Connecticut Main Street Center


Vol.13, Issue 2

Inspiring great Connecticut downtowns, Main Street by Main Street.

Downtown Update

Newsletter of the Connecticut Main Street Center

Main Street and the University Connection


There has been a lot of news lately about several schools coming to downtown Hartford. UConn recently announced it will close its West Hartford branch and relocate to a yet-to-be determined location in Hartford. Shortly after, Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) made a similar announcement to expand its campus by adding facilities in downtown Hartford.


Part of a Main Street district's appeal is that it generally offers a mix of social, retail and housing opportunities, usually in close proximity to each other. This is also the type of environment that entices young people, so it is no surprise that our downtowns often work in concert with local colleges and universities, forming relationships that benefit both. Our members have a long history of just such activity: 

  • Mansfield Downtown Partnership has been heavily involved in planning the new Storrs Center downtown. This mixed-use development, just steps from the University of Connecticut's main campus, offers a range of housing and retail, and caters to both UConn students and local residents. Mansfield Downtown Partnership is also still receiving Request for Proposals (RFQ) for the design of its new town green through February 19th.
  • Thread City Development, Inc. located in downtown Willimantic, is working to strengthen its ties with nearby Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU). Thread City worked with a graphic designer on its recently launched website,, an engagement which arose as a result of collaboration with ECSU who provided compensation in the form of internship credits. Led by President and ECSU-alum Andrew Gutt, Thread City continues to look for other ways to engage the school in downtown development.
  • With Yale, Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) and Gateway Community College, the university connection is so prominent in New Haven that Westville Village Renaissance Alliance (WVRA) makes sure its vision statement reflects the importance of these institutions: Westville Village is a vibrant social, cultural and economic hub, where residents and visitors of all ages live, learn, work, create, dine, shop and play. Several members of the area's colleges and universities also sit on WVRA's Board, creating a direct opportunity for involvement and to strengthen the rapport between WVRA and these institutions.
  • A wonderful example of Main Streets and universities working together exists between Upper Albany Main Street and the University of Hartford. This partnership is so successful it was the basis of a 2011 Downtown Revitalization Institute (DRI) forum, with UHart President Walter Harrison giving a keynote speech on the mission of the university and how it guides the approach to neighborhood development. 

Young people, both those in college and those moving on to the next stage of their lives, are fantastic additions to our downtowns, bringing an enthusiasm and inquisitiveness with them. Their openness to new ideas and new experiences provides a common link between universities and our Main Streets. By partnering with higher learning institutions, we find a way to harness that energy, bringing a vitality to our downtowns that makes them attractive for everyone.


Hartford Chosen for Urban Land Institute's Rose Fellowship 


Hartford was recently announced as one of four cities chosen for the Urban Land Institute's (ULI) prestigious Rose Fellowship, an annual year-long program that aims to address a specific land use challenge and create successful long-term development plans. The mayors of each town chosen are invited to participate in the program, and the mayor in turn selects three fellows and a team coordinator who then select the area of focus. The City decided to focus its efforts on the Albany Avenue - Homestead Avenue corridor, a 1.5 mile section that spans the Clay Arsenal and Upper Albany neighborhoods.


The Hartford Courant reported the group of urban planners and design use experts recently presented their initial recommendations for revitalizing the corridor. These included two mixed-use developments, one near the Hartt School of Music and the other at the intersection of Albany Avenue and Woodland Street. This work will complement other initiatives in the area, including the new Hartford Public Library-Upper Albany Branch and the work being done by Upper Albany Main Street

Legislative Watch


Once again, Community Investment Act (CIA) funds are facing drastic cuts. The latest budget proposal seeks to take $4 million off the top of CIA funds and reallocate them to the Dept. of Education's healthy foods initiative. While providing healthy lunches in our schools is of course a worthy goal, it should not be done at the expense of those for whom the Community Investment Act was originally intended.


