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Author: Christine Schilke

Traveler’s Foundation funds revitalization effort for Hartford’s Upper Albany neighborhood – HBJ

Traveler’s Foundation funds revitalization effort for Hartford’s Upper Albany neighborhood

By Michael Puffer, Hartford Business Journal – May 9, 2023

The Connecticut Main Street Center and Upper Albany Main Street announced a new program intended to help fill storefronts and secure businesses in that corner of the city.  A $13,000 grant from the Travelers Foundation will pay for an effort to fill vacancies, strengthen existing businesses and attract new ones. The grant will fund the creation of an updated inventory of area businesses, commercial properties and vacancies.

Read the full article in the Hartford Business Journal


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

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CMSC Partners with Upper Albany Main Street to Bring New Businesses to the Neighborhood

CMSC Partners with Upper Albany Main Street to Bring New Businesses to the Neighborhood

For Immediate Release – May 9, 2022

(Hartford, CT) – The Upper Albany neighborhood’s commercial corridors will receive customized assistance to recruit new businesses through a new project launched by the Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC) and Upper Albany Main Street (UAMS). Funded through a generous grant from the Travelers Foundation, the multi-phase project aims to strategically fill vacancies, strengthen existing businesses, and increase the number and type of businesses in this vibrant neighborhood.

Established in 2000, the Upper Albany Main Street program’s mission is to preserve, revitalize and support the commercial district of Upper Albany by working with residents, merchants and stakeholders to create a neighborhood of choice. In keeping with this mission, UAMS recently embarked on an ambitious strategic visioning process with the community and local partners to attract visitors, new businesses and residents with its rich African American and West Indian heritage. Among the goals of this exercise is to see more economic activity along Albany Avenue and its spurs. During this process, area residents also identified various types of businesses they hope to see along the Avenue.

“We know what businesses the community wants in Upper Albany,” stated Marilyn Risi, Upper Albany Main Street Executive Director. “This partnership with Connecticut Main Street Center will support an important phase of this process by updating our inventories in a new way that will assist with marketing and recruitment.”

Using the grant provided by Travelers, CMSC will conduct a full, updated building, business, and vacancy inventory using a robust new tool, Ginko.City. Once the opportunities for investment and new business occupancy are established, CMSC and UAMS will co-create a marketing strategy that will support area entrepreneurs and help attract the kinds of businesses residents identified. UAMS will additionally tap into their Micro Business Incubator (MBI) participants to grow into available spaces. MBI, developed in 2002, is a joint project by Upper Albany Main Street, the University of Hartford and the Metro Hartford Alliance that matches micro-enterprises in the Upper Albany community with students from the University of Hartford’s Barney School of Business to cultivate business capacity using an on-site, one-on-one training model that enables students and business owners.

This new collaboration between CMSC and UAMS is a pilot for a larger program, Diversity on Main, currently under development at CMSC. Diversity on Main is a planned approach to filling vacancies, creating vibrancy on main streets, and ensuring a mix of building and business ownership that is diverse and inclusive. 

“We are very excited to partner with UAMS to curate a mix of new businesses that reflect the aspirations of the community while potentially providing opportunities for underserved businesses and entrepreneurs,” stated CMSC Executive Director, Michelle McCabe. “It’s wonderful to have a partner in UAMS to explore how we can energize our main streets in an inclusive way, test ideas and new tools, and support a business ecosystem. We are especially grateful to the Travelers Foundation for making the project possible.”

CMSC will work with Upper Albany Main Street over the next three months to collect data, convene stakeholders, and create a marketing plan to promote the revitalized area.

You can find information about CMSC, its members, and programs on their website.

Photo courtesy of Upper Albany Main Street

###

Media Contact
Christine Schilke
Communications & Strategy Director
860-280.2356
christine@ctmainstreet.org


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 www.ctmainstreet.org

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CMSC Webinar: All About the CT Communities Challenge Grant

CMSC Webinar

All About the CT Communities Challenge Grant

Webinar Summary

DECD’s competitive CT Communities Challenge Grant Program funds multiple projects in an effort to improve communities’ livability, vibrancy, convenience, and equity, while creating new jobs in the process. DECD’s goal is to allocate up to 50% of the funds to eligible and competitive projects in distressed municipalities and create approximately 3,000 new jobs.

