Downtown Update

Newsletter of the Connecticut Main Street Center


Vol.15, Issue 3             

Inspiring great Connecticut downtowns, Main Street by Main Street.
CMSC Testifies in Support of CT's Downtowns

Connecticut's state legislators are in the midst of a busy and challenging session as the state faces a significant shortfall over the next two years. As you know, there is proposed legislation before the General Assembly that would greatly affect CMSC and our downtowns:


Tax Increment Financing

On March 6th, CMSC testified before the Planning & Development Committee in favor of changes to Tax Increment Financing being proposed by CMSC, the CT Chapter of the American Planning Association (CCAPA), the CT Economic Development Association, (CEDAS), Pullman & Comley, LLC and other parties interested in creating vibrant downtowns.


Tax Increment Financing is a financing mechanism by which an anticipated future increase in property tax revenue is used to fund current investment in development or redevelopment. Investments are made in projects today, then repaid over time with the increased tax revenue generated as the development spurs increased property values (an increase that would not have occurred "but for" the investment). The proposed legislation will benefit a wider variety of projects-including Transit Oriented Development, increased housing opportunities and more commercial development throughout the state.


Click here to view CMSC's written testimony.


Community Investment Act

On March 9th, CMSC testified before the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee to save Community Investment Act (CIA) funds. The Governor's proposed budget calls for a sweep of these funds that would effectively end the program over the next two years.


Under the CIA, a $40 recording fee is collected on every real estate transaction in the state, then distributed in support of four key areas: 1) preserving farmland 2) protecting open spaces, 3) historic preservation and 4) creating affordable housing. This program has received national attention for progressively using land-use fees to support comprehensive land-use planning and development.


CIA funds are the source of CMSC's Preservation of Place (POP) grant program. To date, CMSC has provided 51 grants totaling $446,000, which leveraged an investment of $1.2 million in our downtowns. The CIA also provides the source funds for CMSC's award-winning Come Home to Downtown program.


Click here for CMSC's written testimony and  to learn more about the impact of cutting these funds. You can also watch our testimony here (skip ahead to 4:16:07).  


CMSC is continuing to monitor these bills as they make their way through the legislative process, and encourages individuals and organizations from all sectors to contact their legislator in support of TIF and CIA funds.

Schools and Downtowns Converge at CMSC Workshop


Over sixty educators, downtown professionals, local entrepreneurs and more gathered to discuss how colleges and universities can work together to create mutually beneficial relationships during CMSC's Building Lasting DownTOWN/GOWN Partnerships workshop last Friday.


The session featured several speakers who discussed how they are creating successful partnerships that engage students in relevant Main Street issues, as well as how businesses can take advantage of both anchor institutions and students as resources - even transforming the downtown in the process. Attendees also broke out into facilitated groups to brainstorm specific examples of how their communities can collaborate strategically now and in the future.


To view presentations from prior workshops, check out our archive.


DRI Workshop Series Sponsors:   

Webster Bank
NewAlliance Foundation
CMSC Board Member Wins Junior Achievement Spirit of Hope Award


Kim Healey, Executive Director of the NewAlliance Foundation and CMSC board member, was honored recently by the Junior Achievement of Southwest New England. JA honors Hall of Fame Laureates for their leadership and success in business and community involvement. Ms. Healey was inducted into the JA Business Hall of Fame and bestowed with their inaugural Spirit of Hope Award during an award ceremony on March 12th.


CMSC is very proud to have such distinguished Board members, and Ms. Healey has contributed greatly as both a member and as Chair of the Governance Committee. We hope you will join us in congratulating her in this wonderful achievement!
Sponsorship Opportunities Available for 2015 Awards Gala


Trinity-On-Main in New Britain will be the site of the Welcome Reception during CMSC's 2015 Awards Gala.


Sponsorships are now being accepted for CMSC's 2015 Awards Gala in New Britain. Planning is underway for what is shaping up to be a fantastic event, featuring a welcome reception at Trinity-On-Main, followed by interactive walking tours that highlight the downtown's unique amenities, including Walnut Hill Park, downtown businesses, local arts organizations and the new CTfastrak terminus station.


Contact Kimberley Parsons-Whitaker for more information or click here to support Connecticut's downtowns and Main Streets with an online donation.

Spotlight on 2014 Awards of Excellence
Westville Village Renaissance Alliance   
Board Member & Volunteer of the Year  

Board Member of the Year - Eric Epstein  

A dedicated WVRA board member since 2008, Eric is the Chair of the Placemaking & Design Committee, and an invaluable adviser to WVRA and local entrepreneurs on issues of small business development, design, real estate and public art. As owner of a beautifully restored circa 1915 mixed-use building in the heart of Westville, Eric has dedicated one of its walls to public art installations, transforming the wall into the interactive art project "Do Dogs Dream in Color?" at ArtWalk 17.  


Volunteer of the Year - Kathleen Bradley   

"Kate" to her many friends and neighbors, personifies dedication and commitment to both the Village and to the broader Westville neighborhood. A WVRA volunteer for well over a dozen years, Kate played an instrumental role in WVRA's designation as a Connecticut Main Street program, having also served as a founding board member and volunteer coordinator of the Westville Village ArtWalk. She continues to be involved on a weekly basis, both regularly updating the events calendar and each year leading a team of volunteers to grow flowers, plant and maintain over 50 planters and small greenspaces throughout the Village.  