The Community Investment Act requires a $40 recording fee for all land use transactions. These fees are then divided among four land use initiatives - preservation of open space and farmland, affordable housing and historic preservation. CIA funds are the source of the Preservation of Place (POP) grant program, as well as many other resources utilized for the adaptive re-use of many historic buildings throughout the state. Taking $4 million off the top will mean roughly $1 million less annually for the historic preservation of buildings, many of which are located in our downtown communities. Additionally, it sets terrible precedent to use funds that are outside the general budget and clearly intended for other purposes to be raided to resolve general budget challenges.


CMSC is responding to this issue, sending updates to our members and industry partners. To find out how you can help preserve these vital funds, click here.



A large and wonderfully vocal crowd turned out for CMSC and YES's first forum, Fostering Communities that Attract Young People on February 6. Led by Norwich Community Development Corp's charismatic Jason Vincent, a diverse crowd of town officials, urban planners and young professionals discussed obstacles and solutions for creating sustainable, thriving downtown communities. A second forum will be held in New Haven on February 20th, after which CMSC and YES staff will talk about ways to continue this dynamic discussion and how best to grow and continue some of the ideas that arise out of this dialogue. 

Spotlight on 2012 CMSC Award Winner - Upper Albany Main Street & the Hartford Public Library - Upper Albany Branch


The 2012 Award for Community Investment was presented to Upper Albany Main Street and the Hartford Public Library - Upper Albany Branch for their exemplary demonstration of commitment and community involvement.

Opening day at the Hartford Public Library - Albany Branch
Guests enjoy the books and services at the opening of the new Hartford Public Library - Albany Branch

Urban communities are always searching for keys to neighborhood improvement. In the Upper Albany neighborhood, this meant the development of strong partnerships between and among civic organizations, governmental bodies, foundations and volunteers. The Hartford Public Library joined the process of neighborhood problem solving with their own goal of re-building the library while re-building the community. Library systems needed to be developed and retooled to respond to community needs. Out of this 15-year process the need for a new Albany Branch Library became one of the main goals of Upper Albany Main Street's strategic plan.


A new, 21st Century library sparking learning, creativity, innovation and economic development was developed, designed, and built. The Upper Albany Branch Library is part of a "campus" that connects with The Artists Collective, charter schools in the Fox Middle School Building, and the John E. Rogers African American Cultural Center.


The Library is strategically located on the Albany Avenue/Route 44 corridor, in the midst of a vibrant community of schools, small and family-owned businesses, and community-based organizations, and steps away from a public transportation route that travels both through and across the city and into surrounding suburbs.


In October 2011, the doors opened to this new, $5.8 million, sunlight-filled, 8,000 square foot library on the corner of Albany and Blue Hills Avenues. This state-of-the-art library provides a perfect balance between public service and the ability to allow the library to integrate new technological services, critical programming, adequate space and the adaptability to expand its collection.


Designed by Sevigny Architects, with tremendous community input facilitated by Upper Albany Main Street, the new building features a commitment to Green Design, including brownfield redevelopment, passive solar design with a north-south orientation of the building, use of sunshades, white roofing materials, use of renewable materials, under-floor air systems and permeable pavers on sidewalks.


In addition to the technological advances, the branch also features whimsical and personal touches, from the two cloud-like pendant lights in the children's section that sway gently back and forth, to a community-created "tile quilt" mounted on the wall of the Community Room.


The Albany Branch of the Hartford Public Library serves as a beacon and key component of the Upper Albany Main Street-led vision to "build an educational and cultural campus in the Upper Albany neighborhood." Existing merchants and prospective entrepreneurs will feel the impact of this new building as other entities construct plans to bring other services and business to what may be described as Upper Albany's "Town Green" - and its role as a catalyst in the continued revitalization of this community.


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 

Mansfield Downtown Partnership has issued a Request for Qualifications for a design consultant to design their town green, part of the new Storrs Center downtown development. Responses are due February 19th.