In this webinar, we cover the ins -and-outs of the CT Communities Challenge Grant including:

  • Eligible uses for the funds
  • Tips for crafting a strong application
  • Application timeline & important milestone dates
  • Previous Community Challenge recipients

This is Round 3 (the final round) of CT Communities Challenge. DECD has approximately $20 million to award in this round with a deadline of May 3, 2023 at 3:00pm.

Presentation Highlights

Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC) can provide its members with the following assistance:


  • Pre-Application

    Recipients of these awards have projects that are “shovel ready”, so the community engagement component should be well on its way prior to application. CMSC can help with engagement strategies and tactics to make sure your downtown stakeholders have informed your application – and that the community is a true partner in the development of the project and the application.

  • Public Space Strategies

    CT Communities Challenge focuses on mixed-use, mixed-income development and the State of CT is particularly committed to investing in residential development. CMSC can help a community think through how the vertical development projects are complemented by vibrant, lively, and equitable public spaces. This is a great opportunity to bring CMSC field services staff in to help think through public space strategies.


View the Recording


About the Speakers

  • Allison Pincus

    Senior Economic Development Advisor, DECD

  • Kimberley Parsons-Whitaker

    Community Development Specialist, DECD

     

Contact

Email questions to CTCommunitiesChallenge@ct.gov

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Spotlight on Main Street – Downtown Torrington

Spotlight on Main Street

Downtown Torrington: It’s Happening Here!


Presented by Charlotte Hungerford Hospital

Torrington’s Main Street, touting one of the country’s largest collections of Art Deco Buildings, is in the heart of the city’s Cultural District. The wide sidewalks, beautiful landscaping and public art displayed throughout the area make it a great place to take a stroll. Visitors can enhance their experience by visiting one (or more) of the vibrant restaurants, galleries, shops and museums that line this quaint New England street. Torrington Main Street is perfect if you’re looking to take in a theatre performance, create a memory with your grandchildren or planning a fun night out.

View the Presentation

Mayor Elinor Carbone and Rista Malanca, AICP, Director of Economic Development, discuss the proactive steps the city took to enable the city’s many successes.


Event Overview

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

View Related Webinars

Mayor Carbone and Rista described several actions they took to improve their downtown’s walkability and make it inviting to residents, visitors and businesses. Learn more about how you can do the same with our video series on the 4 Point Approach.

View the videos


Other Resources

The arts & culture community is thriving in Torrington. Click the links to see the latest happenings.

About the Cover Photo

The banner photo was provided courtesy of Main Street Torrington and features Dennis Polisky & Maestro’s Men during their annual Oktoberfest event


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With thanks to our Sponsors!

Presenting Sponsor

Charlotte Hungerford Hospital

Hartford HealthCare is creating a better future for healthcare in Connecticut and beyond. We are a community of caregivers engaged in developing a coordinated, consistently high standard of care, using research and education as part of care delivery. We create and engage in meaningful alliances to enhance access to services and invest in technology and training to develop new pathways to improve the timeliness, effectiveness and accuracy of our services.

Resources

Visit their website


Event Partner

CEDAS

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. The Association encourages communication among its members by providing a forum for discussion and information exchange.

Spotlight Partner

Torrington Savings Bank

Torrington Savings Bank’s steady, strong banking practices have made them a trusted and reliable bank since 1868. Conservatively guided and strongly capitalized, they are committed to their mutuality and to providing quality products and services to meet the financial needs of the individuals, families, and businesses in their communities.


Spotlight Supporters

Brooks, Todd & McNeil Insurance

Brooks, Todd & McNeil works hard to make your insurance decisions effortless and trustworthy. You can rely on the solutions they offer and count on their friendly, local service. They are proud of their long agency history providing families, non-profit organizations and commercial businesses in CT with insurance. They have been serving Connecticut since 1839.


Commercial Sewing, Inc.

Commercial Sewing has specialized in the marine and power sports markets with a focus on producing canvas products for Original Equipment Manufacturers, Distributors, and Dealers.


