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Author: Christine Schilke

WBDC Equity Grants Available for Women-Owned Businesses

WBDC Equity Grants Available for Women-Owned Businesses

January 26, 2023

The Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC) announced the next round of their Equity Match Grant Program is now open. 

The program offers grants of up to $10,000 to CT women-owned businesses that have been in business for 2 or more years and have revenues between $25K and $2M. 

Since the program launched in late 2020, WBDC has distributed 167 grants totaling over $1.5M to CT women-owned businesses. 

Applications available in English & Spanish. The deadline to apply is February 28, 2023.
Learn more & apply


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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Higganum Issues RFQ for Real Estate Developers

Town of Haddam Issues RFQ Redevelop Higganum Property

January 25, 2023

The Town of Haddam is seeking proposals from qualified real estate developers for the redevelopment of the former Rossi Lumber Company property in the heart of Higganum. The town has acquired the property and received $1.5 million for environmental remediation.

This project is across the street from an exciting mill remediation and renovation project currently underway. 

View the full RFQ here. Reponses are due by 3:00 p.m. on March 1st, 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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Colorful Bridgeport Creates Video Series for New Murals

Colorful Bridgeport Creates Video Series for New Murals

January 24, 2023

CMSC Member Colorful Bridgeport partnered up with the City of Bridgeport to install a series of murals in their neighborhood that add to the sense of community by celebrating the full spectrum of the Downtown’s people, places, and spaces.

The extremely talented Gary Judkins of Pivot Language Media filmed each artist creating their mural. Follow along as they release the videos series throughout the month of January highlighting the Color It In mural projects and the artists who created them.

Watch Now


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 Adds Voice to Work, Live, Ride Movement

CMSC Calls for More Affordable Housing

January 23, 2023

CMSC’s Executive Director, Michelle McCabe, spoke on behalf of downtowns during a recent press conference calling for more affordable housing hosted by Desegregate CT. 

“If people are spending all of their money on transportation and on housing, then that means that they have fewer resources to invest back in our communities and invest back in our main streets,” said Michelle McCabe, the Executive Director of the CT Main Street Center.

You can view news articles from this event below:

WTNH Channel 8: Statewide program hopes to increase affordable housing

Hartford Courant: Legislative proposal launched to create CT communities centered on public transit, increase affordable housing

Photo Credit – Steve Smith, Hartford Courant


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: Reimagining Communal Spaces to be More Community-Friendly

CMSC Webinar

Reimagining Communal Spaces to be More Community Friendly

Webinar Summary

Communal spaces play a vital role in every municipality. They bring residents together, provide recreation, boost the economy and even fuel healthier lifestyles. 

In this webinar, Celeste Frye, co-founder & CEO of Public Works Partners, LLC, shares strategies for designing communal spaces that proactively and thoughtfully meet the needs of the entire community. 


Presentation Highlights

  • What is a Communal Space?

    The question of where people congregate in your town should be approached sensitively and take into consideration all the different people who live in your community. This is important because it has repercussions regarding class, race, ethnic backgrounds and ability to access spaces (ability, age, etc.) When we’re designing communal places, they need to be truly welcoming inclusiveness of all community members.

    What is a Communal Space?

    • The purpose of a communal space is to be activated and invite people in to gather and connect. From an urban planning perspective, activating a place means the use of a public space to advance community building and social interaction, using strategies to proactively bring people into a space. This can be a simple as free wi-fi or tables and chairs.
    • It’s important to acknowledge that you may have different spaces for different groups within your town and that some spaces may feel hostile to different groups, for instance to those that are unhoused (homeless) or disabled.
  • Benefits of Communal Spaces

    There are 3 main benefits of communal spaces:

