<< Back

How a Hospital, Church and City Are Working Together to Improve the Health of Their Community

August 04, 2023

When Hartford HealthCare announced a partnership with an inner-city church to transform a litter-strewn, abandoned property in downtown Norwich into a community park, it left some people scratching their heads.

Why would a statewide health system donate $15,000 to add a park on tiny property on the corner of Broadway and Main Street?

Because Backus Hospital, Hartford HealthCare and Castle Church all want to help improve quality of life in lower income neighborhoods — whether that means providing access to healthcare, greenspace or both.

Studies show that greenspace — just like food, shelter and utilities – are social determinants of health that can have major impacts on one’s health.

Adam Bowles, pastor of Castle Church, which is adjacent to the Jubilee Park property, says it all started with his congregation wanting to clean up the blighted parcel, which is adjacent to the church and the only real greenspace downtown.

“Since then we have created an incredible public-private partnership between Backus Hospital, the Norwich Community

Development Corporation (NCDC), the municipality, and the church family,” said Kevin Brown, president of NCDC.

“The more we got involved, the more we realized the property had much more potential. It could be a big benefit – a big blessing – for the Norwich community,” Bowles said.

Backus and HHC have neighborhood health programs that are collaborating with local communities to improve peoples’ health and quality of life. That’s why they provided the seed money for the first phase of the development of Jubilee Park, including the award-winning Jubilee Mural, a 30-minute documentary, repairs and clean up to the site.

That donation helped build momentum for the project.

Last month, the state Bond Commission approved $500,000 for Jubilee Park and Lower Broadway near City Hall.

On Friday, July 21, the Yale Urban Design Workshop presented five preliminary concepts to the Jubilee Park Steering Committee, which includes Joseph Zuzel, manager of community health for Backus and Windham hospitals.

The preliminary designs ranged from a more traditional park allowing people to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city to an array of flower gardens, plantings and enclosed structures for community gatherings such as concerts, farmer’s markets and health screenings.

“We are so proud to be part of this work with so many committed people,” said Keith Fontaine, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Hartford HealthCare.

Now that the Jubilee Park Steering Committee has provided its feedback, the design firm will draft more specific plans for the park.

The steering committee will then approve a design, paving the way for the project to begin in Spring 2024.