Good Earth Advisors

Good Earth Advisors is a woman-owned and operated consulting firm specializing in community planning, development services and public engagement. Inspired by the prospect of positive change, we see opportunity in each challenge—using planning as a pathway to progress.


Herbst & Herbst LLC

Conveniently located in Torrington since 1973, you can contact us with all your real estate, business, and estate planning needs. From our downtown Torrington location we are able to serve the needs of clients throughout Litchfield County. 

O&G Industries

O&G Industries, Inc. is a leading provider of construction services and products in the Northeast.

Our portfolio encompasses numerous market segments, with projects that span in size and scope. Our clients include some of the most well-respected brands in the region and throughout the world.

Remember When Vintages & Antiques

32 Years and counting in the lighting and antique business.  We have the largest selection of restored antique lighting, chandeliers, wall sconces, and lamps in the area. Our master restorer, Mr. Rit, does  museum quality restorations and has done restorations for the White House, the Torrington Historical Society  as well as numerous other venues.


Torrington Development Corporation

The Torrington Development Corporation will plan, lead, direct and coordinate comprehensive efforts to improve the City’s economic base.  The purchase, reclamation and development of property and the procurement and administration of funding and/or loans will be carefully managed to support a vibrant community.


Torrington Downtown Partners

Torrington Downtown Partners was formed in September 2010 by a group of investors who recognized an historic opportunity to shape the revitalization of downtown Torrington, Connecticut.  Their goal is two-fold: To break the cycle of absentee ownership and vacant storefronts in the heart of downtown, and to involve the community at-large in making decisions about and being a part in the turnaround and rehabilitation of a key part of the city.


White Flower Farm

White Flower Farm is a family-owned nursery based in Northwest Connecticut. Since 1950, we’ve been growing a wide range of ornamental plant varieties, and delivering them to gardeners all over the country. Our mission is to help gardeners succeed by supplying top quality plant material, comprehensive cultural information, and superior customer service. Whether you are an experienced horticulturalist on the lookout for unusual cultivars, or a newcomer to gardening, we’re here to help.

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Manchester Issues RFP for Main Street Mixed-Use Development

Town of Manchester Issues RFP for Main Street Property

March 15, 2023

The Town of Manchester is requesting proposals from experienced real estate developers interested in executing a transformative downtown project on a key gateway parcel. The development site includes two adjacent parcels, which together equate to a full Downtown block on Manchester’s Main Street. The site is currently zoned Central Business District (CBD) and is within a federally-designated Opportunity Zone. This is a mixed-use zoning district that allows a wide variety of residential and commercial uses. 

  • The Forest Street lot (1050 Main Street) is a 1.59-acre parcel that occupies a prime downtown location at the corner of Main Street and Forest Street. The lot currently contains 116 parking spaces and can be accessed from driveways on Main Street and Forest Street.
  • The second parcel, 942 Main Street, will be owned by the Town as of February 28, 2023. The .79 acre property includes a one-story residential building, to be demolished by the Town. Off-street parking standards are permissive and dimensional requirements are extremely flexible and intended to bring about denser urban development.

Manchester’s Downtown is in the midst of a positive transformation with millions of dollars in public and private funds over the past five years. While key incremental improvements have come steadily during that time, the Town’s efforts are about to be turbo-charged with a $39 million, 75,000 sf public library project in the pipeline. The project envisioned in this RFP will sit directly across the street from the new library location and is intended to both compliment and benefit from this generational public investment.

View the full RFP here. Responses are due by 11:00 AM on April 26, 2023.


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

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CMSC Webinar: Implementing Successful Parklet Programming

CMSC Webinar

Implementing Successful Parklet Programming

Webinar Summary

During COVID, we saw a surge of temporary interventions to support outdoor dining and shopping by way of parklets and other outdoor space programming. How can we carry forward this momentum and develop sustainable parklet programs that better support local businesses, foster community, and improve the pedestrian experience?

