Mayor David Martin, along with Traffic, Transportation, and Parking Bureau Chief Jim Travers and community leaders from Stamford’s West Side, are thrilled to announce the rededication of “Boxer Square,” and the creation of a new community space.
Today, City officials unveiled the completed community space that was partially funded by a Community Connectivity grant from the State of Connecticut’s Department of Transportation. This project was planned over several years with coordination between the City’s Traffic, Transportation, and Parking Bureau with neighborhood representatives and community members. The creation of Boxer Square included redesigning Stillwater Avenue’s intersection to improve traffic operations, added new sidewalks, newly paved roads, and incorporated the neighborhood’s iconic boxing statue as the centerpiece of the community space.
“One of Stamford’s greatest strengths is the passion our residents have for community,” said Mayor David Martin. “This project will decrease traffic accidents and create a communal space for Stamford’s West Side neighborhood. It’s truly inspiring to see Stamford residents take on this project and work with our traffic engineers to make it a reality for their community and this neighborhood’s future.”
Stamford business owner Anthony Pellicci coined the nickname Boxer Square in 1995 after he teamed up with local community member Ralph Antonacci and local welding artist A.D. Richardson to erect a sculpture depicting the epic final fight between Mohammad Ali and Joe Frazier in their 1975 bout in the Philippines known as “Thrilla in Manilla.” Pellicci and Antonacci wanted to spruce up the traffic island on Stillwater Avenue and approached A.D. Richardson to create a sculpture unique to Stamford’s West Side. Richardson’s boxers have been on Stillwater Avenue for 25 years, but the original sculpture was created in the late 1970s. The square has been a neighborhood source of pride for decades.
“I’ve never had so many people come up to me during a construction project to tell me the history of their neighborhood, express their appreciation for our work, and offer my staff food, drinks, or a hug,” said Traffic, Transportation, and Parking Bureau Chief Jim Travers. “The sense of pride everyone in this community has for their neighborhood has been the best part of this work. I am truly humbled to be a part of this.”
In July 2009, the City commissioned the Cecial Group and Newman Architects to complete a Stillwater Avenue Corridor Study to help shape a vision for the square’s future. The study became the guiding factor of the City’s Traffic, Transportation, and Parking Bureau as they pursued funding sources for the square’s improvements. With support from Stamford’s Board of Representatives, the City accepted the State of Connecticut’s Community Connectivity grant, and the bureau quickly completed design plans and began reconstruction earlier this summer.
“The Department of Transportation’s Community Connectivity Program exists to help people get safely and efficiently to and from these vital areas, especially on foot, by bike, and via public transit, and thereby increasing their use and vibrancy,” said Connecticut’s Department of Transportation Planning Director Robert Bell. “We have great city and town centers through Connecticut, with valuable amenities such as schools restaurants, businesses, creational facilities, health care, government services, and residents. We are excited to have partnered with, and provided funding to, the City of Stamford to implement its vision for the transportation improvements in Boxer Square.”
The City of Stamford chose to expand on the grant awarded to the Traffic, Transportation, and Parking Bureau and allocated additional capital project funding to expand the scope of the project.
“These investments in our neighborhood are vital because they strengthen our City’s community,” said Mayor Martin.
In addition to designing a community space, Boxer Square’s renovations improved usability for pedestrians and motorists. Stillwater Avenue’s intersection with Smith Street was previously an awkward configuration with excessive amounts of asphalt, poor pedestrian connections, and troublesome traffic accidents. The intersection has been transformed into a neighborhood-scaled place that simplifies traffic movements, shortens pedestrian crossings, creates bicyclist and pedestrian amenities, installs a new granite base to house the restored Boxers sculpture, and creates a community plaza with landscaped features.
Carlucci Welding and Fabrication performed the restoration of Richardson’s Boxers sculpture after hearing about the project through the community.
“This is a unique piece of art with careful craftsmanship and attention to detail,” said welding artist Canio Carlucci. “I am truly honored to have been able to work on this — my family was from the West Side.”
The City’s Boxer Square project allocated funding for restoration of the sculpture, but after getting involved in the project, Carlucci offered to perform restoration for free and donate the City’s restoration funding to local nonprofits — Fairgate Farms and the Boys and Girls Club of Stamford.