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Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!

The Storrs Center Project released detailed plans for its new Village Street. Will it be the "street to nowhere?"

I love Mansfield!

Trouble is, it doesn’t really exist. Pure fantasy.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. But before you call my sanity into question, check it out. No zip code exists for Mansfield. (There is one for Storrs-Mansfield and Mansfield Center, but no Mansfield.)

Two nights ago the public had the opportunity to examine Mansfield-land’s (aka Storrs Center Project) detailed plans for its proposed Village Street before its submission to the Town Planner for his approval.

Sadly, most residents believe (and rightly so) that this downtown development train, while lumbering down the tracks at a glacial pace, cannot be stopped. Heads shake, people complain, but everyone is at a loss. What to do?

It is the perfect example of a supply without a demand, they say.

Residents are smart, real smart. They know they will pay for this mistake for years and years to come in higher taxes, vacant store fronts, and empty parking garages. And where, they say, are the principals who, together with UConn officials, kept up the steady drumbeat for this project? Well, they took their retirement package and headed straight out of town.

At an earlier point, the Town’s development team pitched Mansfield-land as New Bedford Falls. (For those readers unfamiliar with the reference, it was the small town in the 1946 Jimmy Stewart movie “It’s A Wonderful Life.")

I always thought this loopy real estate plan was more like “The Simpsons” episode of “Marge vs. The Monorail” in which the fictitious city of Springfield is sold a “monorail to nowhere” by a flimflam man, and at the end of the episode another equally ludicrous project, an “escalator to nowhere”.

Mansfield never was a single town. Ever! It was closer to the squabbling Balkans, a geographical region comprised of something like 16 villages with beautiful names like Chaffeeville, Gurleyville, Warrenville, Mansfield City, Mansfield Center, and my favorite, Eagleville. (Some of these tiny villages in my estimation never rose to the level of a village. They were more like hamlets, but let’s not quibble.)

The important thing to remember is that 18th and 19th century travel between these villages during winter, early spring, and late fall was nearly impassible on the rutted and rough dirt roads through the hills and vales that intersected the area. Even the Native Americans, it was said, used it as hunting grounds only with no permanent settlements. Each of these villages became, through necessity, fiercely proud and independent with their own general store, church and small functional green for animals.

Fast forward to the present day.

Mansfield-land, no matter how it is packaged, will never be the soul of this community. There was never a longing for it. There was no need for it commercially.

Sadly, Village Street may, like the Springfield monorail and escalator, become our very own “street to nowhere”.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Korina Moss October 06, 2011 at 06:24 PM
There was never a longing for it? Perhaps among the naysayers, but everyone I know in town is very much looking forward to having a downtown. It will be a boon to Mansfield and to the university. I think it's ironic that this is published on the day we're mourning Steve Jobs, one of America's greatest visionaries. He didn't ever say, "This has never been done, so we'd better not do it." And for those of you who are afraid of higher taxes (which get raised every year because we have minimal businesses in town to carry the burden) there are PLENTY of towns nearby with no town centers, no communities, and no progress. Feel free to move to one of them.
Mike Sikoski October 07, 2011 at 11:21 AM
Look at the tax abatements and the LOAN that Mansfield got from the developer. Then think to yourself, "how the heck can the taxpayer pay for this. Patricia is right on track. (pun intended)
Sara Anderson October 07, 2011 at 02:15 PM
If it's a train we can't stop, then why not make the best of it? What a great opportunity to have an actual community. As for there being no need, there's a campus full of thousands of people with money to burn who could really do with something more to do on the weekends than drink or leave town. Have you ever been to a college town? Students and residents can actually co-exist with positive repercussions. I also believe that the development will be good for existing local businesses. I go to Manchester to shop, but also to get my oil changed, get my dog groomed, get my car washed, then go out to lunch because I'm there so long. If I could stay in town for more shopping, then the other services would follow. The only way I see the Storrs Center project tanking is if naysayers continue to boycott the whole idea. So, get on board and enjoy interacting with your community more than just waving while you drive by.
ric hossack October 07, 2011 at 04:11 PM
@ Korina... funny you should bring a comparison to Steve Jobs into the discussion of The Downtown. To be sure he was a visionary but not the great man he is touted to be. Apple has 76 BILLION in capital reserves so they can pretty much do what they want. In addition Apple has out sourced thousands of jobs to China, where absolutely no taxes are taken in. The Downtown Project has stated they would provide a "family" oriented project only to turn around get EDR involved, to provide student housing. Agreed a new downtown will look nice and provide a few town residents with a new place to go but for the most part it will provide the residents of Mansfield with a gigantic money pit for years to come. As far as moving to another town, which is certainly a right we all have, would be an option provided we could get a realistic price for our homes instead of the ever decreasing value contributed to by higher taxes in Mansfield. Personally, I moved here because of the rural environment and feel betrayed by town council for attempting to turn Mansield into Amherst or Buckland Hills. The saddest thing of all is when all the promoters finally realize they were wrong and the "naysayers" were correct, it will be too late. The debt will still be with us and Mansfield will have attained the status of another foolish town where public/private partnerships have failed.
Steve Marriott October 07, 2011 at 08:36 PM
BRAVO! Excellent article! The Storrs Center Project is a flim-flam first class. To the people who say that "everyone they know" supports it, there are a few things wrong with your theory. The first is that "everyone you know" is not the same thing as "everyone." Everyone doesn't support your vision. I don't. Second, just because "everyone you know" supports it, doesn't give you the right or the moral claim to take the labor and money of your friends and neighbors and gamble it away like Jack in "Jack and the Beanstalk." And finally, if "everyone you know" supports it, then what has been stopping you and "everyone" (your like-minded progressive friends) from getting together and forming a investment collective to PRIVATELY fund the Storrs Center? This way you can leave those who don't share your vision out of it. And, guess what? If you did form a PRIVATE Storrs Center Investment Corporation then you and your friends (everyone you know) could keep the windfall of profits that you believe is sure to come and you and everyone you know can revel together basking in the spirit of knowing you created a wonderful "downtown." The truth is that you want others to pay for what you want. You want to use government to take your neighbors money (by force) to pay for your conveniences like dog grooming and car washes. You don't want to get your hands dirty, so you'll use government to do your dirty work (rob your friends) and somehow that legitimizes this big flim-flam.
ric hossack October 08, 2011 at 04:10 PM
The townspeople of Mansfield have NEVER had the opportunity to vote on this project, even though it will effect every man , woman, and child for years to come. especially the children because they will be paying the debt on the boondoggle for eternity. The town managed to avoid a referendum on this by borrowing $3,000,000 from EDR and repaying the loan through "tax abatement's" which work out to 8.3% interest [a good return in today's economy].... nothing like open and transparent government. One wonders what other "back room" deals have been cooked up under the premise of progress. Mr Dest is correct. Private projects funded with public money never work. And contrary to some opinions, public money is not free money. It still comes from someone. So not only are the citizens of Mansfield going to pay and pay and pay, the citizens of Connecticut have paid as well.
Steve Marriott October 22, 2011 at 11:42 AM
One these politicians and social planners get a wedge into the taxpayers funds, they'll never let go. It's like opening Pandora's box. They got a vehicle that provides them access to "free" money, and now they'll never shut the spigot off until it's too late. But remember, this is all for our own good. Isn't collectivism wonderful?

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