Connecticut Main Street Center


Vol.13, Issue 12

Inspiring great Connecticut downtowns, Main Street by Main Street.

Downtown Update

Newsletter of the Connecticut Main Street Center

Main Street is the Greenest Street  

January DRI Workshop explores how downtowns and the environment affect each other



Photo Credit: New Haven Land Trust Website

CMSC's next Downtown Revitalization Institute (DRI) workshop is almost here! Main Street is the Greenest Street: Sustainable Strategies for Your Town arrives on Friday, January 24 at The Lyceum in Hartford. This day-long event will feature several speakers from Connecticut, Maine and more, each presenting their unique take on what makes a downtown "green". We'll talk about urban agriculture and wildlife in an urban environment, as well as community gardens and their connection to good health and how downtown living promotes a healthy lifestyle. Our speakers will also talk about well-designed buildings that increase energy efficiency and CRCOG's model sustainability regulations.


Additional information will be coming soon to your inbox, or you can check out our website at In the meantime, here's a great article about how trees can help our urban environments.


Statewide Committee Empowering Young People to Create a Vibrant Connecticut    


Connecticut needs a young, skilled and energetic workforce to drive the state's economy but more and more this group wants interesting, vibrant communities with an array of housing, retail, entertainment and transportation options, including mass transit, bike lanes, and walkability. Enter Young Energetic Solutions (YES), an initiative of the Partnership for Strong Communities (PSC).



In our August issue we told you about how YES was convening a Statewide Steering Committee to guide its work. Comprised of both Local and State Organizers, the group's goal is to ensure young professionals have a role in thoughtfully and creatively shaping their communities. All of the Steering Committee members are young professionals from across the State who are dedicated to their communities and making Connecticut a desirable place for people of all ages to live. CMSC's Christine Schilke, Communications & Office Manager, participates in the group as a State Organizer.



The Steering Committee has met several times since it was initially convened over the summer. Since then, the group has formed sub-committees which have collectively designed a new logo and mission statement, drafted goals for the organization and begun laying the foundation to provide guidance to local groups while acting as a resource for young people seeking to become active participants in their community. The Steering Committee has also organized its first public event, a holiday happy hour, taking place on Main Street, Middletown on December 19. This event is geared toward young people interested in creating dynamic neighborhoods and communities that offer an array of amenities from housing to transit.


YES will continue to meet throughout 2014.Once the Steering Committee finalizes its goals, it will begin creating an action plan that facilitates the work of local chapters, strengthing the overall network while providing additional information and resources through increased visibility on the web and social media, as well as networking events and more.


Interested in creating communities that attract young people? Join a group of similar-minded young professionals for good food, spirits, and even better company at the first annual Holiday Happy Hour of Young Energetic Solutions (YES) at  Forbidden City Bistro in Middletown from 5:30-7:30pm on Thursday, December 19! View YES's Facebook page for more information or to share the news with a friend.

CMSC Happenings
Just like Santa's elves, CMSC is hard at work this time of year:
  • We're getting ready to announce the recipients of our 2014 Preservation of Places (POP) grants, with winners being notified by year's end. We're looking forward to seeing their progress over the coming months. 
  • Applications for Year 2 of our successful Come Home to Downtown program were due to CMSC on December 11th. CMSC is reviewing the six submissions, and will tour the municipalities and downtown properties of those chosen to move forward with their application. Then, we'll select two communities in early January to receive specialized technical assistance on how to redevelop these under-utilized properties into housing above commercial space. In 2014, we'll continue to work with the Year 1 property owners on obtaining financing for redevelopment while also assisting the two new property owners and municipalities. 
  • The call for entries for our 2014 Awards of Excellence was also announced. CMSC members in good standing are eligible to apply for these awards that annually celebrate the most successful and innovative efforts in Main Street Revitalization in Connecticut. CMSC developed this program to recognize outstanding projects, individuals and partnerships in community efforts to bring our traditional downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts back to life, socially and economically. Entries are due March 11, 2014.
Spotlight on 2013 Award of Excellence - CT Main Street Business Owner of the Year  
Sponsored by Webster Bank

Awarded to Dr. Richard A. Fichman, Fichman Eye Center, Upper Albany Main Street District, Hartford
Dr. Fichman receives his award from CMSC's Associate Director, Kimberley Parsons-Whitaker and representatives from Webster Bank.


