Connecticut Main Street Center


Vol.12, Issue 6

Inspiring great Connecticut downtowns, Main Street by Main Street.

Downtown Update

Newsletter of the Connecticut Main Street Center

Come Home to Downtown Program Takes Off


Come Home to Downtown logo
Come Home to Downtown, a mixed-use real estate planning pilot program, will provide selected communities with new tools to strengthen economic health and restore vitality to their downtowns.

As you may recall from previous issues of Downtown Update, the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA), a quasi-public agency that provides financing for low- to moderate-income housing, contracted with us earlier this year to administer a program that will bring more housing downtown, creating places where people can both live and work. The result? The Come Home to Downtown pilot program.


This program will provide selected communities with new tools to enhance their downtowns by re-developing vacant or under-utilized buildings into commercial and housing space. CMSC will work closely with three to five towns, (which are in the process of being chosen after a lengthy and thorough process), providing them with several tools to address their downtown's specific needs. CMSC has engaged a team of consultants to work with the towns on the following: community engagement and consensus building; a downtown development audit; model building analysis; and assistance to small-property owners.


This work with the first class of pilot communities is expected to be completed in Summer 2013. CMSC's goals are:

  • To provide the downtowns with public and private champions, as well as the strategic tools necessary for strong downtown management;
  • A plan to attract developers who can re-develop downtown buildings into a mix of uses and housing; and finally,
  • To have measurable outcomes that can be successfully replicated in other Connecticut downtowns.
CMSC is pleased to report the Come Home to Downtown pilot program is progressing on schedule, with the pilot communities expected to be announced by the end of the year. We're excited to work with them to restore our underutilized downtown infrastructure to its full potential, creating community gathering spaces that last from day to night.      
Spotlight on 2012 CMSC Award Winner - New London's The Big Picture   


At the 2012 Awards Gala, New London Main Street received an Award of Excellence for Image Enhancement for The Big Picture. The inspiration for The Big Picture, which has grown into a much-anticipated annual community event, was born in 2008 when Inc. Magazine contacted New London Main Street for a feature story about the organization's ten years of revitalization initiatives. NL Main Street decided that a community photo would be a great way to represent the people behind the many contributions resulting in visible progress downtown.


A press release invited citizens to come together for a group photo; fifty individuals showed up. Local photographer A. Vincent Scarano donated his time to take the photo, even setting his timer so he could get in the picture with the rest of the crowd, the diversity of which was striking. Chefs, local business owners, representatives from numerous downtown organizations, the postal carrier, as well as many Main Street volunteers came together to smile for the camera and celebrate the progress of downtown.

New London Big Picture - Holiday
We've re-invented New London's Big Picture as a holiday card. Although taken in the Spring, it certainly embodies the spirit of the season as members of the community gathered together greeting visitors to their downtown.


In 2009, NL Main Street invited everyone who loves New London and helps make it a better place by living, working or volunteering downtown to come and participate. Without much promotion or fanfare participation grew to seventy-five, this time on the steps of City Hall.


In 2010, NL Main Street dubbed the annual community photo The Big Picture and incorporated this theme into all of the marketing for the event. The Garde Arts Center invited the group to pose in front of the theater, changing the marquee to "New London Main Street / The Big Picture". This time attendance grew to one hundred.


In 2011, an inspired committee decided that with more extensive promotion they could set a new record for participation, with three hundred as the goal. Save-the-Date cards, emails, rack cards and posters reminded residents of the event. With the completion of the Parade Plaza redesign, the committee decided to stage The Big Picture at the Parade - the hub of downtown New London. NL Main Street partnered with The Garde to cross-promote opening night of a show, offering $10 off the ticket price for anyone who showed their Big Picture attendance sticker. NL Main Street also created "back in 15 minutes" signs for downtown businesses. "I'm in the Big Picture" stickers were designed and circulated throughout the crowd by volunteers keeping track of attendance. Many businesses also donated to a District Basket, worth over $500, which was offered in a contest to the person who guessed how many people were in the photo. All in all, 248 people showed up to participate in the 4th annual The Big Picture.


The 2012 Big Picture was taken on April 5th at Parade Plaza. Vinnie Scarano, who continues to proudly donate his time and talent, was once again behind the camera. The event took on even more of a festive atmosphere as NL Main Street partnered with Connecticut College to incorporate a mob concert by Asphalt Orchestra into the event. The result was a picture that captures the exuberance and effort of a community that annually comes together to celebrate New London's unique and engaging downtown.


Photos from the 2012 Awards Gala have been posted to our Facebook page. We invite you to view the camaraderie and communal inspiration that was evident in the many smiling, proud faces of the awards winners and their supporters. Learn more about the winning initiatives and individuals here.

Re-Mains of the Day 

▪ CMSC is thrilled to welcome several new communities to its member network. The City of Ansonia, City of Bridgeport, Town of Canton and Norwalk 2.0 all recently joined as CMSC Member Communities. Each of these organizations will now begin receiving the benefits of membership, including guidance and mentoring on downtown management, customized technical assistance, and education and training, including reduced admission to our quarterly Downtown Revitalization Institute workshops.


