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Author: Christine Schilke



The investment platform for Main Street.

Mainvest supports local small business ecosystems by allowing the community to invest directly into local small businesses while providing access to capital on friendly terms for entrepreneurs. proven Four Point Main Street Approach: sustainable and inclusive development practices; project management; and community engagement.


Services include: Fundraising, Community & Economic Development, Small Business Development

Visit their website


Nicholas Mathews, CEO / CoFounder
54 Ashland Street
Newburyport, MA 01950

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CMSC Webinar – Constructing Downtown: Storrs Center 20 Year Update

CMSC Webinar

Constructing Downtown: Storrs Center 20 Year Update

Webinar Summary

Twenty-four years ago, the Town of Mansfield and UCONN had a vision to create a vibrant, walkable, mixed-use downtown. Today, Storrs Center is home to 60 businesses, 1300 residents, and boasts civic space and multi-use buildings. So what’s next?

In this webinar, Cynthia van Zelm, Mansfield Downtown Partnership Executive Director, shares share her firsthand experiences and lessons learned in downtown management.

Presentation Highlights

  • The Three Stages of Development

    Mansfield Downtown Partnership, Inc. has been involved in the construction of Storrs Center from the very beginning. Its role has changed to meet the needs of the project: planning, construction, and management


    • 1999 – Mansfield Town Council forms “Town Green Committee”
    • 2001 – Mansfield Downtown Partnership, Inc. to oversee redevelopment efforts
    • 2003 – Partnership selects master developer
    • 2003-2006 – Partnership guides Town, UConn, and master developer through approval process
    • 2007 – Design guidelines approved


    • 2011 – Construction Begins
    • 2012 – First building of Phase 1A Storrs Center opens
    • 2017 – Construction of “Storrs Center” complete


    • 2018 – DOWNTOWN STORRS introduced for whole district
    • 2018- Today – Key management activities include: providing business support, operations (e.g. enhancing public spaces, etc.) , working with property owners, promotion and marketing of the district, and hosting community events
  • Mansfield Downtown Partnership, Inc. Organization & Budget

    The Board of Directors is made up of:

    • 3 Town of Mansfield positions (appointed)
    • 3 UConn positions (appointed)
    • 2 Student representatives (selected)
    • 6 Elected positions (voted on by “membership” base)
    • 2 ex officio positions:
      • Mansfield Mayor
      • UConn President or designee

    Staff includes:

    • Executive Director
    • Senior Communications Manager
    • Event Coordinator
    • Administrative Assistant (part-time)


    Their annual budget is $405,000.

    • Town of Mansfield – $175,000
    • UConn Contribution – $175,000
    • Economic Development Service Fee – $40,000
    • “Membership” Dues – $15,000
  • Lessons Learned

    • Clear direction/everyone on same page as the mission
    • Dedicated and funded staff is key
    • Be ready to pivot
    • Bring on and mentor a staff team that meets evolving needs
    • Try not to take things personally

View the Recording

Additional Resources

Professional Affiliates

Several of the photos of Storrs Center were taken by CMSC Professional Affiliate Levin Aerial Works

About Cynthia van Zelm

Cynthia van Zelm, is Executive Director of Mansfield Downtown Partnership. She was involved in Downtown Storrs from its inception and now concentrates on managing and promoting the downtown and Mansfield’s economic development.

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CMSC Summit: Positioning CT Main Streets in the Social Media Landscape

CMSC Summit

Positioning CT Main Streets in the Social Media Landscape

Presented by Intuition Media Group

During our fall summit we dove into the ever-evolving relationship between marketing and Main Streets, exploring the pivotal role social media plays in influencing residents and visitors, and how online audiences can be converted into real-life customers.  

Event Highlights

  • 2 Case Study panels featuring local Main Street professionals & social media influencers
  • A conversation with CT’s Chief Marketing Officer, Anthony Anthony about the state’s new Make It Here campaign. 