In this webinar you will:

  • Understand what parklets are and the different types of parklets or outdoor shared spaces and their benefits
  • Learn the ordinances, zoning & other policy considerations to implement a successful program
  • Hear from communities who have implemented successful parklet programs about how they did it

Presentation Highlights


  • Stamford Case Study

    History

    • Stamford had a small PARKlets program in 2016, 2017, and 2018 for sidewalk only dining.
    • The StrEATeries Program was a collaboration between the City and the Downtown Special Services District with the goal to keep restaurants open and let people dine safely during COVID-19 restrictions. The program transformed 140+ parking spaces into outdoor dining using caution tape, water barriers, and other materials that was already on hand. The program was well-received.
    • In the fall of 2021, the City contracted with FHI Studio to developed regulations and a design guide to address: ADA compliance, roadway safety, noise concerns, design and material standards, streamline planning and permitting processes, and to reduce the regulatory burden on restaurants.

    Present Day

    • As of March 16, 2023, the city passed an ordinance to make the outdoor dining permanent. The design guide and permitting process is being finalized.

    Future Plans

    • Building on success by moving from temporary to permanent.
      • On Lower Summer Street, the city is eliminating street parking and widening the sidewalk to allow for more outdoor dining. This project is set to break ground in spring 2023.
      • Parking area on Bedford Street is in talks to close off and become a permanent public plaza that would also create 80 seats of outdoor dining.
    • Transformation of public space from car oriented to people oriented.
  • Stamford Parklets – Key Topics

    Parking

    • The mindset of having parking right in front of the restaurant as the most important asset is slowly changing because restaurants are realizing that one or two parking spots could equal up to 20 extra seats. Stamford also has other parking lot options for customers.
    • The City of Stamford calculated a $500k-$750k loss in parking revenue due to outdoor dining. It was a policy decision to focus on keeping downtown restaurants open and to attract visitors to downtown. There are fees for outdoor dining permits and there is a possibility of higher tax revenue and other economic benefits from expanded dining.

    Funding

    • The purchase of materials for the StrEATeries Program in response to COVID was self-funded by the City of Stamford.
    • The design guide was funded through a CDC grant funneled through the Capitol Region COG.
    • The Lower Summer Street sidewalk expansion project is funded through the CT Department of Transportation Community Connectivity Program as well as City capital funds.
    • The Bedford Street public plaza is funded through the Communities Challenge Grant through CT Department of Economic and Community Development as well as City capital funds.

    Stakeholders

    • Launching the StrEATeries program was an “all hands on deck” initiative including the Operations Department, Health Department, and Public Safety. The Transportation, Traffic, and Parking team (under Operations Department) lead the project.
  • Parklet Design Guide Considerations – FHI Studio

    Creating a design guide is essential for standardizing outdoor dining and ensuring the safety of pedestrians and diners. We highly encourage you to watch the webinar starting at marker 12:00 for a more in-depth overview of the design considerations FHI Studio put together for their design guide for Stamford.

    Design Guide Best Practices

    • Consider the target audience of the design guide and make it easy for them to understand (e.g. restaurant owners, property owners, etc.)
    • Provide good technical information with easy-to-understand graphics
    • Provide easy to follow construction/materials guide
    • Straight forward public-friendly permitting process
    • Guidance should be flexible including a custom design opinion and a standard design option
    • Keep it short and simple

    Design Guide Contents

    The design guide should include:

    • Site selection requirements
      • Prohibited locations include crosswalks, bus stops, bus lanes, bike lanes and bike facilities, commercial vehicle loading zones, fire lanes, and handicap parking spaces
    • Parklet layouts and design requirements
      • Design requirements for all types of parklet typologies: Parking lot, street closure, on-street parking (angled and parallel), sidewalk – curb side, and sidewalk – building side
    • Permitting process including applicable fees and requirements
    • Operations and maintenance
  • Parklet Programming Examples

    Examples of parklet programming from other cities:


View the Recording


About the Speakers

  • Luke Buttenwieser

    Luke Buttenwieser has been with Stamford’s Transportation, Traffic, and Parking Department for four years. In his role, Luke works on a variety of projects ranging from addressing citizen service requests; zoning, building, and construction permit review and management; grant writing; roadway and neighborhood transportation planning studies; oversight of roadway design and construction projects; and pavement markings and signage design and installation. Luke spearheads the City’s Outdoor dining program, and is the project manager for the City’s Vision Zero Initiative. Luke focuses his work on improving safety for all roadway users with an emphasis on pedestrian and bicyclist safety and mobility.  He is also a full time student at New York University on a dual Bachelors/Masters track from the Tandon School of Engineering where he is pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Sustainable Urban Environments and a Masters in Urban Planning from the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