Waterbury Town Hall took a unique approach to snow removal when it offered to pay high school students minimum wage to help shovel out after last week's blizzard. Nemo was no match for these earnest youngsters, as over 500 showed up to City Hall.


▪ The call for CMSC's 2013 Awards of Excellence entries has been issued. Our 2013 Awards program features two major changes from previous years. First, all nomination materials will be submitted electronically for the first time. Second, we have spent some time re-thinking awards categories this year. The result is a much leaner list of award categories under which many possible activities will qualify. These awards are open to CMSC member communities. Over the past 10 years these awards have annually celebrated the most successful and innovative efforts in Main Street Revitalization in Connecticut. The Awards of Excellence recognize outstanding projects, individuals and partnerships in community efforts to bring our traditional downtowns and neighborhood districts back to life, socially and economically. If you are interested in applying, contact Associate Director, Kim Parsons-Whitaker.


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 the course of working to preserve and revitalize our downtowns, I have the good fortune of meeting with many different people in all sorts of capacities related to Main Street - shop keepers, state and local officials, transportation engineers, students, artists, educators, etc. It's exciting to see how Main Street has something to offer all of them, and to be a part of bringing these seemingly diverse groups together. Indeed, we consider ourselves to be a convener, bringing together the right set of people to get things done.


One group I've been especially impressed with is Connecticut's young people. I'm often struck by how many of today's young professionals in their 20's and 30's seem to instinctively "get" Main Street. Although many of them grew up in sprawling suburbs, they have no desire to live in a place where they need a car to get around. And of course, they wholeheartedly embrace technology, and often use it as a tool to instantly educate themselves, in addition to staying connected and up-to-date.


But what's really been encouraging is their willingness to participate. So many of them are looking for a way to be involved, to help out, to speak up. That much was clear at our first CMSC/YES forum, when the leaders of young professional groups from Hartford and Waterbury came and spoke passionately about the housing and transit issues concerning them. Many more have approached me, or members of my Board, looking for ways to help, energetically volunteering their time and talent.


The success of a downtown really rests in the commitment of the people who utilize it - who live there, set up their businesses there, who learn and shop there. And that process flourishes when Main Street acts as a bridge, bringing together dedicated individuals and committed institutions. Seeing the enthusiasm of today's young people to get involved, I know our downtowns have a bright future.

Connecticut Main Street Center

c/o CL&P

PO Box 270 

Hartford, CT 06141



In This Issue
Main Street and the University Connection
Hartford Chosen for Urban Land Institute's Rose Fellowship 



Legislative Watch

Spotlight on 2012 CMSC Award Winner - Upper Albany Main Street and the Hartford Public Library - Upper Albany Branch



Re-Mains of the Day -Mansfield Downtown Partnership Issues RFQ; Waterbury Calls on Teens to Shovel Out; 2013 Awards of Excellence Call for Entries



President's Message


Upcoming Events

Chocolate Chip Stroll Willimantic 

February 16

More Info



CMSC Offices Closed 

for President's Day

February 18




The Grove, New Haven

February 20 



Daylight Savings Time Begins!

March 10



CMSC Offices Closed for Good Friday

March 29



2013 CMSC Awards of Excellence Entries Due

March 12



2013 CMSC Awards Gala

June 10

Like us on Facebook!

Hartford Public Library - Albany Avenue accepts their award.
Representatives from Upper Albany Main Street and the Hartford Public Library - Albany Branch accept their award at CMSC's 2012 Annual Awards Gala at Cheney Hall in Manchester.
See pictures of Upper Albany Main Street & the Hartford Public Library - Albany Branch and other award winners
on Facebook!


Ansonia City Hall
Ansonia City Hall
Send us your downtown pictures!
Show us your downtown spirit! Send us pictures of your beautifully decorated downtowns, your merry Main Streets and your cherry residents.  We'll feature them in upcoming editions of Downtown Update and on our Facebook page.
Show us your Main Street spirit and we'll tell everyone how awesome you are!