This event was approved for 4 credits for certified planners. With thanks to our AICP Certification Maintenance Provider FHI Studio

View Pictures from this event

  • Lyric Hall Entrance

  • CAS_0565

  • CAS_0570

  • CAS_0597

  • New Canaan Panel w Audience

  • CAS_0592

  • CAS_0606

  • CAS_0622

  • CAS_0641

  • CAS_0652

  • CAS_0659

  • CAS_0682

  • CAS_0684

  • CAS_0687

  • CAS_0701

  • CAS_0706

  • CAS_0708

  • WVRA Panel w MLM

  • CAS_0720

  • WVRA Panel w Audience

Watch the Presentation

Panel Discussion 1 – Unlocking Digital Creation for Your Main Street

Panel Discussion 2 – Cultivating an Ecosystem of Creators

Keynote Discussion with Anthony Anthony

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With thanks to our Sponsors!

Presenting Sponsor

Intuition Media Group

Intuition Media is a global leader in influencer marketing.

We are an award-winning influencer marketing agency serving the most iconic brands since 2008. We connect trend-setting creators with insight-based strategies.

From ideation to implementation, our experiential strategists develop campaigns that connect with your target audience and utilize influencers to drive engagement and enhance credibility.

Visit their website

Spotlight Partners

Key Bank

Key Bank’s roots trace back 190 years to Albany, NY. Today, KeyCorp is based in Cleveland, OH, and we’re one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies, with assets of approximately $195 billion.

Visit their website

Spotlight Supporters


CBIA is the leading voice for Connecticut business

We support the innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders shaping a vibrant, dynamic Connecticut with opportunities for all–and connect business executives with each other and with legislators.

FHI Studio

FHI Studio integrates expertise in a wide array of services and technical disciplines. Across planning, engagement, mobility, and design, we look at the whole to understand the parts of every project. From internal brainstorm sessions to client, stakeholder, and public workshops, we bring a diversity of knowledge and the creativity to get things done.

Our four studios work together to ensure comprehensive and thoughtful solutions, demonstrating our commitment to continual learning and collaboration.

Fuss & O’Neill

Fuss & O’Neill is a nearly 100-year-old engineering and science-based firm with offices in each New England state, and New York.

We specialize in planning, design, and construction work in the transportation, water, environmental, buildings, and energy market sectors. We thrive at the intersection of industry and community issues such as economic development, livable communities, complete streets, Environmental Justice, and climate change while offering traditional public and private services. We count more than a dozen Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies as part of our extensive list of clients.

Summit Exhibitors

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CT SHPO: A Powerful Ally for Downtowns & Main Streets

CT’s State Historic Preservation Office:

A Powerful Ally for Downtowns & Main Streets

CMSC recently sat down with SHPO’s Jonathan Kinney to talk about the resources they offer & historic preservation’s important role in a changing future.

Historic preservation and downtowns go hand-in-hand, as so many of our beautiful, timeless treasurers are located amongst their lively streets. One ally in keeping these buildings maintained and for contemporary enjoyment is the State Historic Preservation Office. SHPO shares many values with Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC), such as how our historic buildings have important links to sustainability, adaptive reuse, and nurturing connections among people.

SHPO’s work encompasses three main areas: regulatory, educational, and program administration. They are federally mandated – every state in the nation has a SHPO office. However, they also have several state programs and policies that mirror the federal ones, such as administering the state historic tax credit program, in additional to the federal historic tax credit program. While they have regulatory responsibilities pursuant to laws such as Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and the CT Environmental Policy Act (CEPA), they’re also focused on designating new historic properties and incentivizing preservation and protection of our historic gems.

SHPO understands that while it’s important to maintain the characteristics of our historic buildings, it’s also important to allow them to evolve. “House museums are wonderful, and there’s certainly a place for them, but we don’t want every historic building to be preserved like a museum. We want these buildings to be viable, living pieces of the community that people can use, that they can live in, that they can work in, that they can enjoy because those are the best ways to preserve these buildings,” says Jonathan Kinney, State Historic Preservation Office and Director of Operations.