    • Build social networks by encouraging people to grow their personal networks
      • Communal spaces provide infrastructure and a setting for people to gather and share experiences, and to safely interact with others who they may not see or interact with otherwise – for instance, those of differing gender identities or religious affiliation.
    • Spur economic growth both in the space and in nearby neighborhoods
      • Attracting people to a space can encourage patronage of local businesses through design and use improvements.
      • Brick and mortar stores, façade improvements, and venues for food trucks can all help small businesses thrive.
      • Communal spaces can also draw people to different neighborhoods
      • Adaptive reuse of historic buildings can give them uses that match the current residents and their needs, for instance converting old schools into community or recreational centers.
    • Improve health and wellbeing through facilitating physical and social activity
      • Can include things like parks with walking trails or game spaces, but also downtowns with walkable streets.
      • Can use design elements that encourage people to move from space to space which can improve health and wellbeing, especially in places that have historically lacked them. Examples include wide sidewalks, protected bike lanes, public transit access
      • Examples of Communal Spaces
        • Parks – Green spaces that are visually attractive and allow for physical and social interactions
        • Markets – Vacant lots can be used for pop up markets or food trucks
        • Downtowns – in addition to commercial areas, they also house government buildings, libraries and social events like parades
  • How to Be Truly Community-Friendly

    To create places that are welcoming to the entire community, it’s imperative to incorporate key elements:

    • Accessibility – go above and beyond ADA requirements
      • The community’s ADA needs should be discussed at the beginning stages of planning, not at the end
      • ADA mostly focuses on physical accessibility but we should broaden our understanding of ADA or “universal” design to include mental cognitive ability and life cycle (i.e. kids, pregnant women or older people). For example, signage should be clear and easy to understand. Use multi-sensory signals, such as auditory signals at crosswalks. Haptic, or touch-based signals, (such as braille), help as well.
      • It’s also important to make sure access is continuous. Common obstacles are curb cuts that don’t connect to cross walks or protected bike lanes that end suddenly.
      • Incorporating accessibility elements creates an equitable opportunity for people to participate in these spaces.
    • Transportation
      • Active transportation gives people more ways to traverse a space. Think of protected bike lanes (and bike parking), protected bike lanes and wide sidewalks in addition to lanes for cars. Bollards and islands can be used to help separate lanes.
    • Green space
      • A community friendly space incorporates the natural environment for recreation, play and learning. Thoughtfully plan for and maximize green space – think about things like where you’ll you put it. What will it be like in real life? For instance, will trees work in the space or are planters better?
    • Safety & Comfort
      • This makes the place approachable and can include things like awnings over shops to provide shelter from the rain, trees for shade, human-scaled lighting, slower speed limits, and permanent and movable street seating.
  • Making It Happen

    • Begin by doing robust research
      • How do people use the space? How do they want to access it? What’s the history of the neighborhood? Is it changing? What are the community demographics? Why is the project happening here, now?
      • Talk to the community and observe how the space is currently used.
    • Make Your Plan
      • Once you have the research you can create your plan, laying out your goals and strategies. Include key milestones and successes, timeline, communication protocols, incorporate the community into the implementation, etc.
    • Implement Your Plan
      • Utilize connections made with businesses and community members to create some shared decision-making frameworks.
      • Bring the larger community in and get them excited about the project. While you’ll likely engage contractors for big changes, you might be able incorporate the community by doing site tours or things like group planting projects, ribbon cuttings, etc.
      • Clear communication will also help mitigate issues like construction noise or access. It’ll let you get feedback so you can respond to issues in a timely manner. Downtown managers are often key liaisons between the different stakeholders.
    • Manage Your Space
      • Discuss funding for maintenance and who will manage the space, have strategies to evaluate the space such as who’s using it at what time of day, then you can make changes as necessary.
    • Maintain Your Space
      • Weather and use can impact your space. What’s needed for maintenance on a seasonal basis? After a year or five years?
      • Report out to the community on your successes and efforts.
  • Real Life Examples

