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CT Main Street Center Announces 2023 Awards of Excellence Winners

New “Downtown Hero” award honors late Rep. Quentin Williams
For Immediate Release – June 1, 2023

(Hartford, CT) – The Connecticut Main Street Center is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2023 Awards of Excellence. The six awards recognize communities and individuals for their outstanding contributions to downtown vibrancy. Three of the awards honor CMSC member communities for their efforts to spur local vibrancy, while another two recognize state officials for their leadership in effectuating positive change in Connecticut’s downtowns. This year CMSC is also unveiling a new award category named in honor of the late Representative Quentin “Q” Williams that celebrates his collaborative and tireless advocacy for Main Streets.

“We are thrilled to share the fantastic work happening every day in our downtowns across the state and to champion the individuals who have meaningful impact on Connecticut’s Main Streets,” said Michelle McCabe, CMSC Executive Director. “All of our award winners deserve to be in the spotlight for their efforts to add vitality and life to their downtowns. The cumulative effect is a constellation of lively and prosperous downtowns across the state that benefits all of us.”

Awards of Excellence

These awards honor CMSC members – the people, communities and organizations – whose exceptional efforts are contributing to thriving downtowns in Connecticut.

  • Town of Berlin – Berlin is being recognized for their economic development efforts in the Kensington Village area. Utilizing CMSC’s Main Street approach, they leveraged investment in the $18 million mixed-use Steele Center to create a new village center, bringing small businesses, jobs, and vitality to the area.
  • Norwich Community Development Corporation – NCDC is being recognized for the creation of a new mural series celebrating art, history and new beginnings, as well as the Parklet Program powered by Archatrak®, both of which are bolstering the downtown’s economic vibrancy while creating a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.
  • Thomaston Economic Development Commission – Thomaston EDC is a new member of CMSC and is being recognized for their enthusiastic efforts to revitalize their Main Street, notably creating an incremental plan to revitalize their downtown through the collaborative efforts of the EDC and several local organizations.

The Quentin Williams Downtown Hero Award

This new award honors the legacy of state Rep. Quentin “Q” Williams. Q was a great friend of CMSC and a champion for all of Connecticut’s downtowns. This award honors those who embody his greatest strengths, including tireless advocacy, working collaboratively to achieve common goals, bringing a multitude of voices to the fore, and working to create downtowns that are inclusive and welcoming to all.

  • Sarah Nielsen, Simsbury Main Street Partnership, is being recognized for her herculean efforts to aid Simsbury’s businesses during the Covid pandemic, tireless support which continues to today, and her exceptional devotion to Simsbury’s Main Street district.

“I couldn’t imagine a better inaugural Downtown Hero Award recipient than Sarah,” said Ms. McCabe. “She lives and breathes Main Street, with her enthusiasm and influence stretching far beyond Simsbury.”

The Jack Shannahan Award for Public Service

This award recognizes public and private sector individuals and organizations that exemplify a high standard of leadership with a deep commitment to the success of Connecticut’s Main Streets.

  • Liz Shapiro, CT Office of the Arts, is being recognized for instituting several statewide programs, including the Cultural District program and AIR Collaborative, that contribute to the vibrancy of Connecticut’s downtowns by enhancing their unique sense of place and supporting the local creative economy through jobs and visitors.

CMSC Founder’s Award, presented by Eversource

This award is presented 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.

  • Kimberley Parsons-Whitaker, DECD, is being recognized for her 20+ years of service to Connecticut’s downtowns and Main Streets. Ms. Parsons-Whitaker spent two decades at CMSC where she provided technical assistance to members, developed CMSC’s educational programming, and served as interim Executive Director before moving to DECD, where she continues to help downtowns by administering the Connecticut Communities Challenge Grant.

The Awards of Excellence were created in 2003 to recognize outstanding projects, individuals and partnerships in community efforts to bring traditional downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts back to life, socially and economically. This year’s awards will be presented at an awards celebration on June 20th in New Haven.

You can find more information about the award winners and CMSC on their website.


Media Contact
Christine Schilke
Communications & Strategy Director

About Connecticut Main Street Center

CMSC is the expert resource for developing and sustaining vibrant downtowns that fuel our state’s prosperity. Our mission is to assess, educate, convene, and advocate to develop and grow our traditional downtowns, village centers, and urban mixed-use neighborhoods. We provide education and training, resources and technical assistance, and function as the statewide champion for downtowns and Main Streets of all sizes.

CMSC is supported by its Founding Sponsors, the Department of Economic & Community Development (DECD) and Eversource Energy. CMSC is also supported by its Growth Sponsors, UIL Holdings and the State Historic Preservation Office. More information is available at

Connecticut Main Street Center

P.O. Box 270
Hartford, CT 06141

© Connecticut Main Street Center 
P.O. Box 270, Hartford, CT 06141 | 860.280.2337