Mr. Kinney’s advice for downtowns is to reach out as soon as you can and talk to them about potential projects, whether you’re an economic development official or a business owner. This lets SHPO get in on the ground floor and identify where there may be concerns about historic properties and provide guidance up front so people aren’t searching around for what to do.

Engaging SHPO is easier than many may think. They encourage early dialogue with municipalities or developers so that they can help identify any potential obstacles and offer resources to assist in addressing them. SHPO also works with many partners across the state, including their statutory partner, Preservation CT, a statewide non-profit staffed with preservation professionals, including Circuit Riders, who travel the state providing boots-on-the-ground guidance and advice on SHPO’s grant and other programs.

SHPO is eager for people to know they are there to be a resource in protecting and preserving our historic assets, especially when viewed in the larger context of other pressing issues, such as sustainability, housing, and education. As they begin the statewide planning phase for their 2024-2029 plan, these issues are at the forefront of Mr. Kinney’s mind. “Historic preservation can’t singlehandedly address all of those issues, but it has a strong connection to each one and is a tool that is available to the people of Connecticut to help with each.” He notes how, “the greenest building is the one that’s already there,” notably the embodied energy savings of historic building; how historic mill buildings can be great tools to help construct housing units, including much-needed affordable units; and how these buildings offer us living connections to the past. “There’s something really neat about historic buildings in that they give us context and they allow us to experience something that goes beyond just one human life. It places us us into a longer timeline which I think people find comforting.”

Mr. Kinney was particularly proud of a SHPO project headed by Jenny Scofield, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer/National Register Coordinator last year, in partnership with Preservation CT, which surveyed Frederick Law Olmstead projects around the state. While one of the nation’s most famous historic landscape architects, Olmstead was from Connecticut, but a comprehensive look at his projects in the state had never been undertaken before. In yet another fascinating example, Mr. Kinney also shared how work is underway in Simsbury to document Martin Luther King’s time working in tobacco barns there. It turns out that during both World Wars, southern seasonal workers were recruited to help, including through a partnership with Morehouse College students in Atlanta during WWII – where a young Martin Luther King attended. Dr. King’s time in the north working the Connecticut tobacco fields would prove to be a transitional time for him, and he would later say it was during this summer that he was called to service as a minister.

As one of the oldest states in the nation, with an even older indigenous history, it’s reassuring to know SHPO is deploying resources to preserve and protect our vibrant history, one that is deeply embedded in our downtown and village centers. We encourage you to reach out to them or Preservation CT if you have a project you’re considering, or if you would like more information on the resources and programs they offer.

About CT 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

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CMSC Webinar: 7 Steps to Successfully Hire a Main Street Executive

CMSC Webinar

7 Steps to Successfully Hire a Main Street Executive

Webinar Summary

Hiring a Main Street Executive – whether for the first time or as you bring on a new leader – is an exciting time. It’s a great opportunity for the organization to reposition itself and infuse it with new life. However, without strong leadership, hiring a new Main Street Executive can be delayed or worse, the wrong person might be hired.

In this webinar, you’ll learn the steps to follow to ensure a successful search and learn about Connecticut Main Street Center’s new action kit Hiring a Main Street Executive.

Presentation Highlights

  • The 7 Steps of hiring an Executive Director

    An organization transitioning to new leadership has an opportunity to deepen relationships with the community and strengthen the organization’s internal workings. Hiring a new Main Street Executive allows an organization to reposition itself and infuse it with new life. However, without strong Board leadership, the organization may flounder, leading to time delays in hiring the new Main Street Executive or worse, choosing the wrong person for the job.

    CMSC has broken down the process of hiring a Main Street Executive into seven steps:

    1. Assemble a Search Committee
    2. Send an Exit Survey
    3. Understand the Role
    4. Write the Job Description
    5. Advertise the Position
    6. Interviewing
    7. Orientation and Onboarding
  • About the Action Kit

    To assist in achieving the best outcome, Connecticut Main Street Center developed an action kit to support organizations in hiring a new leader. This action kit includes a workbook and editable templates and checklists. It will guide you step-by-step through the hiring process and provide you with estimated timeframes you can use throughout the entire process.