Congratulations to the WVRA Team!   

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 


CT Office of the Arts announces new grant for communities - COA recently launched the Public Art Community Projects Program which awards grants ranging from $7,500 - $35,000 for the planning and implementation of community-based public art projects. Project proposals must engage partners, include a significant public art component, and consider community need(s) and opportunity(ies). Click here for more information including eligibility requirements and application deadlines. 

COA also recently posted a slideshow of public art in Connecticut communities, many of which are also part of the CMSC member network. 

Meriden shuttle connects parking, downtown with community college and more
- Getting around Meriden will be even easier now that a new free shuttle will run from city parking lots to West Main Street and Colony Street. The bus will run a loop approximately every 12 minutes and will stop at seven locations in the downtown area, including Middlesex Community College and the YMCA. Riders can track the bus location online or using a mobile app. The shuttle will run through May 22, 2015 on a trial basis and feedback to the City is encouraged. For more information, click here.  


SNEAPA issues call for sessionsThe Southern New England American Planning Association (SNEAPA) is seeking proposals for sessions during its 2015 conference at the Convention Center in Hartford.  The theme of this year's conference is Diverse & Dynamic: Planners & Places. The deadline for submission is May 1, 2015.   

President's Message 

Keeping the conversation going.     

At our Building Lasting DownTOWN/GOWN Partnerships workshop last Friday part of the discussion in our breakout groups focused on how we can keep the conversation going. With so many great partnerships underway and so many new possibilities, should we hold another workshop on this topic? Should we convene a smaller working group? Is it best just to use social media and keep each other informed that way?


Of course, this is always the challenge, not just after we hold one of these always engaging workshops, but whenever we talk about Main Streets and our continually evolving work championing our downtowns. Part of the answer, of course, is all of the above. We need to routinely reach out to our colleagues while seeking new audiences to share ideas and learn from each other.

Simsbury residents share their ideas for their community during a charrette.


Part of the answer, however, is listening. This is critical, especially for our member communities, those downtown professionals and municipal staff on the ground, seeking to implement change and manage our communal spaces. Sometimes referred to as "community engagement", the process of listening to our constituents and customers is critical to a healthy downtown. Inviting residents, visitors and others to provide their feedback is an often invaluable tool for building consensus and creating the type of environment that benefits all users of that space.


At CMSC, we invite comment from our member network on how we can best assist them, from our Downtown Update readers on what they'd like to know (there's a link at the bottom), and e love when our friends and colleagues share their activities on Facebook, Twitter and more. We know that the best downtowns are able to incorporate many voices, and we look forward to working with you to keep the conversation going on how we can improve ours. 

Connecticut Main Street Center

c/o Eversource

PO Box 270 

Hartford, CT 06141



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In This Issue
CMSC Testifies in Support of CT's Downtowns

Schools and Downtown Converge at CMSC Workshop

CMSC Board Member Wins JA Spirit of Hope Award

Sponsorship Opportunities Available for 2015 Awards Gala

Spotlight on 2014 Awards of Excellence: WVRA Board Member & Volunteer of the Year Awards
Re-Mains of the Day: COA announces new community grants; New Meriden shuttle connects parking, downtown; SNEAPA issues call for session proposals

President's Message:
Keeping the conversation going
Upcoming Events


CEDAS Quarterly Meeting Introducing the Center for New Media at MXCC

March 24

Register & More Info 


iForum on Youth Homelessness

March 25

Register & More Info 


CTfastrak Opens

March 28 


COA Public Art Community Projects Program Intent to Apply Due

April 2

More Info 


CMSC Closed for Good Friday

April 3 


2015 Awards Gala

New Britain

June 8 


Marilyn Risi,
Executive Director, Upper Albany Main Street

Marilyn Risi has accomplished so much during her tenure at the helm of UAMS that there's no way to capture all of her accomplishments in this small space. Instead, here are a few highlights:


- Since coming on board as UAMS's Executive Director in 2000, Marilyn has worked collaboratively with neighborhood organizations, state agencies, legislators, local merchants and anchor institutions, creating partnerships that strengthen the entire Upper Albany community.


- Helped successfully launch the Micro Business Incubator Program, a partnership between the University of Hartford, City of Hartford, MetroHartford Alliance and small business community.


- Instrumental in UAMS achieving the Bank of America Neighborhood Builder's Award - the only Main Street Community in the nation to receive the award.


- Her advocacy and organizational skills led to the designation of Upper Albany as a Weed & Seed community, a federal crime prevention program founded on community policing.


- Helped raise the level of awareness of Upper Albany revitalization efforts resulting in dozens of major local newspaper articles and a featured piece in the National Trust Main Street publication Main Street News.


These are just a few of Marilyn's many, many accomplishments as she continues to lead UAMS in its revitalization of
The Avenue.



We celebrate Marilyn for her efforts to support downtown revitalization.  



Spotlight on 2015 Awards Gala in New Britain

CMSC's 2015 Awards of Excellence will be presented during our Awards Gala, held this year at Trinity-On-Main in New Britain on Monday, June 8. CMSC is working with a Committee from New Britain, CSMC's board and the State Office of the Arts to offer tours of the surrounding area that showcase downtown New Britain's many attributes.


New Britain has a ton to offer visitors and residents from great food to museums to theatre to a planetarium. Click  here to see a list of 28 of New Britain's best, most unique offerings.

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. 
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