Connecticut Main Street Center

September/2013

Vol.13, Issue 9

Inspiring great Connecticut downtowns, Main Street by Main Street.

Downtown Update

Newsletter of the Connecticut Main Street Center
  

Notice of 2014 Preservation of Place Grant Funding 

 

CMSC is pleased to announce our seventh consecutive year of Preservation of Place grant funding. These grants are made possible by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and are funded through the Community Investment Act.

 

All CMSC members in good standing are eligible to apply for up to $10,000 in grant funds to plan for the preservation and revitalization of their historic Main Street districts. Pre-applications must be submitted as soon as possible to determine eligibility to move to the full application. The deadline for the full application is November 19, 2013.

  
Secret Corner  

CMSC Announces 2013-2014 DRI Workshop Dates 

 

Save-the-date for CMSC's 2013-2014 Downtown Revitalization Institute (DRI) workshop series. Those of you who have attended our workshops in the past know they're full of engaging topics that spark ideas and discussion on ways to improve Connecticut's downtowns. Our speakers captivate audiences with stimulating presentations full of practical, relevant information that can be put to use immediately. These events are always well-attended and well-received, so you won't want to miss them. The 2013-2014 workshops take place on: 

  • Friday, October 25, 2013
  • Friday, January 24, 2014
  • Friday, April 25, 2014
  • Friday, July 25, 2014

All of the workshops will be held at The Lyceum in Hartford.  The first workshop in October will focus on Placemaking.  More details will be provided closer to the date of the event.  Check your email or the CMSC website for updates.

 

 

"Very informative and thought provoking. Good insight to be a better citizen and professional." 

 

- DRI attendee comment from the CMSC/YES Forum in February 2013.

 

 

Community Foundations Provide Valuable Resources 
 

Throughout Connecticut there are 17 community foundations (listed below) that provide financial and educational resources to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations to fulfill their missions. Many Main Street Programs have taken advantage of these resources.

 

CMSC encourages all of our member communities to connect with their local community foundations. There may be funding opportunities as well as support for organizational and leadership development, which can ensure the health of your program.

 

Spotlight on 2013 Award of Excellence - Economic & Business Development Awarded to:
 
Mansfield Downtown Partnership, UConn, Town of Mansfield, LeylandAlliance, Milone & McBroom, Cipparone & Zaccaro, & the Business Owners of Mansfield & Storrs Center for "Make New Friends, but Keep the Old": Retention & relocation of existing businesses during development of Storrs Center

 

For over a decade, the Mansfield Downtown Partnership, Inc. has worked with the Town of Mansfield and the University of Connecticut to create a vibrant, walkable downtown for Mansfield.

 

While attracting new, vibrant businesses is critical to a downtown's success, retaining existing businesses is equally important - if not more so. Well-established businesses draw loyal customers, create a sense of place, and bring valuable experience and insight to a successful downtown. Thus, reaching out to the existing business community and keeping them informed and engaged should be at the outset of any revitalization effort.

 

 

Well over a dozen local businesses were given guidance and assistance during the construction and move to the new Storrs Center.

 

 

An early challenge to the development team was the existence of several commercial buildings in the area identified for Storrs Center. The state of the existing commercial buildings ranged from well-maintained and fully occupied to outdated with chronic vacancies. Following lengthy negotiations over several years, LeylandAlliance reached agreements with UConn and two property owners to purchase four of the commercial buildings and three buildings housing University uses. Four other commercial buildings owned by three different property owners remain in private hands; Storrs Center has been designed around these buildings.

 

While these agreements guided the design of the project, the issue of twenty-five existing tenants remained. From the outset, Mansfield residents voiced a strong desire to retain the businesses, many of which were locally-owned. The Town Council supported these sentiments and pushed the Partnership and Leyland to find a mutually agreeable solution for all parties.

 

There were several complicating factors when determining how best to assist the existing businesses. First, decisions had to be made before a construction timeline was established. Second, the existing business owners had a broad range of experience and capabilities, and some owners were more enthusiastic about the project than others. Third, most of the businesses had not been paying market-rate rents. The prospect of moving into a brand-new building with higher rents concerned almost all of the tenants, who shared their concerns with the public and the Town Council.