    Included in the Hiring Your Main Street Executive Action Kit:

    • Step-by-Step guide available as an online course or PDF
    • Action Kit Overview Checklist
    • Outgoing Executive Director Exit Survey Template
    • Community Survey Template
    • Community Focus Group Presentation Template
    • Job Description Template
    • Connecticut Job Marketing Resources
    • First Round Interview Scorecard Template
    • Second Round Interview Scorecard Template
    • Reference Check Template
    • Onboarding Checklist
    • “A Day in the Life of a Main Street Executive” Video

View the Recording

About Kristen Lopez

Kristen M. Lopez is Connecticut Main Street Center’s Education & Training Director. With over 11 years of experience in economic development from various roles and industries across the United States, she has always worked with adults to achieve their goals through education. Kristen is an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer alum, a StartingBloc Fellow, and Next City Vanguard Fellow. She holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Messiah University.

Get the Action Kit!

To get your Hiring Your Main Street Executive Action Kit, email: Judith@ctmainstreet.or

  • $17 for CMSC Members
  • $47 for non-members

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Spotlight on Main Street Windsor

Spotlight on Main Street

Downtown Windsor: Creating an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Presented by Windsor Federal

Windsor’s historic downtown is brimming with possibility. Conveniently situated between Hartford, CT and Springfield, MA, residents enjoy easy access to public transportation and commuter rails. Many development projects are underway in Windsor, with entertainment venues and residential buildings bringing new life to the center. A visit to Windsor’s downtown might entail a walk on the Windsor Center River Trail, a paved 1 mile loop trail connecting downtown and the historic district alongside the Connecticut River; experiencing the growing arts scene with a visit to Windsor Arts Center; or attending one of Windsor’s many community events on the green.

Presentation Highlights

Our Spotlight on Main Street event introduced downtown professionals, economic development officials, and municipal leaders from across the state to this historic, walkable district. This event included:

View Pictures from this event

  • Windsor Arts Center

  • Thanks to our sponsors!

  • Delicious cupcakes from Moneta Moments

  • Amazing food from Likkle Patty Shop

  • Exciting development is in the works in Windsor

  • Fun raffle by First Town Downtown

  • Rep. Jane Garibay mingles with the crowd

  • CMSC’s Michelle McCabe welcomes the crowd

  • Windsor Mayor Donald Trinks welcomes attendees to Windsor

  • DECD Commissioner Alexandra Daum talks about the importance of vibrant downtowns

  • Rep. Garibay describes the work and impact of Windsor’s downtown

  • Windsor Federal Savings President & CEO Luke Kettles shares how they support the community

  • CEDAS’s Kevin Bielmeier highlights the strong collaboration between CMSC and CEDAS

  • Windsor Arts Center Sarah McKay describes the wonderful contribution the arts community has on Windsor

  • Economic Development Director Patrick McMahon talks about the multiple transit and residential projects underway

  • First Town Downtown Executive Director Ken Fredette shares their many activities

  • Windsor Chamber of Commerce President Andrew Surprise

  • With thanks to our Presenting Sponsor Windsor Federal

  • Inside co-working & community space, Windsor Worx

  • Exploring the Farmers Market

  • Talking with the owner of The Bean coffee shop, one of our in-kind sponsors

  • Touring the renovated Windsor Federal building

  • Touring the former Plaza Theater, being renovated into a hotel and banquet space

  • Windsor Town Hall

  • Windsor Chamber of Commerce

  • Developer Greg Vaca talks about the transformative mixed-use building coming to the downtown

  • CMSC’s Jen Hunter greets people at the reception

Watch the Presentation

With thanks to our Sponsors!

