Downtown Update

Newsletter of the Connecticut Main Street Center


Vol.14, Issue 7      

Inspiring great Connecticut downtowns, Main Street by Main Street.
End of Year Review  

CMSC operates on a fiscal calendar, which means we recently closed out our 2013-2014 year. We're proud to report that we continued to progress on our programs and initiatives, accomplishing a great deal this past year. Below are just a few of our major accomplishments:

  • Come Home to Downtown - Issued a Final Report on our first year of the program. This report outlined seven key findings on how Connecticut can enliven its downtowns through mixed-use development based on our work with the pilot communities.
    • CMSC won the 2013 Outreach & Education Award from the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association for its efforts to engage the public around this program. CMSC continues to advocate for resources for mixed-use development, using the lessons learned from the program to identify issues that should be addressed.
    • We also began the second year of the program, selecting Meriden and New Britain to receive intensive, customized technical assistance on how to redevelop a small under-utilized downtown property into housing above commercial space. CMSC continues to assist the Year 1 properties, working with them to identify financing options for the redevelopment.
  • Assisted our members - CMSC continued to guide its network of nearly 60 member communities, providing technical assistance through one-on-one meetings in person and via phone, presenting to member Board of Directors on issues such as capacity building and organizational transitions; offering overviews of the CMSC program; providing Reconnaissance Visits and a subsequent Summary Report.
    • We also held networking events in Storrs Center and Waterbury which included informative tours and entertaining events.
  • Implemented the Sandy Hook Economic Recovery Consultancy - CMSC convened a team of consultants to assist Sandy Hook merchants get back on their feet. This included a market assessment, branding campaign, a plan to increase S.H.O.P's (Sandy Hook Organization for Prosperity) organizational capacity and fund development, and oversaw the hiring of a Marketing Coordinator.
  • Assessed the feasibility of a New Haven citywide program - At the request of New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, CMSC was engaged to determine whether a city-wide neighborhood revitalization program was appropriate. CSMC and consultant Kent Burnes spent a week in the City, visiting a representative four districts, meeting with local stakeholders and residents. We then prepared a final report outlining recommended steps for implementation of a citywide program.
  • Bolstered our visibility - CMSC continued to promote our members and garner positive attention for our work revitalizing Connecticut's main streets. As a result, we were featured in several prominent news outlets across the state. We also greatly increased our use of social media, including more than tripling our number of Twitter followers, who in turn spread awareness of our activities to their own network of followers. We also participated in a press conference honoring Senator Don Williams for his work on the Community Investment Act, where CMSC designated member Westville Village Renaissance Alliance's Executive Director Chris Heitmann spoke eloquently about the positive impact it's had on Westville through the Preservation of Place grant program (which uses CIA funds). Of course, we also updated our logo - dynamically reflecting our robust activity and that of our members.
  • DRI and other workshops - Our day-long information sessions on downtown revitalization continue to be popular events. This year we held three workshops - one on Green Downtowns and two on Placemaking. Our second Placemaking event was especially engaging, featuring a pop-up park where attendees could sit and relax on brightly colored Adirondack chairs while enjoying lunch catered by The Whey Station, a gourmet grilled cheese food truck. In response to our member's interests, we also hosted a workshop on recent Brownfields developments, including new legislation designed to make brownfield clean-up easier for municipalities.
  • We continued our upward financial trend, securing more sponsorships than ever before for our 2014 Awards Gala in New Haven. We also closed out the year with a balanced budget for the fifteenth consecutive year.
These are just a few of our many achievements over the past year. Be sure to visit our website, Facebook page and keep up with us on Twitter (handle CTMainSt) to learn about our latest activities as Connecticut's leading resource for downtown revitalization.
Congratulations to CMSC Board Member Bernard Kavaler  

CMSC benefits from a Board of Directors who are distinguished in both in their professional field and their community. They not only help guide CMSC in achieving its mission of inspiring great downtowns, but they also inspire others with their accomplishments. Please join us in congratulating CMSC Board Member Bernard Kavaler who was recently elected president of the Alumni Board of Directors of the University of Hartford.
Spotlight on 2014 Awards of Excellence
Main Street Partnership - Axis901 and MCC on Main, Downtown Manchester
Recipients: First Niagara Bank, Manchester Community College, Town of Manchester


The goal was to create a vibrant center for entrepreneurship, entertainment, culture and education in the heart of this historic downtown. In summary, this is a story of a convergence of interests, a willingness to be creative and take risks for results, and choosing to turn a challenge into an opportunity.  