 

The Partnership, its relocation consultant, and the developer identified three main options for each business: relocate to Storrs Center (once built), relocate elsewhere, or close. The consultant worked with each business over many years to determine which option best fit their individual needs.

 

Throughout the planning of Storrs Center, the Partnership sought to balance the desire to retain as many existing tenants as possible with the developer's financial commitments and needs. This required flexibility and creativity. For example, an early idea: to construct a building solely for the relocating tenants, was designed and received zoning approval before ultimately being scrapped due to the high construction costs and projected high costs for the tenants.

 

An alternative solution: to mix relocating tenants in with the new tenants, which required the cooperation of the master developer. LeylandAlliance negotiated leases with each tenant individually. Eight businesses made the move into the new buildings, a few with temporary locations or periods of closure between vacating the old buildings and occupying the new spaces.

 

Of twenty-five existing tenants (both commercial and university uses), seventeen remain in Mansfield today. The Partnership is proud of this accomplishment, which was the result of over twelve years of hard work, countless conversations, numerous private and public meetings, and a great deal of coordination and cooperation among a diverse mix of public and private entities.

 

The Partnership recognized that it was making major requests to the existing businesses, some of whom had been in their locations for decades. The process, while successful in the end, was difficult at times. Following a rather contentious early meeting of the Partnership's Business Development and Retention Committee, at which several of the existing tenants expressed frustrations and fears about the Storrs Center project, the Partnership redoubled its communications efforts with the tenants. Throughout the very long planning process, the Partnership strived to keep the tenants informed about the plans, progress, and delays. Over time, such communication led to positive results: many of those same tenants that voiced frustrations are now open and flourishing in Storrs Center.

 

Select Physical Therapy's relocation plan was more complex than others because they needed to move twice before the final relocation to 9 Dog Lane. To accommodate their unique needs, LeylandAlliance built out space for a temporary office.

 

Storrs Automotive has been in operation since 1975 - their location within feet of Mansfield Town Hall, E.O. Smith High School, and UConn, has always been a key selling point for those choosing a repair and maintenance shop. Naturally they wanted to stay in the downtown, close to loyal customers.

 

As an automotive repair facility, many State approvals were needed to be included in the comprehensive plan created for Storrs Center. Through the efforts of the Partnership and LeylandAlliance, the CT DEEP grandfathered in this use so Storrs Automotive could continue to serve Mansfield's downtown.

 

By retaining so many businesses, the Partnership was able to strengthen the new downtown by creating an inviting mix of the familiar and the new. The established businesses have helped draw their loyal customers downtown, who also patronize the new businesses that have opened in Storrs Center. And veteran business owners have shared their valuable experience and knowledge of Mansfield with the incoming businesses.

 

 

Congratulations, Storrs Center! 

  
A few photos from the 2013 Awards Gala have been posted to our Facebook page and additional pictures will be posted soon. We invite you to check back often 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.
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Re-Mains of the Day 

 

▪ iQuilt invites public to Envisionfest - The festival is part of the iQuilt Plan (a CMSC 2013 Award of Excellence winner), and is being held on Saturday, September 21. The free event takes places from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and features over 100 hundred events, performances and activities, including a free concert by They Might Be Giants. For more information, go to www.envisionfesthartford.com 

  
▪ Middletown invites public to provide input on riverfront development planning - The Middletown planning department has scheduled two meetings in September to give residents the opportunity to participate in planning the future development of the riverfront area.  At the meetings, residents can speak with the riverfront development commission, the planning department and Projects for Public Spaces (the consultant assisting the City) to provide input on what residents value in developing the South Cove area on River Road.

 

The meetings will be held on Thursday, September 26 from 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. and Saturday, September 28 from 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Both meetings will be held in the council chambers at City Hall, 245 deKoven Drive.

 

▪ Brass City Harvest teaming up with Dept. of Health to provide healthy food to the community. Two neighborhood stores, Jascarli Mini Market and D&M Superette, have joined Brass City Harvest and the Waterbury Dept. of Health in an effort to make fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible and affordable to Waterbury residents.  The stores receive and stock fresh produce from local farms through Brass City Harvest and other vendors.

