Downtown Update

Newsletter of the Connecticut Main Street Center


Vol.14, Issue 4   

Inspiring great Connecticut downtowns, Main Street by Main Street.
CMSC Focusing on Small Businesses and Brownfields  

In response to the needs of our members, CMSC is focusing on the topics of financial and technical assistance for small "mom and pop" businesses and brownfield remediation. Clearly, both of these are complex subjects requiring a great deal of expertise. In our role as convener and Main Street champion, we're working to connect our members with the resources and information they need to address these topics.
A small business in Westville Village, New Haven.

Small Business Assistance - CMSC recently brought together Emily Carter, the new State Director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Kent Burnes of Burnes Consulting, and the Executive Directors of Waterbury Main Street and Simsbury Main Street Partnership and the Town of Suffield Director of Economic and Community Development to discuss the obstacles and opportunities facing Connecticut's small businesses. SBDC State Director Emily Carter has experience as a small family business owner and worked with the Main Street program in her home state of Illinois. She is enthusiastic about working closely with CMSC and our members, possibly to develop a pilot program that will match business owners with the precise resources and training they need to succeed.


Brownfield Remediation - Clean-up at many of these contaminated sites often involves an arduous, costly process. In order to better prepare themselves, many of our members have expressed a desire for greater understanding and assistance on this issue. As many of you may know, the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) recently appointed Tim Sullivan as the new State Director of Brownfield, Waterfront and Transit Oriented Development. Mr. Sullivan spoke recently at an event on Brownfields sponsored by The Last Green Valley, which was held in Willimantic on April 9th. CMSC is partnering with the CT Brownfield Working Group and CME Associates to hold another Brownfield workshop in the western part of the State. As such, look for a workshop to be held in the Waterbury-area in late spring/early summer. There'll be speakers from the US Environmental Protection Agency, the CT Department of Community and Economic Development, and the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.  CMSC will provide additional information on this event as it becomes available.

Join CMSC for Placemaking Workshop    

Larkin Square is helping revitalize Buffalo with its unique mix of activies and programming.
Communities right here in Connecticut and across the country are thinking outside the box, creating new places by utilizing innovative placemaking tools and strategies. Our next workshop, Placemaking II: Creative Solutions for Invigorating Your Downtown will show you how to bring these strategies to where you live.


On April 25th at The Lyceum you'll have a chance to see for yourself how successful placemaking programs are developed and managed right here in Connecticut. You'll even hear how an entirely new place was created out of industrial ruins in Buffalo, NY. 


Register soon - space is limited and this event promises to be a hit. In addition to our dynamic speakers, we're also mixing it up and having lunch catered by The Whey Station, a gourmet grilled cheese truck! There'll also be an interactive placemaking activity.


For more information or to register, click here. 

CMSC to Present Come Home to Downtown at American Planning Association National Conference 

The American Planning Association National Conference takes place in Atlanta, April 26-30

CMSC will present its award-winning Come Home to Downtown program at the American Planning Association (APA) national conference in Atlanta, April 26-30. CMSC's Community Engagement Director, Susan Westa, will present alongside CMSC Board Member Dave Sousa, Landscape Architect & Urban Planner at CDM Smith who performed the WALQ Audit of the Year 1 pilot communities and Martin Connor, Torrington City Planner (Torrington was chosen as one of the first pilot communities to participate). Come Home to Downtown logo 


Come Home to Downtown aims to bring housing back to our downtowns by converting under-utilized buildings into housing above commercial space. CMSC learned many important lessons about the obstacles and opportunities for mixed-use development during the first year of this program, and is looking forward to leading the conversation with participants from across the nation at the APA conference.   
Spotlight on 2013 Awards of Excellence - Main Street Board Members of the Year
Gabriel DaSilva, Westville Village Renaissance Alliance

Gabe was the founding Board President of Westville's Main Street program, serving from 2007 to 2012. An entrepreneur and small business owner in Westville Village, Gabe has played an integral role in the organization's formation and success. He is a tireless volunteer, particularly on the annual ArtWalk event, where he coordinates the infrastructure and manages the teen volunteers, thus mobilizing a driving force during the event.

