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Friday, July 3, 2009

Stamford Town Center Jazz on the Plaza, Stamford, Connecticut

As most visitors to Stamford, Connecticut might attest, this is a city and downtown in search of its center and whose history is not immediately apparent. Founded in the 17th century, very few relics from the colonial era and 18th and 19th century heritage are present.

This issue is put into stark contrast by a New York Times article from May 1988 entitled "A Town Sells Off Pieces of Its Soul". In it the author states a wave of redevelopment projects and lamented somewhat nostalgically:
When the city sold that small piece of its past, allowed parking lots to be built on playgrounds and permitted Park Manor to become just another office building, Stamford lost something dearer than jobs. Little by little, the town had sold off pieces of its soul, something that may take decades to find again.

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Ironically, the same modernizing forces which made Stamford an important corporate center for Connecticut made it a less vibrant retail destination for the major downtown mall. Stamford saw itself challenged by nearby Greenwich, Connecticut's downtown shopping district and newer malls in White Plains. In response, the mall owner Taubman Center redeveloped the former Filene's anchor and added pedestrian-friendly retail space. In November 2007, the Stamford Town Center opened with four new restaurants and an outdoor space for public gatherings.

Recognizing the important role of events to attract crowds, the "Jazz on the Plaza" concert series was started, sponsored by the US Open Tennis Championship, Altria Senior Living, a local State Farm Insurance agent, and the local 96.7FM radio station. A tent was erected in the Plaza with a sign promoting the series. While this is hardly the full answer to the question of what Stamford needs, it is at least a hopeful step forward, even if in design and programing it borrows from more successful downtown areas like Greenwich which it ostensibly is competing with.

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