 

The stores are participating in the Healthy Corner Stores pilot program, a callaborative effort between the Waterbury Department of Public Health, Brass City Harvest, and local neighborhood corner store owners.  In addtion to increasing access to fresh produce, the Healthy Corner Stores program will feature nutrition information, recipes, food safety, cooking classes, and opportunities to provide feedback.

 

The public is invited to attend an in-store kick-off event on Thursday, October 3, 2013 at D&M Superette, 1024 Baldwin Street Waterbury, 06704 for free tastings, recipes, nutrition information and eligibility/ enrollment information for SNAP and WIC supplemental nutrition programs. For more information, email rdivenere@waterburyct.org.

 

▪ CMSC/CEDAS Networking Event this week! Together with our host, the Mansfield Downtown Partnership (MDP), CMSC and CEDAS network members will come together this Thursday, September 19 for a private tour of the new Storrs Center, followed by a reception at Dog Lane Cafe. Officials from the Town of Mansfield and the MDP will provide information on the recent construction and future development phases. Then we'll walk the streets for firsthand view of all that's been built so far, as well as visit the future sites of the Town Square, residential condos, and even the Intermodal Transportation Center.

 

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 

Businesses Bet on Urban Innovation

 

Many times over the last year or so we've noted the increasing demand for a return to walkable, interesting town centers, where people - especially millennials and boomers - can enjoy everyday life without the cost, inconvenience and environmental impact of driving a car. Now it seems that trend is spreading to businesses as well. There have been a slew of articles lately from across the country about how businesses large and small are investing in downtowns, often implementing mixed-use development as the construction style of choice.

 

The New York Times reports that in Seattle, Amazon.com is single-handedly changing the face of the downtown, investing millions of dollars to build a new headquarters that will bring thousands of workers into the South Lake Union area. Spurred by their action, the once-empty streets are quickly filling with apartments (the NYT says Seattle issued more new residential building permits last year than in any year since at least 1984), restaurants and other attractions designed to keep Amazon's workers happy and entertained. The article notes other technology companies like Twitter, Dropbox, Tumblr, Etsy and Google all have office spaces in major metropolitan areas such as New York and San Francisco. The reason? "An urban setting, with access to good restaurants, nightclubs and cultural attractions, has become as important a recruiting tool as salary or benefits for many companies," says the NYT.

 

Meanwhile, The Atlantic Cities notes start-ups are increasingly choosing urban lofts over suburban office parks for their fledgling companies. The reason for this, "First and foremost is access to talent. More and more techies are choosing to live in denser, livelier, and less car-dependent urban locations." Other draws are that cities are denser and more efficient for start-ups, ripe with opportunity for interaction and spontaneous creativity. As venture capitalist Fred Wilson explains it, "Technology innovation doesn't occur in a vacuum. It happens in a dialog with society."

 

One only has to look in our own backyard for examples of this same type of investment on the local level. A great example is the new Storrs Center, featured above as a 2013 CMSC Award of Excellence winner. Knowing the value of their established local businesses, the developer, Mansfield Downtown Partnership and many others worked hard to maintain those businesses as the new center was built, carefully integrating and leveraging them with new businesses. Or, looking to Rockville, the Hartford Courant recently featured an article on John C. DiIorio, founder of 1st Alliance Lending LLC, who recently launched a $120 million redevelopment proposal. Mr. DiIorio wants to move his rapidly expanding business from East Hartford to downtown Rockville, creating a mixed-use neighborhood. As he puts it, "We don't desire to be an island unto ourselves. We want to be part of a community."

 

Even in Hartford, investment in businesses that attract people, as evidenced by Front Street's determined success opening Spotlight Theatres, Front Street Bistro, Capital Grille and more, coupled with UConn's recent decision to relocate downtown in the former Hartford Times building, all point to the idea that this shift is less a trend than the new economic reality. Coupled with a young talent pool and an older, adventurous population that also wants to enjoy a downtown's amenities, it's clear that business is back in our city centers, whether they be as large as Seattle or as small as our own Rockville. Coordinating and linking each of these core areas will be the next big challenge, but for now, let's just enjoy the fact that the pendulum is swinging back to a more walkable, sustainable, community-oriented, Main Street way of life.

