Downtown Update
Newsletter of the Connecticut Main Street Center 

Celebrating 20 Years of inspiring great Connecticut downtowns,  
Main Street by Main Street.
CMSC Chosen as 1 of 5 Pilots for National Placemaking Grant

CMSC has just learned that we are one of five statewide main street programs to be chosen for the "Cultivating Place in Main Street Communities" training grant, a partnership between the National Main Street Center and Project for Public Spaces (PPS). The grant provides for a series of intensive trainings between January and June 2016 designed to strengthen and expand Main Street's capacity for implementing placemaking strategies and improving public spaces. The other states selected for the grant include Alabama, Missouri, Montana and Oregon.

CMSC plans to use this training to build on its other placemaking efforts, including two Downtown Revitalization Institute workshops held in 2013-2014, the latter of which featured a pop-up park and lunch provided by a food truck. Additional information will be announced in the coming months as CMSC works with the National Main Street Center and PPS to implement the training.

Click here to read the National Main Street Center's press release announcing CMSC as one of the pilot communities.
CMSC Board Member Michael Andreana Chosen CEDAS Member of the Year

The CT Economic Development Association (CEDAS), a non-profit organization committed to advancing the practice of economic development within the state, held its annual meeting and reception last week, during which they honored Michael Andreana with its Member of the Year Award.  Mr. Andrea, who is also on CMSC's Board of Directors, was honored for his work in helping pass expanded Tax Increment Financing legislation during the 2015 Legislative Session.  Mr. Andreana, who is an attorney with the law firm of Pullman & Comley, was part of a coalition that included CMSC, the CT Chapter of the American Planning Association (CCAPA), CEDAS, and the Yale Law School. Mr. Andreana was an integral part of the legislation's successful passage, drafting the language for the expanded financing mechanism.
Representatives from other CMSC member towns were also presented with awards during the CEDAS reception, including Mark Pellegrini, Manchester's Director of Planning & Economic Development, who was awarded the Kenneth L. Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award, and Rose Ponte, Farmington Economic Development Director, was presented with the President's Award.
CMSC Featured Speaker at Legislative Commission on Aging 2015 Partner Summit

CMSC's President & CEO John Simone was a featured speaker during the Legislative Commission on Aging's Partner Summit at the State Capitol on December 3rd. The "Putting Connecticut on the Map" summit was convened as an opportunity for the Commission's many partners to engage with each other and share information, network and present the latest ideas and innovations that are putting Connecticut on the map for livability during a series of rapid-fire presentations. 
Mr. Simone was one of the featured speakers to present on the seven domains of the Commission's Livable Communities initiative.  The domains include: planning and zoning, public and outdoor buildings and spaces, housing, transportation, community engagement, health services and social services. Mr. Simone spoke to an audience of about 100 people on the public buildings and spaces aspect, offering several examples from CMSC member communities of successful placemaking initiatives that encourage people to stay and play in our downtowns.
Click here to view CT-N's coverage of the event.
Click here to view the presentations from this event.
Spotlight on 2015 Awards of Excellence: 2015 Main Street Pioneer: Outstanding Commitment to the Avenue
Sponsored by Webster Bank
Vivian Akuoko, Evay Cosmetics on Upper Albany Avenue, Hartford

Nominated by:
 Upper Albany Main Street 

"To be an entrepreneur is to be a pioneer. Each day is different, presenting new challenges and opportunities as the entrepreneur seeks to implement solutions to particular problems." - Yuri Maricich, MD/MBA