Many people in the greater Hartford region know Dr. Richard Fichman of the Fichman Eye Center. His name is synonymous with Lasik, the laser-based vision correction technique that he introduced to the state of Connecticut. Known in the U.S. and around the world for his innovations in ophthalmology, Dr. Fichman developed cataract surgery without needles, done in conjunction with a colleague's invention that dissolves the cataracts with sound waves. The patient remains awake, without pain, during the entire procedure.


In addition to his busy schedule in his home state, Dr. Fichman finds time about once every six weeks to travel with colleagues to the Dominican Republic to provide laser vision correction to about 15 patients who could not otherwise afford the sight-saving procedure.  


"My grandparents were penniless immigrants when they came to this country, but their son was able to do anything," says Dr. Fichman, as he looks back on what led to his own success. Richard Fichman's ancestors came to Hartford in the late 19th century, seeking relief from religious persecution in Eastern Europe. They raised a family, scraped by financially, and found true happiness embraced by their new city. Along with thousands of other immigrants, they transformed Albany Avenue into a gem, where every type of service was readily available, in a real community where neighbors had a true sense of pride. Albany Avenue was the Gateway to the American Dream.


Dr. Fichman notes that, from the 1960s on, Albany Avenue fell on hard times and has seen little revitalization. As he drove down his old hometown avenue, he felt a sense of hopelessness. One day, his son said, "Dad, why don't we open an Eye Center on the Avenue?" From that moment, Dr. Fichman's life changed dramatically.


Click here to watch a video that featuring Dr. Fichman telling his own story and his reasons for becoming involved in the Upper Albany Main Street District.


Congratulations, Dr. Richard Fichman!

Pictures from the 2013 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 


▪ The New Normal for Downtowns - The Downtown Curmudgeon (the blog of downtown Revitalization Specialists DANTH, Inc.,) wrote an insightful blog on the new normal for downtowns. Happily, the news is good for those downtowns in the midst of their revitalization arc notes author N. David Milder. He writes there are several positive aspects to be found in a downtown's revival including the ability to prosper, decreased fear of crime, and a resurgence of the downtown as the social core of the community.       

CMSC Presenting at APA National Conference in Atlanta - CMSC will be travelling to Atlanta in late April 2014 to present the Come Home to Downtown program at the American Planning Association national conference. CMSC will provide an overview of the program, including lessons learned and key findings from our first year.


CMSC accepts major award from CCAPA - As noted in our last issue, 

CMSC's Susan Westa proudly displays our 2013 Education & Outreach award.
 the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association (CCAPA) selected CMSC as the recipient of its 2013 Education & Outreach Award for its Come Home to Downtown initiative. Each year CCAPA celebrates notable planning projects in a variety of categories from public service and citizen planners to physical development and plan implementation. The award was presented to CMSC at CCAPA's Annual Award Luncheon at the Inn at Middletown on December 6th. Check out our  Facebook page to see photos from the event.  


Know how to improve transportation in CT? Post your solution on TransformCT. The State of Connecticut launched TransformCT, a strategic planning approach to transportation policies, programs, and projects over the summer. Transform CT is still seeking the public's input and will use that information to improve economic growth and competitiveness, build sustainability, and provide a blueprint for a world-class transportation system. is an online forum that invites public input into how we create better places with big ideas and small changes. This is a great opportunity to participate in a state-wide conversation on transportation, placemaking and healthy communities.


If you would like a representative from ConnDOT to speak about TransformCT at your organization or event, please contact David Elder, Supervising Transportation Planner at

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 

A Note of Thanks 

The holidays are upon us and that means another year is drawing to a close. In many ways, it exceeded expectations. Last year at this time I was excited to see CMSC had grown to a staff of four. I knew 2013 would bring a lot of challenges and opportunities to us, especially as we were gearing up to really get in to the heart of our Come Home to Downtown program. Now I'm happy to report that not only did we successfully complete the first year of our Come Home to Downtown program, we're getting ready to choose two new communities and building owners to work with as we begin Year 2, having renewed our contract with CHFA. We also completed our final report and were able to share the lessons we learned at the SNEAPA Conference in October and we'll continue spreading the word when we present the program at the APA National Conference in Atlanta next spring. As you know, we were also recently awarded the 2013 Award for Education and Outreach from CCAPA for this program. But the best part is knowing we're truly helping these property owners navigate the complex yet critical world of mixed-use development. As we move forward, continuing to assist towns and municipalities while striving to develop new financing sources, the lessons we learn will be able to help many more of Connecticut's communities to bring additional housing and commercial ventures downtown, restoring vitality to our social centers. To all the people who helped us launch this program, our consultants - Bill Crosskey and Dave Sousa; my staff - Susan Westa, Christine Schilke and Kimberley Parsons-Whitaker; our colleagues at CHFA, namely Diane Smith and Jon Cabral, along with all the property owners, local officials and downtown organizations in our pilot communities, I say thanks for making this a great program.