Downtown Opportunities & Challenges:

▪ First Niagara Bank acquired NewAlliance Bank in 2011, resulting in the loss of 100 jobs on Manchester's Main Street, and creating surplus real estate for First Niagara.

▪ MCC had sought for years to establish a physical presence in downtown - to create a space where students would be drawn and the community would be enriched by the college's programs and resources.

▪ The Town and Downtown Manchester Special Services District sought opportunities to establish a unique downtown destination to draw new customers and businesses, to promote downtown as a location for arts, entertainment and the creative economy.



▪ 901-903 Main Street is a Victorian era commercial building, converted from retail to bank by NewAlliance. First Niagara donated the building to the Town, and gave a $500,000 unrestricted gift to the MCC Foundation to be used to repurpose the building for MCC on Main, an arts gallery and classroom space.

▪ The Town crafted a unique lease structure with the MCC Foundation whereby the Foundation pays all of the operating costs, and is reimbursed with revenues generated from the second floor Axis901 membership and lease payments from Manchester Adult Education.

▪ The Foundation funded the conversion of the first floor offices into the Dehn Art Gallery, two seminar rooms, and smaller offices and conference rooms.

▪ The Town, always looking for new economic development opportunities, learned about coworking. The Town, using staff from facilities, planning, information systems, and public works departments, created a coworking space on the second floor to attract and support innovators and entrepreneurs.


Major Accomplishments:

▪ MCC on Main hosts art exhibits, live musical performances, poetry readings, small classes and other events. MCC's entrepreneurship programs are also migrating to MCC on Main.

▪ Axis901 provides open work spaces, a kitchen, meeting rooms with conference call and projection capabilities, a copier/scanner/printer, a quiet room, and private offices. A variety of monthly memberships provide entrepreneurs a flexible business environment that provides opportunities for collaboration and support, and brings a new business type and energy to Main Street.

▪ Axis901 and MCC on Main have increased foot traffic on Main Street and are building a brand as an art/cultural venue, a place to learn and share ideas, and a home and resource for innovators, startups, and entrepreneurs. Visitors and members support other local businesses.

▪ Recently joining Axis901 is Eric Knight, a serial entrepreneur under contract to CTNext, the state funded group building Connecticut's innovation ecosystem. Eric provides free advice to help entrepreneurs establish or grow their businesses. He has office hours at Axis901 every Tuesday.

▪ Since July 2012, MCC on Main has had: 12 Gallery Shows; 342 Performances; and 9,000 attendees. Since May 2013, Axis901 has had: 22 members, 60 events and CTNext - 62 appointments, 29 individuals.

▪ Success is attributed to a shared vision of what downtown Manchester can become, a realistic assessment of the possibilities in the marketplace, identification of the community's desires, a willingness to collaborate and cooperate, and a willingness to take reasonable risks.


Congratulations to First Niagara, Manchester Community College and the Town of Manchester!


Pictures from the 2014 Awards Gala have been posted to our Facebook page. Learn more about the winning initiatives and individuals here. 

Re-Mains of the Day 



CMSC member communities among CT's most bike- & walk-able.

Bike Walk Connecticut released a report naming the state's most bike- and walk-friendly communities. Simsbury (1), New Haven (2), New Britain (3), Glastonbury (4), and Middletown (5) claim top honors as the five most bike- and walk-friendly communities.  All but Glastonbury are CMSC member communities. The rankings are based on an online, statewide public opinion survey that was open to anyone who lives or works in Connecticut.  They're also based on municipal leadership and engagement efforts -- whether cities or towns have bicycle and pedestrian master plans; citizen task forces or advisory groups; complete streets policies; and whether they have conducted any public outreach efforts related to cycling, walking or complete streets. Read the full report here.  



▪ There's still time to vote for your favorite Connecticut town - The state's second-annual Fan-Favorite competition is underway. The contest calls for people to vote for the town they think most embodies the spirit of the State's Still Revolutionary brand. Those that do vote will be entered to win a ZIP to ZEN 4-night getaway to last year's winning town, Niantic.   Participants can also vote for their favorite business, destination or attraction within the town. The 2014 winner will receive bragging rights and promotional support from the CT Office of Tourism. Several CMSC member communities are among the top vote getters so be sure your favorite is among them! Voting is open on Facebook through July 25 (you can vote more than once). Click here for more info and to vote.


CMSC workshop speaker recognized for her revitalization efforts. Delilah Poupore, executive director of Heart of Biddeford, a nonprofit dedicated to revitalizing downtown Biddeford (ME), was recently featured in The Sun Monthly, a Maine publication. The periodical credited Ms. Pourpore with helping turn around the downtown, saying, "By championing the creative economy, the women who run Engine and Heart of Biddeford are leading a downtown renaissance." Ms. Poupore (pictured at right) was a presenter at CMSC's workshop Main Street is the Greenest Street this past January.      