Opportunities, Challenges, & Major Accomplishments:
  • For over 30 years, in her quiet Upper Albany converted three-family establishment, Miss Vivian (as she is called by clients and Avenue residents alike) has been steadily building a beauty empire at Evay Beauty Salon & Day Spa.
  • Vivian Akuoko, whose office wall features photos with Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities, is not only a hairstylist and salon owner, but an industry innovator.
  • Soon after starting her career, Vivian developed a relationship with the Hartford Economic Development Corporation (HEDCO), which provided her with a $30,000 loan which enabled her to open her own business on Albany Avenue. Vivian upgraded her business model based on her keen observation of where her market was headed. Sales increased from $83,000 per year to $350,000 per year.
  • In early 1987, Vivian became dissatisfied with the quality of hair care products she was using to protect her customers' hair during the salon procedures of chemical relaxers and colors. Unable to find what she considered best suited for her customers, she decided to refine a special formula that would protect and moisturize the hair for best results. With the help of a chemist, she created a formula that worked well for all her clients. From this endeavor, Evay Hair Care Products, which manufactures and distributes hair care and beauty products globally, was born.
  • Vivian is just as entrepreneurial in determining when she needs outside expertise. Over the years of working with graduate business students in Upper Albany Main Street's famed Micro Business Incubator, she was able to clearly see what business skills she still needed to perfect. When the economy began to slow down she could see times were changing, and she took advantage of free business advising, technical assistance and training offered at The Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Hartford.
  • Initially, products were manufactured in Bronx, New York. But the assistance that Vivian had received from HEDCO and the Entrepreneurial Center helped her make the decision to move all of her business operations to Connecticut. Her chemist, manufacturer, consulting dermatologist, and product packager are in Connecticut, and her web designer is in Hartford.
  • Evay also employs six full-time employees, six subcontractors, and is currently training 25 sales representatives. Evay Cosmetics' product line produces 15 hair care products, 9 skin care products, and 120 makeup products.
  • In Vivian's words, "I have learned that time management, community outreach, providing customers with unique and quality products, and staying humble are all very important abilities that have translated to the success of my company."
  • I would recommend to an entrepreneur who is seeking success to remain open to learning, humble in your daily operations, and be receptive to feedback, both positive and negative," says Akuoko. "Customers and community members will always criticize and critique your style of business, and all successful people understand how to adapt to constructive feedback."
Congratulations to Vivian and the Upper Albany Main Street Team!
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 
▪ New OPM Grant Opportunity for Municipalities and COGs - The Office of Policy and Management (OPM) has announced a new Grant Program for municipalities and councils of governments (COGs).  OPM issued a Request for Applications (RFA) for its Responsible Growth and Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Grant Program. The grants range between $25,000 and $2,000,000, for any of the types of projects outlined in Section B of the attached RFA.  Partnerships are encouraged, and may also include non-profit and private entities, where appropriate. Applications are due by February 4, 2016. For more information and to view the application, click here.
DOT Announces New Bike & Pedestrian Program for Towns & MunicipalitiesThe CT Dept. of Transportation recently introduced the "Community Connectivity Program," designed to improve conditions for walking and bicycling to and within urban, suburban and rural community centers.  The goal of the program is to create safer conditions for pedestrians and cyclists, and is an outgrowth of Governor Malloy's Let's Go CT initiative.  Under this program, towns can apply for a Road Safety Audit from DOT, which will identify short-, mid- and long-term solutions ranging from low-cost measures like brush cutting to long-range, higher cost projects like road realignments.  The application process is still under development, but the DOT plans to begin holding public workshops to educate local engineering and planning staff about this program. Click here to read the full press release.

New Britain Come Home to Downtown Building continues to progress - Construction plans were filed with the City recently for the building at 99 West Main Street in New Britain. The building and its owner/developer, Avner Krohn, were selected as one of pilot buildings for Year 2 of the Come Home to Downtown program.  This award-winning program - a partnership between CMSC the CT Housing Financing Authority (CHFA) - aims to bring housing back to our downtowns by revitalizing under-utilized small buildings with housing above first-floor commercial space. The Come Home to Downtown team provided recommendations for re-configuring the West Main Street building to maximize the number of apartments and pointed out possible financing sources.  When complete, this building will add an additional 16 apartment homes to downtown New Britain. 
President's Message - Happy Holidays!

This has been a wonderfully successful year for the Connecticut Main Street Center, our downtowns and partners. We've seen the successful passage of the Tax Increment Financing legislation, expanded partnerships with industry colleagues, and increased awareness of the importance and value of transit and mixed-use centers. Our Come Home to Downtown program partner, the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, was presented with a national award from the Urban Land Institute for the Small Multifamily Rental Housing Strategy. Member community Putnam was visited by town officials from Massachusetts who looked to Putnam for advice and guidance as a place that has successfully transformed a downtrodden mill-town into a regional destination. CTfastrak is bringing new opportunity and renewed vitality to downtowns like New Britain, showcased beautifully during our hugely popular Awards Gala.  And our involvement in organizations like YES, CCAPA and CEDAS are bringing new awareness and ideas to issues such as how to attract millennials and sustain baby boomers. 
These are but just a few of the many great things we can accomplish when we work together to inspire great Connecticut downtowns and Main Streets. I want to thank you for your support and dedication this year, and offer you our sincerest wishes for a safe, healthy and happy holiday season!

Connecticut Main Street Center

c/o Eversource

PO Box 270 

Hartford, CT 06141



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December 2015
Vol. 15/Issue 12

Upcoming Events
CMSC Closed for 
Christmas Holiday
December 25

CMSC's Offices Closed for New Year's
January 1

Save the Date
BRIDGE Series 
January 29

2016 Awards of Excellence Nominations Due
March 8