We also added several new members to our network this year. With our additional staff we were able to resume networking events, hosting a luncheon at Café Colt and an excellent panel discussion and walking tour of Storrs Center. Thank you especially to CEDAS and the Mansfield Downtown Partnership for making these great events.


My Board and co-workers at CMSC also helped make this a great year, full of activity and forward progress. Not only did CMSC's Board fully support our work, both financially and organizationally, they also advocated on our behalf, helping us raise funds and championing our work among the media, peers, the public and more. My staff did a great job keeping up with the demands caused (happily) by our rapid growth, somehow managing to do more work and meet more goals than perhaps any of us thought was realistically possible.


These are just a few of the many accomplishments we achieved in 2013 by working together. Seeing all that we've done I'm excited to enter 2014 with a renewed sense of purpose, eager to continue our good work helping Connecticut create great downtowns and Main Streets. I hope all of you have a joyous holiday season and a Happy New Year. We'll see you here, back at work, in our next edition of Downtown Update.



Connecticut Main Street Center

c/o CL&P

PO Box 270 

Hartford, CT 06141



Join Our Mailing List
In This Issue
January DRI Workshop: Main Street is the Greenest Street

Statewide Committee Empowering Young People to Create a Vibrant Connecticut  



CMSC Happenings   



Spotlight on 2013 Award of Excellence: Dr. Richard A. Fichman

Re-Mains of the Day - The New Normal for Downtowns (it's good news); CMSC Presenting at APA National Conference; CMSC Accepts Major Award from CCAPA; Post Your Transportation Solutions to TransformCT.

President's Message:
A Note of Thanks
We love downtown supporters!  

We're celebrating Windsor for its efforts to support downtown revitalization 

Municipal officials including 
Town Manager Pete Sousa and Economic Development Director Jim Burke worked with local commissions and organizations like CMSC member First Town Downtown, developers and buildings owners to face challenges head on. Some of the obstacles they faced included: the cost of remediation, relocating occupants and land use approvals.


They met these challenges  
through proactive actions like acquiring property and creating a Redevelopment Agency to facilitate a grant for remediation. They realized housing was key to downtown's success, and changed their zoning to allow for more density. The Town supported these efforts, which resulted in a deteriorating building being put to good use for the benefit of the whole community.



Upcoming Events

New London Community Orchestra Holiday Concert 

December 16

More Info 


Urban Wayfinding Webinar

Presented by CCAPA

Free to Planners

December 19

More Info 


YES CT! Holiday Happy Hour


December 19

More Info 


CMSC Offices Closed for Christmas

December 25   


CMSC Offices Closed for New Year's Day   

January 1 


CMSC DRI Workshop: Main Street is the Greenest Street

The Lyceum 

January 25 

Register & More Info  


Winter Fun Week

Downtown Storrs Center 

February 1-9  


CMSC 2014 Awards of Excellence Submissions Due

March 14


CMSC Member Networking Event



CMSC 2014 Awards of Excellence Presentation 

June 9 


Odds & Ends 
Microsoft Free Clipart
  CT Driving Less; Using More Public Transportation

A new report from the CT Public Interest Research Group (ConnPIRG) says CT
commuters are driving less and using public transportation more, especially in the State's urban areas

Stamford-Bridgeport saw a 5.5 percent decrease in vehicle-miles traveled between 2006 and 2011 while miles driven in in
New Haven and Hartford declined by 2.6 and 1.9 percent, respectively

public transit use is up in New Haven and Stamford-Bridgeport, and
bicycle travel increased in Hartford and New Haven. 
Like us on Facebook!



Visit us on Facebook to find out more about what CMSC staff are up to, read interesting stories related to life and management on Main Street and connect with colleagues. 



Find us on Twitter!
Twitter Bird Logo  
Our handle on Twitter is CTMainSt. 
Give us a shout out and we'll be sure to say hi back.