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Waterford has a tax base that is the envy of surrounding communities. Successive town leaders saw an opportunity in its large areas of open space with easy access to Interstates 95 and 395. The result was the construction of shopping centers and other commercial developments. Along with Millstone Power Station, they provide the tax revenues that allow Waterford to provide a quality educational system in new and renovated schools and great recreational opportunities for its residences.
Yet, as the town has transitioned from a rural community to suburbia, it has suffered from a lack of place. There is no center to Waterford, no downtown; it is a conglomeration of old and new neighborhoods, interspersed with shopping malls and retail strip development.
It makes sense then that the town, now substantially developed, is turning renewed attention to some of its overlooked jewels.
At a recent business meeting, First Selectman Daniel Steward said revitalizing Mago Point will be a policy priority. The small coastal district long benefitted from its location along busy Route 156, the point where a swing bridge carried traffic over the Niantic River.
However, in 1991, with the opening of a higher, wider draw bridge that requires fewer openings for boats, Route 156 was shifted south and Mago Point found itself suddenly off the beaten path. While some restaurants and shops held on, many closed.
This waterside enclave still has much going for it, but the town now needs to work harder to promote its advantages. Needed is a plan, one that will build upon its still vibrant charter fishing operations and get people back into Mago Point. The potential is great.
Also, getting renewed attention a couple of miles east on Route 156, is Jordan Village. It is the oldest settlement in the town, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Where once Route 156 breathed economic life into Mago Point, it divides Jordan Village, cars speeding past, its narrow shoulders unable to accommodate on-street parking.
With funding from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation's Vibrant Communities Initiative, a consultant is developing a plan to make the village more pedestrian friendly and a gathering center for surrounding neighborhoods.
Waterford residents should welcome these efforts.