  • Parker Sorenson, PE

    Parker Sorenson, PE, is a transportation engineer with FHI Studio, a Hartford-based planning and engineering firm. During his 8-year tenue with FHI Studio, Parker has been a leader in projects related to transportation planning, traffic engineering, and community engagement. He has particular interest in bicycle and pedestrian planning and conceptual design and has led projects with such focus at the local, regional, and statewide levels for communities across the northeast. Currently, Parker is a key member on several projects such as trails routing studies, traffic calming design projects, road safety audits, complete street guidelines, corridor studies, safety analysis studies and transportation master plans. In all his projects Parker strives to combine big-picture thinking with big-data technical analysis and graphical representation so that clients and the public may make informed decisions as to the future of their communities.

Contact

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Vitality, design, promotion: Thomaston gets inspiration for downtown

Vitality, design, promotion: Thomaston gets inspiration for downtown

March 15, 2023

CMSC’s Field Services Director, Carl Rosa recently visited member Thomaston to talk with town officials and downtown merchants about how they can take advantage of their current assets while being proactive and strategic in how they grow. 

Carl explained CMSC’s Four-Point Approach to revitalizing downtowns: economic vitality, design, organization and promotion, along with specific ways the town take to optimize their Town Hall and Thomaston Opera House complex. 

Photo Credit: Kurt Moffett, Republican-American

Read the article


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

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CMSC Webinar: Building Your Volunteer Program

CMSC Webinar

Building Your Volunteer Program:
Feeding the HUMAN Machine & Building the HUMAN Capacity

Webinar Summary

In order to drive a community forward, each organization must foster, maintain, and perfect the available human capacity within each community. In this webinar, we dive into strategies for creating a comprehensive volunteer matrix, how to maximize efforts for volunteers, and how appropriate positive (or sometimes negative) feedback should be delivered. Topics include how to create a comprehensive volunteer list, how to partner volunteers together, and where and how to utilize critical volunteers. This webinar is also applicable to those who have volunteer boards and commissions.

Presentation Highlights


  • The Human Machine

    • A community functions like a watch – all the cogs need to work together in the right sequence. The downtown is run by people.
    • People need the ability to help, as well as the drive and desire to do it. This human capacity is the driving force behind any volunteer organization, whether it’s a Masonic Lodge, city council or downtown organization.
    • It also helps set the expectations for volunteers, what they can give, and what they can expect to get back from their service. Everyone needs to know their role, which will also help you leverage their talents and skills and avoid burnout.
  • 6 Types of Human Capacity

    • As a Main Street manager, it’s not your job to do every project. It’s your job to empower people to help you implement the projects. You’re here to guide and provide resources, not do every job that comes up. The process isn’t linear, its cyclical and ongoing and has 6 components:
      1. Community Assessment
      2. Identifying Abilities
      3. Planning Roles
      4. Building a strong “house”
      5. Empowerment through partnership
      6. Implementing projects
  • Working with your Community as a Machine

    • Outlining a 2-way relationship is critical. What is the volunteer getting out of it?
    • When you do the Community Assessment, it’s like an audit where you can identify skills gaps. This is a great task for someone joining your Organization board or committee. It helps them understand how you work, while offering a fresh pair of eyes on the data.
    • When identifying abilities, you may need to have tough discussions with people because you may not need the skills they’re offering. Also look at when your volunteers are available. Do they have kids in school and so are not available at night? Do they work during the day and are only available on the weekend?
    • Many people want to do something different than their day job. You need to help them figure out their role, as well as who to hand off things to. You’re aiming to have seamless transitions between them.
    • Build a matrix of skills, availability, etc. Then you can pair people up, creating little “families” of volunteers.