    • Syracuse Downtown Revitalization Initiative – Public Works was engaged to support the creation of a final strategic investment plan that’s directing $10m worth of state funding to select real estate and public infrastructure investments.
      • In this project they were reconnecting two different parts of the downtown to work against the affects of population decline and the legacy of urban renewal.
      • They facilitated a series of in person and virtual charrettes focused on things the community already said was important to them – pedestrian friendly streets, trees and green infrastructure, making streetscape and building improvements and preserving the cultural heritage of this neighborhood.
        • Their recommendations included improving sidewalks and streetscapes, adding lighting and wayfinding to encourage people to traverse the area, redeveloping certain properties to create commercial and pedestrian activity, and supporting outdoor vendor spaces.
      • Lessons learned
        • Important to reach out to people in a variety of way to meet people where they are.
        • Build on what’s already working and let community members easily identify what they already like, in this case a popular community center
        • Choose and incorporate elements that fit with the community.
    • NYC Streets Plan – Public Works led the NYC Streets Plan (NSP) Public Engagement Process (PEP) to support a NSP that would include the safety of all street users, the use of multi-modal mass transit, the reduction of vehicle emissions, and access for individuals with disabilities.
      • In many communities the most publicly owned land is actually the streets, so it’s beneficial to think how they can be utilized by all users, not just cars.
      • This purpose of this program was primarily to improve the safety of non-car users.
        • Had a online engagement platform, did phone surveys targeted to non-English speakers and people who traditionally didn’t participate, which allowed for a deeper reach into the community.
      • Lessons Learned
        • Defined the accessibility need for the engagement process and the plan up front
        • Provided flexibility around the times people could engage
        • Did a mix of small group engagement so everyone felt comfortable participating

View the Recording


Other Resources

View Other Webinars

About Celeste Frye

Co-Founder and CEO, Public Works Partners

An AICP-certified planner, Celeste Frye co-founded Public Works Partners more than a decade ago out of a passion to help mission-driven organizations increase their positive impact on local communities. She is a known expert in designing and implementing multi-stakeholder initiatives, building strong connections across the nonprofit, government and private sectors. Celeste is a member of the Regional Plan Association’s Connecticut Committee and the Coro New York Leadership Center’s Alumni Advisory Board. She was recognized with City & State’s 2021 Community Engagement Power 50 and Crain’s New York’s 2021 Notable Women Business Owners. Celeste received a M.S. in Regional Planning from Cornell University and a B.A. in International Studies & French from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Press Release: CMSC Launches New Downtown Assessment Tool

Press Release: CMSC Launches New Downtown Assessment Tool

For Immediate Release – January 23, 2023

Innovative scoring matrix to provide metrics on downtown successes,
offer customized recommendations

(Hartford, CT) – Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC) is pleased to announce the launch of a new Annual Assessment tool for CMSC member communities. This metric-based scoring system will provide CMSC’s 80+ members across the state with a way to measure the success of their initiatives, allowing them to benchmark their downtown management efforts, in addition to offering customized recommendations and resources for strengthening key areas as needed.

“We expect the new Annual Assessment to be transformational for our members,” said Michelle McCabe, CMSC Executive Director. “The information gathered will be a powerful tool for our members to see what’s working, opportunities for improvement, and where to target their efforts. From CMSC’s perspective, it helps us pinpoint with more accuracy what resources and guidance our members need, so it’s really a win-win.”

The Assessment matrix was developed over several months and measures the two overarching approaches CMSC espouses for cultivating healthy downtowns: the Four Point Approach to Main Street Management and the Six Core Components of a Vibrant Main Street. The Four Point Approach – the how – is a nationally recognized model for managing a Main Street. The Six Core Components are the what – the foundational elements CMSC has identified as critical to a vibrant Main Street, such as lighting, public art and local businesses. CMSC’s new Assessment tool measures both, ensuring its members are taking a comprehensive approach to their downtowns and Main Streets.

“I give a lot of credit to my colleague, Kristen Lopez, our Education & Training Director, who was instrumental in creating the matrix, and to our former Senior Director of Main Street Services & Projects, Kimberley Parsons Whitaker, who provided a lot of input and experience from her years working with our members,” said Carl Rosa, CMSC Field Services Director. “Together we created something really special that’s going to help our members and their downtowns, and I’m really pleased with the experiences I’ve had so far testing it.”