Presenting Sponsor

Windsor Federal

Windsor Federal opened its doors in 1936, founded out of the Great Depression with a mission of neighbors helping neighbors, providing community members with a safe place to save money, finance homeownership, and invest in the future. Today, they have eight offices and over $750 million in assets, and are the only Mutually Chartered Institution headquartered in Hartford County.
At Windsor Federal “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” is much more than a tagline for us; it speaks to our culture, and values, as an organization. We’re here for you – our customers, neighbors, and communities. 


Visit their website

Spotlight Partners


CEDAS, the Connecticut Economic Development Association, is a not-for-profit organization committed to advancing the practice of economic development within the state of Connecticut. CEDAS is the premiere association for economic development professionals, providing a forum for the economic development community and sponsoring educational programs and seminars to benefit those in the field. 

Visit their website

Windsor Chamber of Commerce

The Windsor Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting businesses and the community. The Chamber’s mission is to provide voice for the Business Community on issues of public policy; to help businesses to work together for their mutual benefit and to advocate initiatives that enhance the town’s (region) economic vitality and quality of life.

Visit their website

Spotlight Supporters

FHI Studio

FHI Studio integrates expertise in a wide array of services and technical disciplines. Across planning, engagement, mobility, and design, we look at the whole to understand the parts of every project. From internal brainstorm sessions to client, stakeholder, and public workshops, we bring a diversity of knowledge and the creativity to get things done.

Our four studios work together to ensure comprehensive and thoughtful solutions, demonstrating our commitment to continual learning and collaboration.

The Loomis Chaffee School

At Loomis Chaffee, our mission is to inspire in students a commitment to the best self and the common good.

Through rigorous academic programs, myriad opportunities to put learning into practice, championship-level athletics, expansive performing and visual arts programs, and all the distinct benefits of a top-ranked boarding school, we empower students to reach their goals and make a real and immediate difference in the world.

Windsor Historical Society

Our mission is to invite people to connect with Windsor’s evolving history by preserving, interpreting, and sharing our community’s artifacts and stories.

Fuss & O’Neill

Fuss & O’Neill is a nearly 100-year-old engineering and science-based firm with offices in each New England state, and New York.

We specialize in planning, design, and construction work in the transportation, water, environmental, buildings, and energy market sectors. We thrive at the intersection of industry and community issues such as economic development, livable communities, complete streets, Environmental Justice, and climate change while offering traditional public and private services. We count more than a dozen Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies as part of our extensive list of clients.

PC Development Group

We offer a wide variety of computer related services, including some of the best prices on service repairs of anyone around.  We offer new and refurbished desktops and laptops and have a full retail store with all the computer components you need. You’ll get the same great service whether we’re repairing your computer at the store or we’re working on your business network.  Our professional staff is always here to help. 

In-Kind Sponsors

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CMSC Webinar: Main Street Management 101

CMSC Webinar

Main Street Management 101

Webinar Summary

Creating and maintaining a vibrant Main Street is a commitment. It does not happen overnight and requires consistent attention and management. There are many moving parts – stakeholders with different agendas, external market and economic factors out of your control, and limited resources. The good news is there is model that has been replicated across the country for decades to help guide your initiatives and priorities.

This webinar gives you a high-level overview of the Main Street Management Four Point Approach and ideas on how you can start implementing the approach into your Main Street.

Presentation Highlights

  • Origins of the Four Points of Main Street Management

    In the late 1970s the National Trust for Historic Preservation developed a pilot program designed to address the neglect and demolition of historic downtowns. They discovered that downtowns had lost their value in these four distinct areas: economic value, physical value, social value, and civic value. This loss of value was attributed to land use policy, the rise of autos, and suburban sprawl.

    This Main Street Approach was developed to address the restoration of these values simultaneously by providing a framework to guide revitalization efforts.

    Every community and commercial district are different, with its own distinctive assets and sense of place, but the Main Street Approach provides a practical, adaptable framework for downtown transformation that is tailored to local conditions.

