Downtown Update
Newsletter of the Connecticut Main Street Center 

Celebrating 20 Years of inspiring great Connecticut downtowns,  
Main Street by Main Street.
CMSC Says YES to Walkable Neighborhoods at UConn/DOT Livability Forum

CMSC's Communications Manager, Christine Schilke, was thrilled to represent YES - Young Energetic Solutions - during a forum on livability in Connecticut presented by the UConn School of Engineering and the CT Dept. of Transportation. Christine presented an overview of the economic factors impacting millennials including large amounts of student debt, Connecticut's high housing costs (for both homeownership and rental) and the cost of transit.  She also offered insight into what this generation is seeking in their communities, including walkable neighborhoods (whether in an urban, suburban or rural setting), as well as smaller, denser and more affordable housing, and proximity to transit options and amenities.   


The event featured guest speaker Andrew Cotugno, Portland, Oregon's Senior Policy Advisor to the Metro Council and Chief Operating Officer, who talked about his city's 30 year journey to becoming a national leader in transportation and

Photo courtesy of Chris LaRosa, UConn School of Engineering

livable communities.  CT DOT Commissioner James Redeker spoke about the state's Let's Go CT! initiative - a 30-year transportation plan and its ambitious 5-year ramp up schedule, while Alyssa Norwood from the Legislative Commission on Aging provided a complementary view of Connecticut's aging population, noting that today's seniors are healthier and more active than their predecessors, desiring to also to live in walkable, vibrant areas; building communities responsive to their needs results in places that are great to to grow up as well as grow older.


This event was taped by CT-N and is available for viewing online.

Save the Date for Fall Workshop on Tax Increment Financing


Save the Date for September 11th when we'll hold an in-depth workshop on Tax Increment Financing (TIF). As you know, CMSC and a coalition of downtown advocates successfully passed legislation this year broadening TIF to include the formation of TIF districts and vastly increasing the number and type of activities eligible for TIFs. The workshop will discuss the new legislation and applicable uses, how to create TIF districts and will feature speakers from Iowa and Maine who have successfully created and implemented hundreds of TIF districts.


CMSC Participating in SNEAPA Conference


CMSC will be participating in two sessions during the Southern New England American Planning Association (SNEAPA) Planning Conference, taking place at the Convention Center in Hartford on September 24-25. The conference is an annual 2-day event hosted by the Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts chapters of APA that draws over 500 planners, landscape architects, architects, engineers, academics, students and others. Be sure to sure to mark your calendars to join us at this great event.  

Spotlight on 2015 Awards of Excellence
CT Main Street Business Owners of the Year

Dawn & Kristin Harkness, Wheeling City Tours, New London

Imagine a new and different way to see a city. In 2014, Dawn and Kristin Harkness took tourism in their home city of New London to a new level by creating Wheeling City Tours, bringing Segways to the area. "We thought about what New London needed, and we know what makes a great tour."


Photo credit: Allegra Anderson Photography


Opportunities, Challenges & Major Accomplishments:

  • Avid travelers who have taken Segway Tours in locations around the world, the Harkness' began to do research on opening a guided Segway Tour business in New London. They wanted to "get people to see the New London we've fallen in love with", and made connections with local businesses, the Mayor's Office, New London Main Street, and downtown event planners. They even invited the community to help name their new business through a social media campaign.
  • The City asked them to draft an ordinance allowing "electronic assistive mobility devices" on city streets, which they did. It was approved in January 2014.
  • The Harkness' thoroughly researched the local history of New London and developed an accurate and interesting script. They have extremely high standards for positivity, accuracy, and fun on their tours. Looking to keep their business fresh and exciting, they also provide custom-tailored group games and team-building activities, such as Segway Polo, Segway Croquet, Segway Water Cannon Competitions, and Segway Nerf Blaster Bashes. "We often get three generations on a tour," said Dawn. "It is difficult these days to find activities grandparents can do with their grandchildren - that are also considered 'cool'."
  • Kristin and Dawn Harkness are true entrepreneurs. Kristin had a successful career in computer technology, including as a mobile software developer for Kayak and, before that, founded Publish2Go. Dawn is an attorney and has been actively involved in local politics and community development. They know how to make things happen, using their professional successes to develop a smart business plan, funding their start up, and making a profit. In 2015 they plan to hire local New London enthusiasts as tour guides, thus contributing more to the local economy as they grow their business.
  • Also in 2015, Wheeling City Tours is partnering with the Custom House Maritime Museum to offer tours to area lighthouses. These partnerships increase tourism to the area - and a new-found love and respect for historic New London.
  • The Harkness' have a five-year lease on a storefront location in the rear of 36 Bank Street, which opens onto South Water Street and faces Waterfront Park. Guides lead three to eight sightseers on tours across the city, offering patrons one- and two-hour guided audio tours. Gliding around town, participants often elicit curious expressions from onlookers. "When you're on a Segway," Kristin Harkness says, "you don't just see the attractions; you are an attraction."
  • The effect of Wheeling City Tours on the downtown is significant. The visual impact of the tours in motion marks an area that is celebrated and well used. The celebratory feeling of a tour of people on Segways promotes a City in action. The education and inspiration provided about downtown New London to tourists from outside the area makes an immeasurable positive impact on the area. Wheeling City Tours brings hundreds of unlikely guests to the City each year: visitors who then spread the message that New London is a great place to be.
  • Wheeling City Tours raises the bar for current and future businesses: New London Main Street now promotes that if Wheeling City Tours can make it here, so can your well-planned start up!

Congratulations to the Dawn & Kristin Harkness!


Pictures from the 2015 Awards Gala have been posted to our Facebook page. Learn more about the winning initiatives and individuals here. 

Re-Mains of the Day 


Transportation Planner Position Open in Mansfield - The Mansfield Downtown Partnership, Inc. is looking to fill a Transportation Coordinator position. This position will perform professional-level work managing the Nash-Zimmer Transportation Center and a variety of transit programs. For more information and application instructions, click here. 
CMSC Welcomes New Members - CMSC is expanding its statewide reach with the addition of several new members. We look forward to working with the following towns as they reinvigorate their main streets and town centers: New Hartford, Haddam, Watertown, Farmington, Fairfield and Milford.

President's Message - 20 Years of Main Street 

From our 2005 Awards Presentation - in 2015 we're still looking forward while celebrating the past.

It's hard to believe CMSC turns 20 this year. (Our fiscal year began July 1.) Despite two decades going by, our genesis in a private company remains unique on a national scale. You may recall we got our start in 1995 when the Connecticut Light & Power Company (CL&P) - now Eversource Energy - recognized there was no comprehensive approach to revitalizing our historic commercial districts. Concerned with protecting their significant investment in infrastructure in the State's downtowns, they provided the funding and internal administrative resources to establish the Connecticut Main Street Program. In 1999, with the support of then-Lt. Governor M. Jodi Rell, the renamed Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC) became a private nonprofit corporation.


Fast forward a couple decades and you'll find we remain just as passionate and committed to our downtowns as ever. And while we're proud of our many achievements and the success of our members over those many years, we're even prouder to report that demand for our services continues to grow, with six new members joining our statewide network this month. Our reach is broadening daily as we expand our role as convener and champion of downtown friendly policies and programs.


It's perhaps fitting then that as we celebrate our past, we take stock of our present and look to our future. Throughout the coming year, you can expect to see highlights of the last twenty years in our newsletters and on social media (#20YrsofCMSC) while simultaneously receiving updates as we engage in a strategic planning process to help guide our future direction.


In the meantime, I want to thank all of you for supporting us in our work over the last twenty years.  I look forward to continuing our vital collaborations as we create engaging, vibrant Main Streets all across Connecticut.


Connecticut Main Street Center

c/o Eversource

PO Box 270 

Hartford, CT 06141



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July 2015
Vol. 15/Issue 7

Upcoming Events

Waterbury Business Women's Summer Tea

July 22 

More Info 


CMSC Closed for Labor Day

September 7


TIF Workshop

September 11



CMSC Networking Event


September 22

Economic Development Summit
September 23
Register & More Info

SNEAPA Conference
September 24-25
Register & More Info