Connecticut Main Street Center


Vol.12, Issue 2

Inspiring great Connecticut downtowns, Main Street by Main Street.

Downtown Update

Newsletter of the Connecticut Main Street Center
CMSC Welcomes Susan Westa  

The Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC) is pleased to welcome Susan Westa, AICP to the team in her new role as Community Engagement Director.  As you may recall from our July newsletter, CMSC began expanding its staff earlier this year, hiring first a new Communications & Office Manager, then a new Downtown Economic Development Director.  A Community Engagement Director was the final position to be filled. 

As Community Engagement Director, Susan will train and support local and regional Main Street revitalization organizations and partners by providing guidance and leadership in organizing strategic, tactical revitalization efforts - a task to which she is perfectly suited considering her extensive planning background.  Susan comes to CMSC with 25 years' experience working with communities to help them plan for the future.  For the last 11 years, Susan was an Extension Educator with the University of Connecticut where she served as Co-Director of the Green Valley Institute.  For two years, Susan also served as the Coordinator and Planner for the Borderlands Village Innovation Pilot Project.  Prior to that Susan worked as a planning consultant in upstate New York.  She is a Certified Planner and has an MS in Environmental Science.

Together with Jack Burritt, CMSC's Downtown Economic Development Director, Susan will meet with CMSC member communities and others in support of creating great downtowns.  Here at CMSC, we're thrilled to have her join us as the final member of our newly expanded team. 
CT's Office of the Arts City Canvas Initiative the Picture of a Successful CMSC Main Street Community 

The CT Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) recognizes that the attractiveness of a public space has a significant impact on its success. As a result, DECD is implementing a public-arts initiative called City Canvas through its Office of the Arts. This initiative is closely linked with the work of CMSC and its member communities, as evidenced by the fact that six of the seven City Canvas communities chosen are CMSC members.


City Canvas brings art downtown by commissioning Connecticut artists to create mural-based artwork in highly visible public places around the State. It is a one-time initiative aimed at creating vibrant works of art, that also connect Connecticut's urban areas with a Statewide placemaking initiative. The communities that were chosen for this initiative include Bridgeport, Hartford, New Britain, New London, Stamford, Torrington, and Waterbury. All but Stamford are CMSC member communities.


The artwork for the City Canvas initiative can be abstract or take on a narrative, and is meant to reflect the community in which it's created. In New London this meant The Cabinet of Shells, giant paintings of seashells on the side of a parking garage, reflecting the importance of the Connecticut shoreline. In Waterbury, a mosaic of swimming fish called Cool Waters was designed by artists Bruce and Joanne Hunter and assembled by hundreds of local volunteers to represent the restoration of the Naugatuck River. And while the City Canvas artwork can be permanent or temporary, there's no doubt that all of it is beautiful, thoughtfully reflecting the individuality of each community.


For an updated list of each community's artwork, click here.

The Celebration Continues for CMSC 2012 Award Winners Michael DiPiro and Michael Sokolowski  
505 Main St Middletown-After
505 Main Street, Middletown looks beautiful after extensive reconstruction. Snow from a devastating 2011 snowstorm had caused the third floor to cave in.

Congratulations are in order for CMSC 2012 Property Owner of the Year Award winners Michael DiPiro and Michael Sokolowski, who recently re-opened their doors at 505 Main Street in Middletown. The pair, partners at the accounting firm of Guilmartin, DiPiro and Sokolowski, spent the last 18 months in temporary office space as their Main Street building was reconstructed after collapsing in a devastating snow storm.


On February 2, 2011, Mr. DiPiro and partner Christopher Conley were working in their second floor office when they heard strange noises and discovered a sagging beam on the third floor. They wisely exited the building and called for help. Just as firefighters arrived, the building shook and broke apart, with the entire third floor caving in. Fortunately no one was hurt, but the building was uninhabitable.


After the collapse, support came pouring in. Firefighters helped carry out what could be salvaged. The Downtown Business District, Chamber of Commerce, city workers and residents helped in the clean-up, gave the misplaced tenants storage, and provided other resources to move forward. Local businesses and property owners offered the accounting firm free space until they got back on their feet.


All this support was likely due to the fact that beyond just being property and business owners, Mr. DiPiro and Mr. Sokolowski are also exceptionally community-oriented, and the firm has been involved with numerous local organizations - doing tax returns for non-profits, helping local businesses, and acting as role models for kids. Mr. Sokolowski is also a member and past president of the Exchange Club and Mr. DiPiro serves as Chairman of the Middletown Downtown Business District.


Their stalwart dedication to downtown continued even after the building's collapse. Despite the higher cost of rebuilding, Mr. DiPiro and Mr. Sokolowski decided to stay on Main Street. As Mr. DiPiro put it, "Yes, it would have been easy to stay in our temporary office, but Downtown is the place to be." And so, the rebuilding of 505 Main Street began in October 2011, finishing just days ago. The new building has a classic early 1900's façade with large windows and brick cladding. The first floor is available for retail space and will be the new home to Vietnamese restaurant Lan Chi, while the second and third floors are Class A office space.


