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CT Main Street Center Announces 2024 Awards of Excellence Winners

For Immediate Release – May 10, 2024

(Hartford, CT) – The Connecticut Main Street Center is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2024 Awards of Excellence, recognizing four individuals and communities for their outstanding contributions to downtown vibrancy. Three of the awards honor individuals for their leadership in effectuating positive change in Connecticut’s downtowns, while another honors the City of New Haven for its efforts to spur vibrancy across its many distinct neighborhoods. The recipients will be presented with their awards at a celebration taking place on June 18th in downtown Norwich.

“It never gets old celebrating the outstanding work being done in our downtowns, and we’re very lucky that here in Connecticut, there are so many people working together to ensure that our main streets shine,” said Michelle McCabe, CMSC Executive Director. “This year’s award winners have all shown incredible dedication to creating places that benefit all of us, whether through advancing legislation that enables downtown development and growth, or through daily management of the many factors that contribute to a lively, welcoming town center. We’re thrilled to bring attention to their efforts and celebrate them for all they’ve accomplished.”

Award of Excellence

This award honors a CMSC member community whose exceptional efforts are contributing to thriving downtowns in Connecticut.

  • City of New Haven – New Haven is being recognized for undertaking the Neighborhood Commercial District initiative to support its vibrant tapestry of communities, each with a unique vision for its community hub. The initiative stands as a model approach for Connecticut’s multi-district municipalities by supporting multiple neighborhood “main streets”, simultaneously embracing their individual qualities while providing each with support and investment.

The Quentin Williams Downtown Hero Award

This award, introduced last year, honors the legacy of state Rep. Quentin “Q” Williams. Q was extremely supportive of CMSC’s work and a terrific 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.

  • Cynthia van Zelm is being recognized for her extraordinary efforts in the development of Downtown Storrs as Executive Director of the Mansfield Downtown Partnership (MDP). Downtown Storrs is a remarkable example of a Connecticut downtown that was built from the ground up, requiring years of planning, dedicated effort, coordinated development, and endless collaboration. Under Ms. van Zelm’s leadership, the MDP employed an incremental main street management approach to ensure consistent and visible progress. As a result, Downtown Storrs is now a valuable asset for the town and entire state, as well as being draw for UConn’s students and faculty.

“Few people outside of economic and community development will truly understand the level of perseverance and collaboration it takes to build a downtown, basically from scratch, and then to continue to seamlessly manage it,” said Ms. McCabe. “Cynthia’s efforts over the last twenty years have been remarkable, and seeing Downtown Storrs’s arc of growth into a fantastic gem of a town center has been a joy we can all share in.”

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.

  • Representative Eleni Kavros Degraw, District 17, representing Avon and Canton, is being recognized for her tireless leadership, focus, and innovation in addressing Connecticut’s blight and vacancy problems that has led to consequential changes in State statute. Due to her work as legislative Chair of the Planning and Development Committee, today our municipalities have more tools available to them than ever. Main streets are particularly vulnerable to the impact of a neglected and/or underutilized building, but thanks to the new laws passed under her aegis, they have had an outsized, positive effect in ensuring our downtowns can thrive.

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.

  • Michael Andreana, Pullman & Comley, LLC, is being recognized for his nearly ten years of service on the CMSC Board of Directors, including previously serving as Chair, notably during the Covid pandemic. In addition to his steady leadership of the organization, Mr. Andreana was also a strong advocate for the passage of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) legislation. As a public finance attorney, he works with several cities and towns to establish TIF districts, enabling them to finance beneficial revitalization and development efforts, while also providing education and guidance on the transformative financing mechanism.

This year’s awards ceremony will also recognize the graduates of CMSC’s inaugural Main Street Accelerator program  – a virtual, 6-month program where participants learn and practice the nationally proven Four Point Main Street Approach and apply it to a specific challenge their community is facing. The inaugural Cohort includes teams from six Connecticut communities – Bridgeport, Georgetown, Haddam, Norwich, Thomaston and Windsor — who will share highlights from the program and their respective initiatives.  

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 | 860.280.2337