After returning from the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce’s Affordable Housing seminar, one of my staff was talking about the speakers, specifically Macky McCleary, Deputy Commission at the CT Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and State Senator Danté Bartolomeo. My colleague was especially enthusiastic about their open, willing attitudes towards our downtowns. For instance, during his presentation Mr. McCleary advocated for walkability and affordable housing, while Senator Bartolomeo talked about a proposed bill from the last session (which may appear again this session) that would incent young professionals to live in Connecticut’s urban areas by providing a tax deduction to college graduates with student debt.

This sparked a discussion among us here at CMSC about how times have changed – in a very good way. Even just a few years ago we would have been met with a polite yet mostly unengaged audience when approaching state agencies on issues related to downtowns, topics such as transit, walkability, mixed-use development, transit-oriented development, and green design. New ideas seemed to be frowned upon or dismissed entirely, and there was little room for creativity.

Happily, there seems to be a major cultural shift underway among many of these agencies. The same institutions that used to instill heavy sighs among us advocates, now instead work with us, actively helping us to achieve common goals. Making streets safe for all users, not just cars, attracting young people to live in our downtowns, creating walkable, interesting neighborhoods – all of these are now openly advocated for from our legislative leaders and state agencies.

Speaking for us here at CMSC, we are thrilled and grateful they now “get it”. The State’s participation in these activities is not only energizing for those of us that advocate for these issues on a daily basis, but it’s also extremely powerful. Having the support – financial and otherwise – of these groups can be hugely transformative for our downtowns and Main Streets. Working together, we can’t wait to see how Connecticut develops over the coming years into a more sustainable, vibrant place to live, work, play and learn.