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City: More Illumination in Works for Harbor Park Tunnel Walkway Roof

When decorative lighting turned up on the structure that beckons visitors to Middletown's downtown, some were pleased with the change while others charge it's a bit over-the-top.

Middletown's Harbor Park Pedestrian Walkway
Middletown's Harbor Park Pedestrian Walkway

Motorists driving along deKoven Drive and city hall visitors after nightfall likely have noticed the new roof outline lighting at the entrance to the Harbor Park tunnel walkway in Middletown that runs under Route 9 and connects Harbor Park to the city parking lot adjacent to city hall.

Florescent lights follow both the upper and lower pavilion on all sides of the structure that covers the entrance to the tunnel. And, although some have expressed displeasure with the marquee-like effect, the city has no intention of pulling the plug and in fact plans to further enhance it. 

The goal of illuminating the green steel pavilion at night is to bring attention to Middletown and the Connecticut River from Route 9 and provide a gateway to Main Street, said William Russo, director of Middletown Public Works. 

"We will also be installing a sign on the gazebo that says Middletown, and it will be lit at night," he said. "All we have had is compliments in terms of identifying the way to the waterfront." 

Russo said the lighting was not in Architect W. Lee Osbourne's original design, however, he offered input on the illumination.

Last summer, when Mayor Dan Drew revived the idea of decorative lighting on the Arrigoni Bridge that spans the Connecticut River connecting Middletown and Portland and an architect's renderings were made public, residents had much to say about the design. 

As for the Harbor Park pavilion, Architectural Designer and Planning and Zoning Commission vice chair  Molly Salafia, who called the structure's design "gorgeous," is displeased with its illumination.

"I would have liked to see light-emitting diode bulbs, possibly more of them underneath, and lighting of the walkway itself," said Salafia, who also sits on the Historic Preservation and Design Review Board. 

"I understand its purpose is to draw attention, but it's like a convenience store. I realize it was a time-sensitive issue and I don't know why [the city] didn't consult with designers, because we would have been glad to help."

Architect and town planner Catherine Johnson is a former Middletown Planning and Zoning Commissioner.

"For a couple weeks, it was nice to look at at night," Johnson said. "The warm lighting inside the pavilion made it very welcoming. Then the sharp, cold, fluorescent/LED lighting was installed to outline the thing, and it completely stole away the inviting quality of the pavilion that existed earlier." 

Both Johnson and Salafia suspect the city's intention of creating a warm gateway to the downtown may not have been successful.

"It feels completely different. It's jarring. It's very off-putting. It feels cheap and sends a message to stay away, this is not a nice place to be," Johnson said.

In fact, she thinks public works should reconsider its installation. "I would urge the city to have the outline lighting removed," she said. "Everything in this world benefits from discerning editing. It was tested, and it isn't successful, so get rid of it."

What do you think of the decorative lighting along Middletown's Harbor Park walkway roof? Tell us in the comments section below.

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Jessica Broderick January 03, 2014 at 08:34 PM
I think it is important to create a sense of identity for the tunnel, especially with the plans being established to revitalize our riverfront. The gazebo was a great way to accomplish that, and of course it should be lit at night. However, I agree with Molly Salafia and Catherine Johnson about the current lighting design being a little too harsh; I don't think a fluorescent outline was completely necessary for creating a sense of place in this situation. The brightness makes the gazebo stand out too much from the surrounding buildings and infrastructure - perhaps something softer would be more appropriate.
Patrick A McConnell January 03, 2014 at 10:45 PM
Let's light the bridge! C'mon Mayor I can get it done!
T. Smith January 04, 2014 at 06:45 AM
Personally, I like it. It is absolutely the #1 eye-catching structure as you drive Rt.9 (with the obvious exception of the Arrigoni Bridge). The lighting is bold and forward-thinking. Signage proclaiming this place as Middletown harkens back to the days of train stations when getting someplace was an ARRIVAL and not just 'getting there'. Keep moving and thinking forward. Nice job.
Kimberly S. Godfrey January 04, 2014 at 10:26 AM
I dislike the current lighting of the gazebo roof. It looks too cheesy, too tacky and harsh on the eyes. The lighting should be warmed up a bit. It doesn't look inviting at all. It screams bad lighting. It looks out of place with the surrounding buildings and the downtown architecture. Let's not waste tax payers dollars on such nonsense. Light the way safely. This is not Broadway after all.
Tom Sebold January 04, 2014 at 08:01 PM
The current lighting is tacky at best. Listen to Johnson and Salafia carefully. They have the training. Architectural lighting is best left to the pros!

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