New program applies downtown development & leadership training to local challenges
For Immediate Release – December 1, 2023
(Hartford, CT) – Teams from six Connecticut communities were chosen for the inaugural class of Connecticut Main Street Center’s new 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 teams and their projects represent a diverse array of Connecticut towns and cities:
- Georgetown Village Restoration, Inc. (GVR) – GVR team members will examine how to increase exposure and foot traffic in Georgetown to help support businesses and the community.
- Town of Thomaston – Municipal officials and downtown volunteers will work collaboratively to create a strong network of downtown businesses and begin revitalizing Downtown Thomaston’s historic and visual assets.
- East Side NRZ, Bridgeport – Representatives from the NRZ and the City will create an accessible document that provides actionable solutions for businesses to revitalize their storefronts.
- Downtown Windsor – A local business owner and Windsor’s First Town Downtown director will reimagine the ground floor VFW ballroom into a beer hall-type facility.
- Town of Haddam – Municipal economic development commissioners, the town’s selectwoman, and local business owners will work together to improve signage, mapping, and the overall visual appeal between the town’s two village centers.
- Norwich Community Development Corporation – Planners and local development organizations will collaborate on how to change the perception of downtown Norwich by enticing tourists through cooperative marketing and events with local groups.
Kristen Lopez, CMSC’s Education & Training Director, created the Main Street Accelerator program based on the needs she and Carl Rosa, Field Services Director, saw among CMSC member communities. “We saw a gap in the market, where communities want to invest in their downtown but struggle with having the time to convene stakeholders to make real progress. The Accelerator program provides the framework for learning about downtown best practices while simultaneously working together to solve a challenge. Our hope is that through the program, the team develops new skills and having learned the process, can then go back and replicate it with other challenges their community faces,” said Ms. Lopez.
Ms. Lopez is delighted to see the wide diversity of program applicants in terms of their size, location, particular challenge, and team members. “Their applications represented a terrific cross-section of the kinds of initiatives that comprise healthy downtowns. From repurposing under-utilized spaces, to improving a downtown’s appearance to collaborating with small businesses – these are very common issues downtowns grapple with. Seeing the enthusiasm the participants have for their downtowns is invigorating. I’m ready to get started!”
“I am thrilled by the creation and launch of this new program, which represents how CMSC continues to be responsive to challenges faced in supporting main street vibrancy. We all know downtowns thrive on collaboration, proactive action, and dedicated management,” said Michelle McCabe, CMSC’s Executive Director. “What makes Main Street Accelerator unique is that not only are participants learning the Four Point Approach, but they’re applying it to a very specific initiative. It gives people who may not be Main Street managers a way to learn the methodology and see its value firsthand.”
Applicants were asked to identify a team of at least three people who could directly impact their identified challenge. Beginning in January, team members will attend a six-month curriculum of virtual classes featuring guest speakers and content provided by organizations such as Sustainable CT and Preservation Connecticut, coaching calls, and group assignments. In addition to learning strategic approaches for downtown development and Main Street management, Main Street Accelerator participants will apply what they learn to their specific challenge. Those who successfully complete the course may also qualify for seed funding from CMSC to undertake their identified project. CMSC also designed the program so that the local initiatives can complement State grant funding programs.
Before the cohort officially launches in January, the participants will enjoy an in-person kick-off luncheon in downtown Wallingford on December 7th. Successful graduates of the program will also be celebrated with a project showcase at CMSC’s annual Awards of Excellence event in June 2024.
Find more information on the Main Street Accelerator program on CMSC’s website
Communications & Strategy Director