On entering a room one first notices the impeccable attire of the person with whom we have been asked to meet. Recently he joined the meeting, well over 6 feet, wearing a hat, brown felt with a feather in the hat band having come in from being outside. A medium brown suit, blue shirt, yellow tie and a caramel, what appeared to be cashmere, sweater. Most striking were the purple polka dot socks! I do not for a minute think this a costume as I remind myself that perhaps I am underdressed for the meeting. Next you realize that he has commanded the meeting and assuming the role of host he takes charge with his usual enthusiasm thanking all of us for taking the time to meet because he has a project specifically, requiring a team to work together on a city-owned blighted building. His hope is to introduce a young, eager brother and sister development team Stoneyhill Properties to the Preservation Alliance in hopes of renovating a ten-year vacant and abandoned residential property in the Promise Zone (North End) which lies in an historic district. He know the Alliance can offer the financial opportunity of utilizing the State’s Historic Homes Rehabilitation Credit and bring additional funds to a complicated restoration plan. More to the point this property, 59-61 Magnolia Street, holds the potential of sparking neighborhood revitalization. The developers are committed to offering an affordable homeownership opportunity and to bring new life to Magnolia Street. Our host is doing what he always does and does well – get people together to improve the City he loves. He is Glenn Geathers, Neighborhood Project Manager!
Over the past several years I have come to know Glenn, typically by a voicemail summons: “Frank, I have something important to talk about. Call me back right away on my cell”. He is the big picture guy who wrestles with Hartford’s portfolio of vacant, abandoned and blighted properties. He is also the mother hen of the churches which struggle to maintain their historic sanctuaries. Glenn is the guy with vision. He has worked for years to bring life back to the Northwest School at 1240 Albany Avenue, long-abandoned, and soon to be reused for a multi-purpose center. A multi-million dollar renovation which will soon break ground has had Glenn hard at work for many years to cobble together the funds for a community asset. Glenn presents at many Neighborhood Revitalization Zones (NRZ) as an advocate on behalf of the City for neighborhood investment. Perhaps introducing a potential developer or maybe representing Hartford itself about properties which are in great need of vision, money and effort to become vital once again.
The Magnolia Street residence is a perfect example of Glenn getting people around a table to encourage a reusing properties which is the key to redevelopment in neighborhoods. Our role is to bring historic preservation resources -money and technical assistance – to develops. We bring tax credit equity to the project, help to navigate the process to win approval for the renovations with the city’s Historic Preservation Commission and to teach this model for other development to follow. Glenn understands the benefit of assembling a team to make a success of a project. In the end we all benefit as communities are re-established in Hartford.
Glenn prefers to be known as the guy who makes things happen. He revels in his role and seeks to continue to be a much-needed advisor choosing to work behind the scenes. One wonders how he can do this wearing purple polka dot socks but…..…. We who work on behalf of the city we love need to acknowledge and cherish such dedication. So Glenn we will always take your call!
Bureaucrat? Not by any measure. I wish to thank him for his clever wizardry on behalf of Hartford.