    The four points of Main Street management are:

    • Organization
    • Economic Vitality
    • Design
    • Promotion
  • Organization

    Goal – Restore civic value through:

    • Building leadership and strong organizational capacity
    • Ensuring broad community engagement
    • Forging partnerships across sectors

    Aspects of Organization

    • Community Stakeholder Support:
      • Are community stakeholders in consensus on the vision for the downtown?
      • Is the municipality actively supporting Main Street through resource allocation?
      • Resource: Spotlight on Main in Torrington
    • Public Safety
      • Is public safety involved as a revitalization partner?
    • Board of Directors or Advisory Board
      • Is there an active, diverse Board of Directors?
    • Strategic Planning and Work Plan
      • Is a work plan regularly updated to align with a current strategic plan for Main Street?
    • Funding
      • Are there multiple revenue streams to support Main Street revitalization?
    • Financial Management
      • Are financial management best practices followed?
    • Administration
      • Is there full-time, paid dedicated staff person to Main Street?
    • Volunteers
      • Is there a volunteer management strategy in place?
    • Demonstrating Impact
      • Are accomplishments regularly communicated to stakeholders?
    • Messaging and Outreach
      • Are multiple communication channels consistently used to update stakeholders and promote activity?
  • Economic Vitality

    Goal – Restore economic value through:

    • Build a diverse economic base
    • Catalyze smart new investment
    • Cultivate a strong entrepreneurship ecosystem

    Aspects of Economic Vitality

    • District Knowledge & Data
      • Have you documented your Main Street assets?
    • Historic Preservation
      • Is there a historic preservation ethos?
    • Housing
      • Does your zoning support the development of housing downtown?
    • Vacant Storefronts and Lots
    • Property Owner Engagement
      • Are your property owners regularly engaged?
    • Attracting Development
      • Do you have a “one-stop-shop” approach for developers and other Main Street investors?
    • Small Business Support & Ecosystem
      • How are your small businesses supported?
    • Recruiting Business
      • Do you have a strategic plan to recruit businesses based on needs and wants of the community?
  • Design

    Goal – Restore physical value through:

    • Creating an inviting, inclusive atmosphere
    • Celebrating historic and unique character
    • Fostering accessible, people-centered public spaces

    Aspects of Design

    • Building façades/Historic Preservation
      • What is the condition of your building façades?
    • Bike Lanes & Public Transit
      • How can people travel to and get around in your Main Street?
    • Sidewalks & Crosswalks
      • What is the condition and uses of your sidewalks?
    • Green Spaces
      • Are your green spaces appropriately maintained?
    • Parking
      • Are you promoting your parking options?
    • Public Art
      • Is public art used to activate Main Street?
    • Lighting
    • Graffiti & Litter Removal
      • How is Main Street kept clean?
    • Signage
      • Is your downtown signage easy to read and in good condition?
    • Window Displays
      • Do your downtown businesses have attractive window displays?
  • Promotion

    Goal – Restore social value through:

    • Marketing district’s defining assets
    • Communicating unique features through storytelling
    • Supporting buy-local experience

    Aspects of Promotion

    • Attitudes and Perceptions
    • Branding and Positioning
      • Do you have consistent, strategic branding that uniquely positions your community?
    • Retail Promotions
      • Do you host or facilitate activities that highlight goods and services offered by your downtown businesses?
    • Special Events
      • Do you host strategic special events to draw in large crowds and visitors?

View the Recording

Other Resources

About Presenter Kristen Lopez

Kristen M. Lopez is Connecticut Main Street Center’s Education & Training Director. With over 11 years of experience in economic development from various roles and industries across the United States, she has always worked with adults to achieve their goals through education. Kristen is an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer alum, a StartingBloc Fellow, and Next City Vanguard Fellow. She holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Messiah University.

Contact Info

Connect with Kristen via email or phone.

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Main Street Accelerator

Main Street Accelerator

Leadership Development Training

Main Street Accelerator

Main Street Accelerator is an action-oriented leadership development program focused on helping communities better their downtown by implementing a specific project, such as launching a new initiative or addressing a challenge.