Waterbury MS Fill-A-Bag
Main Street Waterbury collects and distributes bags of food to three downtown food pantries. Collections are being accepted through December 21st.

Main Street Waterbury (MSW) is holding its second annual Fill-A-Bag food drive to benefit food pantries in downtown Waterbury. MSW is distributing shopping bags and "wish lists" from the various pantries to local businesses in the hopes they will be filled with much needed non-perishable food items. Main Street Waterbury would like to top last year's donations, where over 120 bags were equally distributed among the City's three downtown food pantries: Waterbury Baptist Ministries, Greater Waterbury Interfaith Ministries, and The Salvation Army.


MSW staff will pick-up and distribute filled bags through December 21. To participate, you can request a bag or schedule a pick-up by contacting the Main Street Waterbury office at 203-757-0701 ext. 302.


Thread City Development Corp. recently launched its new website,, with a party at the Capital Theater in Willimantic. CMSC's Community Engagement Director, Susan Westa, spoke at the event, congratulating the group on the new site which was made possible through a Preservation of Place Grant from CMSC. The new website will direct visitors to events and information on downtown Willimantic.

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 


Just like many of you at this time of year, we at CMSC are reflecting on the significance of our friends and neighbors. We take great delight in watching our member downtowns light up with festive decorations, inviting residents and visitors to gather along Main Street, strolling among the shops and generally enjoying the convivial atmosphere. Our downtowns truly are the community gathering place - where families come together in the cozy cafes and shops and friends catch up over a cup of coffee, where people stop and pick up a gift or run their holiday errands. Helping guide our members in creating and maintaining these types of welcoming environments is a highlight of my job.


So we were especially humbled and pleased when much of that good-neighborliness was turned back our way recently after an editorial in the Hartford Courant appeared about the parent company of our founding sponsor, Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P). CL&P is owned by Northeast Utilities (NU), who merged earlier this year with Boston-based NSTAR. The editorial urged the new NU to continue its support of economic development initiatives, including CMSC.


As many of you know, CMSC began in 1995 as a departmental program in CL&P. (To this day, they remain the only private company to begin a Main Street program.) It wasn't until 1999 that CMSC became an independent non-profit. CL&P continued to support the organization, becoming a founding sponsor and graciously providing office space.


After seeing the article, many of you contacted me to make sure CMSC was going to be OK, offering your encouragement, and even rallying together to send letters of support on our behalf to the new NU executives.


Firstly, I want to thank all of your for your good wishes and concern. It was truly heartening to see our friends and colleagues so moved on our behalf. Secondly, I want to assure you that we are doing just fine. In fact, our Board Chair, Board Treasurer and I met just last week with the new NU leadership, Bill Van Dam, to introduce ourselves and the CMSC philosophy and to determine their priorities and how we can better work together. We left the meeting with a plan to meet again and continue our dialogue. Having discussed our mutual goals and agreeing to keep the lines of communication open, I'm confident NU will continue to support us as they have from the start.


As the year comes to a close and we move forward into the next, I am grateful that I work with so many dedicated people who are willing to come together to advocate for us: the Board of CMSC, who continuously champions our great work; my staff, who remain dedicated all year long to revitalizing Connecticut's main streets; our member communities who work tirelessly to improve their downtowns and make them great places to live, work and play; and our many colleagues and partners who support us in our common efforts. I know this holiday season they will all be among the many blessings I count.


We wish our friends, neighbors and Connecticut communities a healthy, safe and joyous holiday season. We look forward to continuing our work together in 2013!

Connecticut Main Street Center

c/o CL&P

PO Box 270 

Hartford, CT 06141



In This Issue
Come Home to Downtown Program Takes Off 



Spotlight on 2012 CMSC Award Winner - New London's The Big Picture



Re-Mains of the Day -CMSC Welcomes New Members; Main Street Waterbury Holds Food Drive; Downtown Willimantic Launches New Website



President's Message


Upcoming Events

Call for 2013 CMSC Awards of Excellence Entries Announced

December 4


"Party Like There's No To-Maya" End of the World Party


December 20

More Info


CMSC Offices Closed for Christmas

December 25


Midnight on Main


December 31

More Info 


Hartford - First Night

December 31

More Info


CMSC Offices Closed for New Year's Day

January 1


Chocolate Chip Stroll Willimantic 

February 9

More Info


2013 CMSC Awards of Excellence Entries Due

March 12

Like us on Facebook!

New London Big Pic Asphalt Orchestra
Members of the Asphalt Orchestra get the crowd into a festive spirit before The Big Picture is taken in New London.
See pictures of New London's The Big Picture and other award winners
on Facebook!


Norwich City Hall decorated with holiday lights.
Norwich City Hall
Send us your holiday pictures!
 It's the most wonderful time of the year, and we want to see it! Send us pictures of your beautifully decorated downtowns, your merry Main Streets and your cherry, red-nosed residents.  We'll feature them in upcoming editions of Downtown Update and on our Facebook page.
Show us your holiday spirit and we'll tell everyone how awesome you are!