Connecticut Main Street Center

c/o CL&P

PO Box 270 

Hartford, CT 06141

860/280.2337

www.ctmainstreet.org

 

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In This Issue
Notice of 2014 Preservation of Place Grant Funding
  

CMSC Announces 2013-2014 DRI Workshop Dates

 

Community Foundations Provide Valuable Resources

  

Spotlight on 2013 Award of Excellence: Storrs Center: "Make New Friends, but Keep the Old
  
Re-Mains of the Day - iQuilt invites public to Envisionfest; Middletown invites public to comment of riverfront development planning; Brass City Harvest partners with Waterbury Dept. of Health to bring healthy food to the community; CMSC/CEDAS Member Networking Event this week!
  
President's Message:
Businesses Bet on Urban Innovation
We love our supporters!
 
ANITA MIELERT 
      
As a former First Selectwoman (Simsbury) and immediate past president of CT Preservation Action, Anita has been instrumental in connecting historic preservation with Main Street. 
  
  

Anita's passionate advocacy for preserving Connecticut's history in a way that's relevant for all of us is a perfect complement to the work of CMSC. Here are just some of the ways Anita's efforts have supported CMSC's values and members.

 

- Serves as a Simsbury Main Street Partnership (a CMSC Designated Community) Board Member.

 

- Greatly increased the profile of CT Preservation Action (CPA) (of which CMSC is a member) and the value of historic tax credits.

 

- Successfully led the effort to change the State Historic Tax Credit statutes to allow mixed-use development to be eligible, which opened up these tax credits to most of the buildings in our downtowns for the first time.

 

- Single-handedly developed workshops that drew hundreds from the public and private sector to learn more about how historic preservation can be applied for today's needs and uses in our downtowns.

 

- Acted as the state's long-time representative to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, giving CT's issues a national forum, and bring back national resources to CT.

 

For all your hard work on behalf of Connecticut's historic treasures, many of which are located in our downtowns and city centers, we applaud you.

 

 

THANK YOU
ANITA!!!
Upcoming Events
  
CMSC/CEDAS Member Networking Event hosted by Mansfield Downtown Partnership
Storrs Center
September 19
  
iQuilt's Envisionfest
Hartford
September 21
11:00 am-6:00 pm
  
Festival on the Green
Mansfield
September 22
12:00-4:00 pm
  
Middletown Public Meetings - Riverfront Development Planning
Middletown City Hall
Sept. 26
6:00pm-9:00pm
Sept. 28
9:00am-12:00 pm

 

2013 POP Grant Final Reports due to CMSC

September 30

 

CMSC Offices Closed for Columbus Day

October 14

 

SNEAPA Conference

October 17-18

Worcester, MA

Register & More Info

 

CMSC DRI Workshop on Placemaking

The Lyceum

Hartford

October 25

 

2014 POP Grant Applications Due to CMSC

November 19 

Want walkable?
Believe in bike-able?
  West Hartford Center
Want to support local businesses
and have fun, interesting downtowns to visit?
  
Help us
build better Main Streets!
 
 Volunteers help keep Norwalk looking sharp for visitors and residents.
Click here
to find out how your investment in CMSC can help improve Connecticut's economy; attract visitors, cool retailers & memorable events; reduce our car dependence and facilitate healthy neighborhoods.
 
Odds & Ends
  
    
Join the author of Visualizing Density and the newly released Made for Walking, Julie Campoli, to learn how your community can become the kind of walkable, vibrant neighborhood that millennials and boomers want to live in. Presented by Regional Plan Association,  Partnership for Strong Communities, and CT Chapter of the American Planning Association.
  
  
    
UConn voted Sierra Club's "Coolest School."
UConn won the top spot nationwide for its efforts to encourage sustainability, green technology, and environmental stewardship.
  
Arts Catalyze Placemaking (ACP) Guidelines are now available.
The program was created to invest in the state's arts-based cultural activities and infrastructure in ways that will advance the attractiveness and competitiveness of Connecticut cities, towns, and villages as meaningful communities in which to live, work, learn and play
Click here for more information on the program and its guidelines.
  
We spoke and SNEAPA listened!  Our idea was accepted for the fall conference.  Come listen to us on Thursday, October 17 at 1:45 pm as we speak about Meeting the Growing Demand for Downtown Living.
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