During the virtual, 6-month Accelerator program, participants will learn and practice the nationally proven Four Point Main Street Approach; sustainable and inclusive development practices; project management; and community engagement.

Learn more about the program or view the curriculum outline for key dates.

View the Info Session

Meet our 2024 Accelerator Class!

Teams from six Connecticut communities were chosen for the inaugural class of Connecticut Main Street Center’s new Main Street Accelerator program, representing 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.

Application Information

Applications are open from September 21st – November 3rd

The application contains the following questions:

  • Point of Contact Information
  • Team Contact Information
  • Please describe your challenge or project. (500 characters)
  • Please describe your team. Have you worked on a project together previously? Why is this team the right team? (500 characters)
  • Why is now a good time to participate in Main Street Accelerator? (250 characters)
  • What do you hope to accomplish by participating in Main Street Accelerator? (250 characters)

Questions? Email Kristen Lopez or call her at 860-280-2074 to discuss whether this program is right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • On our team, we don’t have “at least one individual who is a paid professional and has decision-making power/authority in their downtown.” Can we still apply?

    We recognize that every community has a different support structure for their Main Street. Our goal is to ensure that the work the group accomplishes during Main Street Accelerator can be implemented and will be supported in the community. As such, if your team does not include a paid professional or the direct decision-making authority but is confident that the work can be implemented and supported by the community, then we welcome your application, just please make note of this in your application.

  • What is the time commitment?

    It really depends on how active your team is, but we anticipate about 4-5 hours a month between self-paced lessons, monthly virtual meetings, and independent teamwork.

  • When are the monthly virtual meetings?

    The time of day isn’t set yet. On the application, there is a question regarding preference for time of day. We want to make sure we choose a convenient time for most people, but everything will be recorded if it can’t be attended live.

  • Can multiple different communities be accepted if they are focused on tackling the same project or challenge?

    Yes, absolutely. There are no restrictions on different communities working on the same goal.

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CMSC Case Study: The Beatrice, NE, Approach to Defeating Negativity

CMSC Case Study

The Beatrice, NE Approach to Defeating Negativity

Webinar Summary

The community of Beatrice, Nebraska was struggling with negative perceptions and apathy after years of economic setbacks. Community leaders needed to take action to push back against the perception of negativity and defeatism.

In 2015, they came together and developed a plan to help facilitate change. By 2018, Beatrice was named the #1 micropolitan community in Nebraska—#14 nationally—for large scale (mostly manufacturing) economic development projects by Site Selection Magazine. Now, post-COVID Beatrice is working to gain back the momentum they had been building.

In this webinar, Michael Sothan, the Executive Director of Main Street Beatrice, shares the journey of changing the perception of Beatrice and six lessons learned along the way.

Presentation Highlights

  • The Problem

    Beatrice struggled for decades with the loss of jobs and businesses, a stagnating population, and a dilapidated downtown.

    Around 2013, an opinion piece in the local newspaper called out the town’s apathy as the root of the town’s decline around the same time a building downtown collapsed in on itself. The coincidence of these events became a defining moment for leaders of Beatrice to come together and actively fight against negativity and apathy.

  • The Solution

    Main Street, City government, the Chamber of Commerce, economic development, and public schools came together to create a plan to aggressively take on the negativity.

    The plan included a rebranding, façade improvement, and other projects. As a result:

    • Downtown Beatrice is home to over 180 businesses, a net gain of 31 shops since 2016. 
    • In the last 5 years, they have had more than 100 improvement projects totaling $12.5 million in investments.
  • Lessons Learned

    The first six lessons were included in the original case study article posted on Main Street America, lessons 7-10 CMSC added from observation. 