Congratulations, Gabe!
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 




New London Hosting The Big Picture - New London Main Street, in partnership with the New London City Dock Master, is hosting their annual community-wide Big Picture on Wednesday, April 30, at 12:00pm.

This event represents New London today - teachers, students, the Coast Guard, CEO's, business owners, police officers, congregations, tourists, arts and cultural institutions and more coming together to commemorate one of New London's greatest assets - it's pride.   


The community photo will take place at Waterfront Park, at the Fishers Island Ferry Terminal (5 Waterfront Park, New London). The Big Picture is taken by Hygienic Art Galleries Director and photographer Vinnie Scarano at 12:15 p.m. sharp. Costumes, signage, and community cheer are encouraged.


Sponsorship Opportunities Available for 2014 Awards of Excellence - CMSC is now accepting sponsorships for its 2014 Awards of Excellence. This event celebrates the impressive and impactful work of our members across the state. This year's event takes place on June 9th at Roěa Restaurant in New Haven in the beautiful historic Taft Hotel building. For more information or to sponsor this event, email  


Northwest Regional Planning Collaborative Helping Small Businesses One Knock at a Time  - Pete Feen, the Collaborative's Small Business & Economic Development Coordinator, has been hitting the streets in Canaan, Cornwall, Falls Village, Kent, Norfolk, Salisbury, Sharon and Lakeville. Pete is sharing a resource list of existing programs with local business owners, town economic development committees, chambers of commerce and others interested in collaborating. The goal is to determine what local businesses need to grow and thrive and help them reduce the cost of doing business in northwest Connecticut.    


Southwest Airlines keeps it head in the clouds but feet on the street with placemaking partnership. Southwest Airlines has entered into a partnership with the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) to improve and revitalize public spaces in several American cities. Southwest and PPS will administer grants to the cities to transform their public spaces. They have already engaged in projects in Detroit, Providence, RI and San Antonio where a historic city park was activated. For more information on this unique initiative, click here.  


10 Lessons for Citizen Engagement - All downtowns - whether major urban areas or tiny town centers - can do more to engage their citizens and encourage civic engagement. This article looks to Vancouver, widely known for its public engagement, for best practices in community involvement. Some are as simple as changing the location on council meetings to getting people to walk and talk more outside. Click here to see the full list.     

President's Message 

Sq-Wheel of Delight: How food trucks are revitalizing downtown

We're trying something new at our Placemaking workshop later this month, having lunch catered by The Whey Station, a gourmet grilled cheese food truck. Although this will be the first time we incorporate a food truck into one of our events, we've wanted to do so for a while now. That's because not only are they a delicious caravan of culinary delights, they're also a great example of how entrepreneurial small business owners and placemaking can create positive economic and social changes in our downtowns.


Admittedly, food trucks can be controversial. There are those who say they're a passing fad that has already peaked. Others argue a plethora of food trucks disrupt brick-and-mortar restaurants, luring patrons away. And of course there's the whole issue of regulating them, determining who can station themselves where, for how long, and trying permit the whole thing.


Pictures of the NoRA Cupcake Truck

Still, despite the critics, we've seen firsthand that these foodies on four wheels can have a positive, significant and fast impact on an otherwise downtrodden area. For example, CMSC's offices are located about two blocks from the Colt complex. Over the last few years businesses and residents began to take root in the renovated buildings. The Urban Gourmet, a food truck owned by Charles Williams, a former chef at the Simsbury Inn and Avon Old Farms Hotel followed when over a hundred jobs were added to the South Armory. After him, Cafe Colt, a bricks-and-mortar business, arrived. "Competition is good," said Mr. Williams, in a Hartford Courant article heralding Café Colt's arrival. "We're doing different things." From our own experience walking over for lunch, he's right. Rather than having only one dining option available in the complex, now there are two. And there are plenty of employees there to serve both the food truck and the café. Plus, having all these people on the street brings a sense of security, interest and vitality to the area.  


