MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (WTNH) — Middletown is looking at making its waterfront better, and much bigger. The city recently announced its long-term plan for developing more than 200 acres of parkland. The Middletown waterfront is beautiful already. There’s just not that much of it you can use.

“What has been missing is a comprehensive real plan,” said Mayor Ben Florsheim (D – Middletown). “You know, a plan that looks at the whole of the riverfront holistically.”

Mayor Ben Florsheim recently unveiled his comprehensive plan for a 220-acre waterfront recapture. Part of it is underway. An existing restaurant site is under renovation, and they hope to open in a few months.

“We’re going to have new tenants in here,” Florsheim explained. “It’s not just going to be a restaurant, but really sort of function as a community center for this part of town.”

As nice as it is, there has always been a problem with Harbor Park and the Middletown waterfront and that is getting to it. Decades ago, they built the multi-lane highway that is Route 9 right along the water, essentially cutting it off from the rest of the city.

So the city and state will build over Route 9 in what has turned into much more than a simple bridge.

“A pedestrian plaza that will connect our vibrant, growing, and exciting downtown with what I think is going to allow us to get to the next level,” Florsheim said.

They hope to get shovels in the ground to begin that later this year. The long-term plans stretch much further south.

“The former water treatment facility that is now decommissioned,” said Florsheim. “Some former, what used to be factory and industrial sites that were located right along the river, but have been abandoned and empty.”

Federal brownfields grants will help clean up those sites. Local bonding, state funds, and some private partnerships will help with the rest. The hope is, that investing in the waterfront will bring returns for the city and region as more people want to be here. It will take years to do it all, but the ideas for what to do are mostly coming from the people who already enjoy the waterfront.