CMSC piloted the Assessment tool in three communities, New Britain, Simsbury and Westville Village (New Haven), in December. “We loved working with Carl on the new Assessment Tool. It’s really great from our perspective because now we have concrete data to go back to our Board and the city and show them what’s working and what our impact is, and we can see how our numbers go up or down each year,” said Lizzy Donius, Executive Director of Westville Village Renaissance Alliance. “Carl came out and met with us and within a few days we had a comprehensive report with dozens of data points and helpful recommendations and resources for how we can improve.”

CMSC will undertake an Annual Assessment for all its members in good standing that would like one on a rolling basis over the course of the year.

You can find information about CMSC, its members, and the Annual Assessment tool on their website.

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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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Annual Assessment for CMSC Members

CMSC Member Benefit

Annual Assessment

Annual Assessment for CMSC Members

Managing a downtown is a complex endeavor, with many components that must be carefully cultivated and addressed. CMSC wanted a way to quantify the work of our members, to give them a baseline of their efforts, track their successes year-over-year and be able to provide them more specific resources and guidance.

We spent several months developing the Annual Assessment matrix, a tool that measures the two overarching approaches CMSC espouses for cultivating healthy downtowns: the Four Point Approach to Main Street Management and the Six Core Components of a Vibrant Main Street.  The Four Point Approach – the how – is the nationally recognized model for managing a Main Street. The Six Core Components are the what – the foundational elements CMSC has identified as critical to a vibrant Main Street, such as lighting, public art and local businesses.


Assessment Overview

  • What is the purpose of the assessment?

    The purpose of the Annual Assessment is to help our members identify areas of strengths and weaknesses.

    Through the assessment, CMSC can pinpoint and recommend next steps based on the findings. It also provides a benchmark metric that can be measured year-over-year to track the progress of your district.

  • What is the methodology used for the scoring?

    CMSC member communities are scored on each practice area based on CMSC observations of your district and through interviewing your district’s point of contact. When complete, the Assessment results in two scores:

    • Four Point Main Street Management score – This is a cumulative score of Main Street America’s four components of Main Street Management as they are applied to your district.
      • Economic Vitality – Practices that restore the district’s economic value by building a diverse economic base, catalyzing smart new investment, and cultivating a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem
      • Design – Practices that restore the district’s physical value by creating an inviting, inclusive atmosphere, celebrating historic and unique character, and fostering accessible, people-centered public spaces
      • Promotion – Practices that restore the district’s social value by marketing the district’s defining assets, communicating unique features through storytelling, and supporting the buy-local experience
      • Organization – Practices that restore the district’s civic value by building leadership and strong organizational capacity, ensuring broad community engagement, and forging partnerships across sectors
    • Six Components of a Vibrant Main Street – This score quantifies the vibrancy of your district, while recognizing that each downtown has a unique mix of these vital components.
      • Placemaking – A district’s unique sense of place
      • Economic Vitality – A district’s diverse economic base
      • Stewardship – A district’s community engagement and policies that support appropriate growth
      • Inclusiveness – A district’s focus on cultivating equitable places and leading with inclusive practices
      • Sustainability – A district’s focus on protecting natural resources
      • Connectivity – A district’s focus on connecting people to places and economic hubs

    A score for each component is provided to show areas of strengths and weaknesses. The lowest score is 25% and the highest score is 100%. A score of 65% – 75% is satisfactory.

    • How will the scores be used?

      The information gathered through the assessment offers a powerful tool for you to see what’s working in your community, where to target your efforts, and a way to convey your impact to town leaders, funders, and key stakeholders. Doing the assessment annually will also allow you to see your progress year over year. It will also help us better help you, since as part of the follow-up, CMSC will provide you with targeted resources and guidance based on your results.

      Some additional ways to utilize the assessment and the resulting scores include:

      • Reporting to your Board or Town Commission on the success of your efforts
      • Demonstrating the depth and breadth of the work required to cultivate a vital downtown
      • Highlighting the impact of a managed downtown and identifying specific needs to funders
    • FAQ’s

      What does the Assessment process look like? How long will it take?