There are other examples of the impact food trucks are having on our downtowns. In Middletown, Main Street's north end is experiencing something of a resurgence thanks to trendy new restaurants and shops. Rather than compete with each other, they work together, supporting each other's businesses. For instance, Krust Pizza Bar features desserts from neighbor NoRA Cupcake Company. And several of the businesses jointly host a First Thursday event that encourages patrons to visit multiple locations. The inaugural event had a pop-up store at NoRA's and an East Coast/West Coast beer-off, with Krust featuring beers from one side of the U.S. while Eli Cannon's Tap Room featured beers from the other. Meanwhile NoRA's (whose confections are quickly becoming legendary) has supplemented their storefront with a cupcake truck, making stops at nearby anchor institutions like Middlesex Hospital. Recently NoRA and The Whey Station teamed up to promote each other on social media, encouraging passerby to enjoy a grilled cheese for lunch then grab a cupcake for dessert. 

People line up for The Whey Station grilled cheese truck.

In this way food trucks are providing tangible benefits to our downtowns: drawing people to our Main Streets who in turn are attracted to neighboring businesses; reinforcing existing businesses and growing their patronage; and adding to a sense of place and contributing to the liveliness and vitality of an area. This has been shown not just in Connecticut but across the country in places like Washington, DC, Larkin Square in Buffalo, NY and San Francisco.


For our part, we're excited to bring a new, dynamic element to our workshop that will get people moving and talking. Giving the participants in our workshops a taste of the vibrancy our downtowns offer is just another way we're helping to reinvigorate our communities.

Connecticut Main Street Center

c/o CL&P

PO Box 270 

Hartford, CT 06141



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In This Issue
CMSC Focusing on Small Businesses and Brownfields

Join CMSC for Placemaking Workshop    

 CMSC to Present Come Home to Downtown at American Planning Association National Conference 

Spotlight on 2013 Award of Excellence: Gabriel DaSilva
Re-Mains of the Day - New London Hosts the Big Picture; Sponsorships Available for CMSC Awards of Excellence; NW CT Collaborative Helping Small Businesses; Southwest Airlines Invests in Placemaking; 10 Strategies for Citizen Engagement
President's Message:
Sq-Wheel of Delight: How food trucks are revitalizing downtown
Upcoming Events


How Housing Can Help Close Our Achievement Gap! 

The Lyceum, Hartford 

April 17 

More Info 


CMSC Offices Closed for Good Friday

April 18


CMSC DRI - Placemaking II

The Lyceum, Hartford

Register & More Info 

April 25 


The Big Picture

New London

April 30


New London Spring Food Stroll

May 14

More Info & Tickets


Brownfield Workshop hosted by CMSC, CT Brownfield Working Group and CME Associates

Late May


CMSC 2014 Awards of Excellence Gala

Roia Restaurant

New Haven 

June 9 

Patrick McMahon 


Director of Economic & Community Development, Town of Suffield

Economic Development Consultant, Town of Windsor Locks


Credit - Geographically Yours

Patrick got his start in Main Street Revitalization when he was Community Development Coordinator with the Town of Windsor - back when John Simone was Executive Director of Windsor's Main Street program. Educated at Catholic University of America, Patrick has a BA in Politics and a JD and MPA in Public Administration and Law from UConn.  


Patrick is responsible for Main Street revitalization and business enhancement in the Bradley International Airport area in Windsor Locks.

In the Town of Suffield, he's charged with business recruitment, business assistance, marketing, grant writing and grants management, and special projects.


Facilitated by Patrick, the Town of Suffield has both instigated and responded to community input of the future of its Town Center, its farmlands, and its recreational trails by partnering with private sector organizations in efforts to put systems in place that preserve and redevelop those sites which contribute to a livable community.


Suffield's former First Selectman, Scott Lingenfelter, is quoted as saying:
"Patrick is extremely dedicated to the communities that he serves. His energy, passion and leadership inspires others to be at their best."


We celebrate Patrick McMahon for his efforts to support downtown revitalization.  



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