For its part, the city of Middletown became a catalyst in the process, realizing the impact on the grand list and voting to grant Mr. DiPiro and Mr. Sokolowski a four-year tax abatement of approximately $135,000. The City also waived all building permit fees, valued at $26,000. In addition, Mr. DiPiro and Mr. Sokolowski received a $1.3 million construction mortgage allowing them to start rebuilding. All together this financing created a win-win-win situation for the downtown, which continues to have viable retail space that attracts visitors; the town, which will reap the tax benefit of these businesses; and owners Mr. DiPiro and Mr. Sokolowski who were able to retain their workers and even expand their business into the new office space.


Read the Hartford Courant's coverage of 505 Main Street's re-opening.


See before and after photos of 505 Main Street, as well as photos of these and other CMSC Award Winners on our Facebook page. You can also read more about the winning initiatives and individuals here.


Re-Mains of the Day 

Mansfield Downtown Partnership: Storrs Center Opening Soon!

Submitted by the Mansfield Downtown Partnership, Inc.


The Mansfield Downtown Partnership looks forward to welcoming the first residents of Storrs Center! Residents will begin moving into the rental apartments The Oaks on the Square on August 15. The Oaks are fully leased, and residents will move in at scheduled times over a couple of weeks. The first phase of Storrs Center features 127 rental apartments, and the second phase - scheduled to open in August 2013 - will have approximately 160 additional apartments.

1 Dog Ln-Mansfield
One Dog Lane, a mixed-use pedestrian building with commercial spaces on the first floor and rental apartments on the upper floors. It is directly across the street from UConn's School of Fine Arts.


In the meantime, businesses are opening on the first floors of the mixed-use buildings which comprise the first phase of Storrs Center. Storrs Automotive and Select Physical Therapy opened in their new locations in May, while Head Husky Barber Styling Shop, Body Language, and Connecticut Travel Planners opened in early August. Coming soon are: Sweet Emotions Candy; Bank of America; Subway; Husky Pizza; Froyoworld; Moe's Southwest Grill; Dog Lane Cafe; Mooyah Burgers and Fries; Insomnia Cookies; and Geno's.


Visitors to Mansfield's new downtown will be treated to a wide variety of restaurants, shops, cafés, and public spaces. Storrs Center is a multi-phase project which will be developed over a several year period. For more information, please visit the Mansfield Downtown Partnership's website or the Storrs Center website.



And remember - a perfect time to visit is during the Partnership's annual Festival on the Green! This year's event is Sunday, September 23 from noon to 5:00 pm at E. O. Smith High School (rain or shine). We hope to see you there!


This newsletter is meant to be a vehicle to communicate with our member communities, industry colleagues and generous supporters.  If you have information about events happening in your downtown, captivating pictures of your Main Street or news regarding your organization that you would like to share in our monthly newsletter, please let us know 







President's Message 

In our July newsletter I talked about how we are growing our relationships with the State and key agencies. This month I'd like to talk about the effects of those relationships and how we're using them to benefit our members. For example, a tangible result of our relationship with the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) was the role we played in bringing eligible communities together and educating them about the Main Street Investment Fund (MSIF), a program designed to assist communities in enhancing their downtowns by providing grants for improvements to municipal properties.


Recognizing our technical assistance expertise and strong relationships with communities throughout the State, namely through our member network, OPM contracted us to promote the Main Street Investment Fund program and provide guidance to applicants. First, we worked closely with OPM, providing input as they designed the application and Fact Sheet, then we convened a series of workshops throughout the State, presenting jointly with Dimple Desai of OPM to educate municipalities about who may apply and project eligibility. Using our extensive contacts, attendance at these workshops numbered well over a hundred people. We continue to offer guidance to potential applicants and assistance to OPM by providing a Frequently Asked Questions reference guide, as well as posting the workshop presentation, sample downtown plans and other helpful documents on our website, as well as fielding phone calls and inquiries. Further recognizing the valuable role we play, OPM has already asked us to assist in the program's second year.


The Main Street Investment Fund program is one example of how we continually and purposely position ourselves to bring together the right people to strengthen and enhance Connecticut's Main Streets. We know that strong downtowns lead to a strong Connecticut, one where people can work and play in interesting, entertaining and economically viable settings. We're proud that our expertise in this arena is recognized by OPM and others, and we look forward to being of continued assistance to our members, especially as our team is now at full capacity. We're ready for the next opportunity - and we're here to make sure you are too.



Connecticut Main Street Center

c/o CL&P

PO Box 270 

Hartford, CT 06141



In This Issue
CMSC Welcomes Susan Westa 

CT's Office of the Arts City Canvas Initiative the Picture of a Successful CMSC Main Street Community

The Celebration Continues for CMSC 2012 Award Winners Michael DiPiro and Michael Sokolowski

Re-Mains of the Day - Mansfield Downtown Partnership: Storrs Center Opening Soon!

President's Message
Upcoming Events
SNEAPA Conference
September 20-21

DRI Workshop, Complete Streets #3
Fall 2012
Check us out on Facebook
505 Main St Middletown-After   
See before and after pictures of 505 Main Street, plus pictures from Storrs Center and more on Facebook!