis should be placed on appointing "movers and shakers" where possible.

Most importantly, A STRONG LEADER, respected by the community, should be appointed as chairperson of the committee.



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