John Simone, President & CEO, CT Main Street Center
2000 – 2017
Connecticut Main Street Center presents the Founder’s Award in recognition of individuals and organizations who dedicate themselves to promoting an awareness of the necessity of a comprehensive management approach to the revitalization of Connecticut’s historic downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts.
John Simone’s professional career has been centered on building a creative and energetic team, marshaling resources, developing partnerships, and developing programs that draw people into downtown.
Shortly after graduating from Trinity College in Hartford, John found himself at the Hartford Ballet: first as a dancer, and then as executive director/producer. He enjoyed seeing the world, touring with the company through 44 states and 11 countries, and met the love of his life – his wife Joan – who was a fellow dancer. John says that one of the ultimate goals of his time leading the organization was to draw people to downtown Hartford to experience world-class dance performance.
In 1996, deciding it was time for new adventures, John was hired to be the first executive director of First Town Downtown, the Main Street program for Windsor Center. That same focus on partnership and team building and creating programs that bring people downtown found a perfect fit with the Main Street program. John was especially drawn to the marriage of historic preservation, downtown revitalization, and real estate development. Within four years, Windsor’s Main Street program was celebrating the redevelopment of over 20,000 square feet of space in the heart of the town center that had previously been vacant for over 20 years – all with an injection of $5 million in private capital.
In 2000, John was hired to help launch the transition of CT Main Street Center from a department within CT Light & Power (now Eversource Energy) – which to this day remains the only private corporation to launch a statewide Main Street program – into a statewide nonprofit corporation. “One of the smartest things I did was to hire Kimberley Parsons-Whitaker in that first year,” says John. Together, they have helped build the CT Main Street membership network and programs. They are proud to have seen membership grow from 6 to 76 member communities, serving 1.9 million Connecticut citizens.
Under John’s leadership, CT Main Street Center has launched highly successful education and training programs, events, and strategic communications that convey our Main Streets as integral to the economic success of the state. John has always felt that downtowns are not only the historic hearts of our communities, but also the confluence of transportation and land-use planning. He has made it a priority to find ways to help integrate these two planning disciplines within and around a compact, human-scaled, walkable downtown with a diversity of uses and housing choices.
John Simone is retiring just as CT Main Street Center is launching its new strategic plan which calls for the organization to become a larger, innovative and data-driven champion of downtown revitalization. He says that, if he were younger, he would want the job that his successor will be assuming. But he is ready to move on, and looks forward to finding the next great adventure!
About the Founder’s Award
From the start, Connecticut Main Street Center was borne of innovation and a deep commitment to Connecticut’s downtowns and Main Street districts. CMCS’s Founder’s Award pays homage to its unique beginnings in a utility company, acknowledging the Connecticut Light & Power Company’s (now Eversource Energy) establishment of the Connecticut Main Street Program in 1995. CL&P later partnered with the State of Connecticut and numerous public and private community and economic development entities in 1999 to create the nonprofit Connecticut Main Street Center. As a nonprofit entity, CT Main Street Center is able to leverage resources and serve as a visible symbol of renewal and a new future for downtowns across the state.
CL&P was recognized for their visionary Main Street Program initiative with the 2006 National Main Street Business Leadership Award. To this day, CL&P remains the only private corporation in the country to have founded a statewide Main Street program. CMSC’s Founder’s Award, presented by Eversource, annually recognizes individuals and organizations for their own similar dedication to revitalizing our downtowns using a comprehensive management approach.
Click here for a list of previous recipients of the CT Main Street Founder’s Award, presented by Eversource.