    1. Find the Forest through the Trees – Don’t get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of your work but keep focused on the big picture.
    2. Work Together (and think holistically) – The Public Schools were engaged to join the traditional economic development stakeholders. They had the deepest connections to Beatrice’s youth and the school system is a leading factor when people are considering making Beatrice their permanent home. The schools were experiencing the apathy firsthand, among students, staff, and in the community; they had also had a series of failed bond issues for a new elementary facility. They got involved to help role out the brand imagery, they incorporated it into their own uses school system-wide and helped Beatrice disseminate the message to and through the kids so it could get back home.
    3. Make a Plan
    4. Start Taking Action – No matter how small, action builds momentum. Something as simple as paint can make a big difference.
    5. Know that Set-Backs & Burnout Will Happen
    6. Be Honest & Positive – As economic development professionals, it’s easier to see potential and positivity because it is your job. However, most people do not see that. Being overtly positive and not recognizing the negativity will not be accepted by the community as authentic or trustworthy. Remember, perception is reality.
    7. Be Aggressive – Michael Sothan in his webinar presentation used words like “fight” and “go to war” to describe the level of commitment and effort to turn Beatrice around. It’s not a passive undertaking to tackle a declining town.
    8. Focus on People – Beatrice took the approach that only we can save our town. They knew they couldn’t wait for some investment, some grant, some outsider to save their city. Beatrice leaders realized it’s the people who own the businesses and buildings that will change the city.
    9. Always Tell Your Story – You can never get tired of telling your story because there is always someone who hasn’t caught the vision or seen the progress. Michael tells the story of speaking to a group of retired teachers who were so fixated on what used to be downtown that they didn’t even notice the new businesses and progress that had been made.
    10. Leverage Your Assets – For Beatrice’s rebranding effort, they chose a brand around “Stake Your Claim” which pays homage for being nationally recognized as the first homestead. Beatrice is currently rebranding after 10 years and pulling on the pronunciation of their town (Bee-at-trice) with a “Be @…” campaign.

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About Michael Sothan

Michael Sothan is the Executive Director of Main Street Beatrice in Beatrice Nebraska (pop 12,300).  He has been with Main Street Beatrice since 2013 and has been a part of Downtown Beatrice’s efforts to become listed on the National Register of Historic Places, undertake façade improvement programs, and regularly guides downtown improvements, events, and economic development efforts.

Michael is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He resides in Steele City, NE (population 60) where he and his wife Megan have purchased an 1890’s grocery store with plans for its rehabilitation.  Michael enjoys living history interpretation and the outdoors when not working on community development efforts.

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Founder’s Award, presented by Eversource

Founder’s Award, presented by Eversource

Kimberley Parsons-Whitaker

Founder’s Award, presented by Eversource

Kimberley Parsons-Whitaker

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.

Kim is being recognized for her 20+ years of service to Connecticut’s downtowns and Main Streets, having 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.

Kim joined CMSC in 2001, shortly after the then-Connecticut Light & Power Company (now Eversource) restructured the original CT Main Street Program into the Connecticut Main Street Center, an independent non-profit. Kim contributed enormously to the growth and success of CMSC, helping grow membership to over 80 communities, more than doubling the staff, and most recently serving as Interim CEO.

Says Carl Rosa, CMSC Field Services Director,  “During her time with Connecticut Main Street Center, Kim represented all that is dynamic and inspiring with our downtowns and main streets across the state with the utmost of professionalism. She was an invaluable source of guidance for me during my time as Main Street Waterbury’s Executive Director.  She is both a mentor and good friend and I couldn’t be happier that she is receiving the CMSC Founder’s award this year!”

  • Founder’s Award Winner Kimberley Parsons-Whitaker with CMSC Executive Director Michelle McCabe.

  • Kim enjoys a reunion with Sarah Nielsen, Simsbury Main Street Partnership Executive Director and Jack Shannahan.

  • CMSC incoming Board Chair Laura Pirie describes Kim’s many contributions to CT’s downtowns, including words of praise from several CMSC members Kim assisted over the years.

  • Kim accepts her award, saying having chosen many of the previous Founder’s Award winners, she’s honored to be counted among them.

  • Included in the audience is previous award winner Jack Shannahan (for whom the Jack Shannahan Award is also named). 

  • Kim and her husband Bill catch up with CMSC’s Education & Training Director, Kristen Lopez. 

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