      • Plan to spend 2-3 hours meeting with CMSC’s Field Services staff. During this time, we’ll go over a comprehensive checklist of 82 data points, which will likely include a combination of walking tour and office visit.
      • Once the community visit is complete, we’ll input the data into the Assessment matrix which will generate overall scores for the 4 Point Approach to Main Street Management and 6 Core Components of a Vibrant Main Street. It will also identify areas that are high performing or need improvement.
      • Next CMSC will send you a letter within a week or so that includes your score, recommended next steps and specific CMSC resources to help you in specified areas. Our Field Services staff will also call you to go over the results of the letter.
      • We’ll check in with you 90 days later to see how it’s going implementing the recommended changes.

      Will members’ scores be kept private?

      • CMSC will not share your scores with anyone else without your permission. However, if you’d like to share them with your boards or commissions, that’s up to you. Please note, we may use individual or aggregate scores – without identifying specific members – in our advocacy or other work. 

      What happens if we get a low score? Is there a “failing” grade?

      • There are no right or wrong answers to the assessment questions, and there’s no “failing” grade. The scores are simply a way to benchmark your efforts, so you can determine which activities are working well and which can be improved, and for CMSC to tailor our assistance to best help you. To give an example of the range, a score of 65%-75% is considered satisfactory.

    View the Tutorial


    Next Steps

    You can schedule your Annual Assessment with CMSC’s Field Services Director, Carl Rosa. To be eligible for the assessment, you must be a member in good standing. 

    Questions? Email Carl Rosa or call him at 860-280-2075.

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    Mansfield Downtown Partnership Seeking Event Coordinator

    Mansfield Downtown Partnership Seeking Event Coordinator

    January 18, 2023

    The Mansfield Downtown Partnership (a CMSC member community) is currently seeking resumes for the position of Event Coordinator. 

    The Event Coordinator is responsible for planning, managing, and organizing a variety of events including the Celebrate Mansfield Festival, Trick or Treat in Downtown, Winter Welcome, John E. Jackman Tour de Mansfield, Summer Stroll, and Moonlight Movies.  Since most of these events are either in the evening or on weekends, the ideal candidate needs to have a flexible schedule. The Event Coordinator will also be responsible for some administrative duties.

    Read the full job description or click here to apply.


    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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    Old Saybrook Issues RFP for Marketing Services

    Old Saybrook Issues RFP For Marketing Services

    January 17, 2023

    The Town of Old Saybrook Economic Development Commission is seeking proposals to provide marketing services in support of its activities and interests including, marketing strategy development and annual schedule, digital advertising, social media management, content creation, website improvements and branding of the downtown and shopping district.

    Proposals must be received no later than February 27, 2023 at 4:30 p.m. 

    Click here to view the RFP


    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

    Continue reading

    CMSC Mourns the Loss of Rep. Q Williams

    CMSC Mourns the Loss of Rep. Q Williams

    January 5, 202

    (Hartford, CT) – Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC) is devastated to learn of the tragic passing of Rep. Quentin “Q” Williams. 

    Q was a longtime friend and supporter of CMSC, most recently as a collaborator and advocate through his leadership on the Main Street Working Group of the legislature. Due to his outstanding accomplishments, CMSC recently honored Q and his Working Group co-chairs with the 2022 Jack Shannahan Award for Public Service. Q was also an attendee and speaker at CMSC’s recent Spotlight on Main Street event in Downtown Middletown, as well as a past webinar presenter. In addition to his work championing Connecticut’s main streets, he provided critical support on many other important issues, including education, housing, and workforce development.

    “Q was changing the world. His passion, dedication to service, and his keen intelligence were special and rare. Not only did we enjoy working with him on behalf of our downtowns, but we enjoyed working with Q, the person. His smile lit up the room. I know he was excited for session to begin and was full of incredible ideas to benefit all the residents of Connecticut. We will miss him greatly,” said Michelle McCabe, CMSC Executive Director.

    CMSC extends its deepest condolences to Q’s family during this difficult time, and to his many friends and colleagues across the state.

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    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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