President's Message 

Why Downtown Should Be A Vacation

It's summer and for many of us that means a vacation. I'm willing to bet that whether you're headed to the beach or the mountains, chances are you're going to visit a downtown along the way.


What is it that we love so much about vacation? Whether it's the familiar, laid-back streets of Martha's Vineyard or the bustling boardwalks of the Jersey shore, once we're there, we put away the car and get our feet on the street (when they're not in the sand or the water).  


Our own Communications & Office Manager, Christine Schilke, took time out from walking the woods of northern New Hampshire to stroll the Main Street of Littleton recently. She was impressed that although the town really is little (pop. 5,928), it knows enough to celebrate its unique characteristics, lining the streets with festive flags and promoting the Main Street way of life. The tiny Littleton diner - made famous by Presidential candidates looking to connect with the average Joe - makes a point advocating for that new, old-fashioned way. Their menu lists a Recipe for an American Renaissance:

Eat-In Diners

Ride Trains

Put a Porch on Your House

Shop on Main Street

Live in a Walkable Community


Sound familiar? The other merchants lining the main boulevard also espouse the Main Street way of life, encouraging people to shop local on the brown paper bags they give customers for their purchases. They also embody another characteristic so important to successful downtowns - authenticity. They celebrate what's unique about them. Just take a look at the crowd in Chutters candy store, home to the "world's longest candy counter,"and you'll see that mom's advice to just be yourself works for downtowns too. 


Who among us can remain dispassionate in these charming, captivating towns? That we choose to spend our vacation time here is not a coincidence - it's a reminder that we should take a look at those elements we like best - the walkability, the bikeability, the authenticity and celebration of a historic past - and them bring home to be incorporated into our own downtowns. Because if we can't see ourselves choosing to vacation in our own downtown, why would anyone else? If our Main Street districts are boring,

Chutters' impressive 112-ft candy counter is a draw for sweet-tooths young and old.

scary or depressing to those of us that live there, then we are definitely doing something wrong.  


The good news is, we can change by working together and with our member communities. Tell your municipal leaders, local stakeholders and your state representatives you want to see more done to make your downtown into a destination that attracts visitors, employers, businesses and residents who wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Let's create the kind of places where others visit us, and think we're the lucky ones who get to live here. 

Connecticut Main Street Center

c/o CL&P

PO Box 270 

Hartford, CT 06141



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In This Issue
End of Year Review

CMSC Congratulates Board Member Bernard Kavaler
Re-Mains of the Day - CMSC Member Communities among the State's most bike- and walk-able; There's still time to vote for your favorite CT town; CMSC Workshop presenter recognized for revitalization efforts in her native Maine.
President's Message:
Why Downtown Should Be a Vacation
Upcoming Events


Fireman's Carnival

July 17-19


More Info 


Open Farm Day

Easy Lyme

July 20

More Info 


Beecher Park Summer Concert Series  

New Haven 


July 21-August 18 

More Info  


Rock the Docks Concert


August 6 & 13

More Info  


CMSC Offices Closed for Labor Day

September 1 


David Kooris

Director - Office of Planning and Economic Development
City of Bridgeport
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Appointed by Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch in July 2012, David serves as the City's Director of the Office of Planning and Economic Development where he oversees eight divisions covering the entire land use suite from long-range planning and economic development to zoning and buildings. His department is working to reposition a struggling post-industrial city into a model for sustainability, working from an award-winning sustainability and energy plan.


In David's words, "My office focuses on five strategies:


1. Downtown revitalization - Developing affordable rental units above ground floor retail and within walking distance of a regional bus hub and a commuter rail station.


2. Eco-industrial park - Attracting green businesses to a district that has planned or implemented a presence of fuel cells, solar arrays, thermal loops, grey water pipelines, and digesters.


3. Health corridor - Linking public education with healthcare and medical manufacturing to create a path out of poverty and into prosperity for two of the poorest neighborhoods in the nation's wealthiest state.


4. Waterfront recapture - Creating continuous public access along miles of coastline within a context of adjacent communities whose waterfront is almost completely privatized.

5. Neighborhood revitalization - Removing blight, beautifying, traffic calming / pedestrianizing and transitioning commercial car-oriented corridors to mixed-use transit corridors."


We celebrate David for his efforts to support downtown revitalization.  


WAY TO GO David!! 

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