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Author: Christine Schilke

Press Release: 6 Communities Chosen for Inaugural Main Street Accelerator

6 Communities Chosen for CT Main Street Center’s Inaugural Main Street Accelerator

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


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

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REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS (RFP): Website and Social Media Development

REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS (RFP): Website and Social Media Development

Connecticut’s Countryside, the four towns of Bolton, Coventry, Mansfield and Tolland, have initiated a Request for Proposals process to identify a qualified consultant to further implement Connecticut’s Countryside Marketing Implementation Plan prepared with DKA (Dornenburg Kallenbach Advertising). The Consultant can be an individual or part of an agency or team.

The stage is set for further marketing of Connecticut’s Countryside. Additional work is needed to promote the brand in order to meet the objectives of the Action Plan to increase visitors to the region, support our current businesses, and bring in new businesses to Connecticut’s Countryside.

The requested project is expected to include: providing further content and editing for the website, first year maintenance of the website with a plan for on-going maintenance; and development of a social media plan. The Consultant will work with Connecticut’s Countryside staff team and provide deliverables to Connecticut Countryside’s Steering Committee at key milestones. A specific plan for working with the staff team and Steering Committee will be laid out in the kick off meeting with the staff team.

For more information, view the full RFP

Submissions due by Thursday, December 14th to Cynthia van Zelm, Mansfield Downtown Partnership, Inc.




Protecting what matters most

Discover firsthand why our clients consider Vancord the best Managed Security Services Providers (MSSPs) in New England and experience the peace of mind that comes with protecting your organization against digital threats. We offer comprehensive end-to-end solutions that align with the unique security challenges businesses face in this region.

Our team of experts are backed by cutting-edge technologies to ensure access to the highest level of security management, continuous monitoring, threat intelligence, and incident response.


Services include: Strategic Planning, Information Technology and Cybersecurity

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Suzanne Pare
500 Boston Post Road
Milford, CT 06460

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Penn Globe

Penn Globe

Lighting for the Greater Good

Since 1877, Penn Globe has been America’s premier outdoor lighting company.

Today, we have the privilege to continue to work with the best customers, our cities, towns, colleges and universities each of whom entrust Penn Globe with their vision. 

We are dedicated to honoring our history while we focus on  future lighting innovations.


Services include: Lighting design + Manufacturing

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Marcia LaFemina
300 Shaw Road
North Branford, Ct 06471
(203) 484-7749

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Pullman & Comley, LLC

Pullman & Comley, LLC

Pulling Together, Succeeding Together

For more than 100 years, Pullman & Comley has earned a reputation as a leading provider of legal services, serving clients throughout Connecticut, the Northeast, and internationally.


Services include: legal services in downtown revitalization, community & economic development, mixed-use development, Tax Increment Financing, and more

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Michael J. Andreana, Attorney
850 Main Street, 8th Floor
Bridgeport, CT 06601

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Sullivan & LeShane, Inc.

Sullivan & LeShane, Inc.

We Make Things Happen.

For more than 35 years, Sullivan & LeShane, Inc. has earned the reputation as Connecticut’s most respected and recognized government relations firm. We have earned our stature by constantly cultivating and strengthening relationships, committing to strategic thinking, creative problem solving and by making our clients’ success our top priority. We succeed because we understand the people, the process, the politics and the perceptions surrounding each challenge and project.


Services include: government affairs services for Community & Economic Development, Mixed-use Development, Strategic Planning, Advocacy & Public Policy

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Ryan Bingham
287 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06103

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Sagers & Associates LLC

Sagers & Associates LLC

assess. strategize. implement

Our goal is to help you increase your revenue potential and reduce your cost of doing business through operational and technology change.

Sagers & Associates has developed an integrated approach to help you strategize and execute organizational, process and technology transformation, to meet the demands of your new world.


Services include: Economic development & equity in Greater Hartford

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Dave Sagers, Owner
178 Four Mile Road
West Hartford, CT 06107

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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

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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.

View other webinars

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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

View all webinars

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