    Working With Your Community As A Machine

    • Main Street needs to empower through leadership, not by doing everything on their own. Build capacity through responsibility and let people know where they fit into the overall process.
    • When you implement the project, this is the time to give positive and constructive criticism. It’s also a time to re-evaluate your volunteer to see if anything’s changed.
  • Strategies for Improving the Machine

    • Create a social network map – Take your 20 core volunteers and map all the different groups in your community – everything from the PTA to the local bank.
    • What demographics are represented? Which are missing? What do they love to do and what are they good at? What’s motivating them to volunteer and to be part of the community? Remember, sometimes what people are good at is not what they’re looking to do when they’re volunteering.
    • Do an assessment to determine your volunteers’ strengths and weaknesses. Are they introverts or extroverts?
      • Can categorize people by Seer, Feeler, Thinker & Doers
        • Seer – learn or share by showing
        • Feelers – Likes to do something over and over
        • Thinkers – Likes data and putting things on paper
        • Doers – Do whatever needs to be done
      • Create a comprehensive volunteer list. Can be as short as 10 questions asking:
        • What they prefer
        • When they’re available (day, evening)
        • How they would like to volunteer
        • Where they’re comfortable
        • Can then sort the list and use it to ask for targeted help.
      • 2 Way benefit – to the volunteer and to the Main Street organization
        • Benefits to the Volunteer
          • Personal connections
          • Strengthened and vibrant downtown
          • Sense of accomplishment and belonging
          • Vested in the overall community’s health
        • Benefits to the Main Street program
          • Improved amounts of volunteers and participants
          • Vested residents or business owners
          • Increased networking and economic draw
        • These relationships don’t just start on day 1, they need to be cultivated. The Main Street director or manager usually needs to be the first to take the initial step.
        • You need to give continuous and personalized feedback and praise.
        • Conduct anonymous assessments to get feedback from the public.

View the Recording


About Ben Levenger, AICP

Ben Levenger is an AICP planner, registered landscape architect, and Certified Economic Developer. He is the president of Downtown Redevelopment Services, LLC, a planning firm specializing in assisting communities through comprehensive downtown planning. He has worked in over 30 states and consults for federal agencies on economic development best practices.

Contact

Ben Levenger, AICP

Email: Ben@dtredevelopment.com

Cell: 330-212-2260 

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CMSC Webinar: How to Start a Cultural District in Your Town

CMSC Webinar

How to Start a Cultural District in Your Town

Webinar Summary

Join Connecticut Main Street Center, in partnership with the Connecticut Office of the Arts, the Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut, the Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition, and the Northwest Connecticut Arts Council, as we discuss how to start a cultural district with people who’ve already done it!

In this virtual roundtable, we discuss the value of establishing a cultural district, the basics of the program, as well as common challenges and how to overcome them.

Presentation Highlights


  • What’s a Cultural District?

    A Cultural District is a specific area of a city or town identified by the municipality that has a number of cultural facilities, activities and/or assets–both for profit and nonprofit. It is a walkable, compact area that is easy for visitors to recognize. It is a center of cultural activities –artistic and economic. It is a place in your city/town where community members congregate, and visitors may enjoy those places that make a community special. 

  • Discussion Overview

    • In this webinar, we interview three communities – Ridgefield, New London and Torrington – that started a Cultural District.
    • The discussion is led by the leaders of three of Connecticut’s Designated Regional Service Organizations (DRSO’s), who are available to help communities learn how to form their own cultural districts. 
    • Joined by Liz Shapiro, Director of the Office of the Arts, this discussion highlights the lived experience of these communities in going through the process, the things they’d do differently, and the ways the Cultural District has energized community collaboration.

View the Recording


Other Resources


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About the Speakers

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Town of Wallingford Hiring Economic Development Specialist

Town of Wallingford Hiring Economic Development Specialist

February 6, 2023

The Town of Wallingford is seeking an Economic Development Specialist to help them develop and implement the town’s marketing, business recruitment and retention programs.

This is a full-time position working closely with the Economic Development Commission, related town staff and departments for planning and coordinating of community development projects, assisting business applicants with local and State permitting processes and providing research for Town sponsored projects.

Applications are due by February 17, 2023. View the full job posting and find the employment application form on their website.


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

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