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Press Release: 6 Communities Chosen for Inaugural Main Street Accelerator

CT Main Street Center Receives $150k Grant from M&T Bank’s Amplify Fund for Diversity on Main Collaborative in Partnership with Black Business Alliance

Funding Will Support Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in New London Pilot

For Immediate Release – February 15, 2024

(Hartford, CT) –

The M&T Charitable Foundation, the philanthropic arm of M&T Bank (NYSE:MTB), announced that it has awarded $150,000 to the Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC) for its new Diversity on Main Collaborative in partnership with the Black Business Alliance (BBA). The funds will be distributed over a two-year term beginning in 2024.  The grant is part of the second round of giving through the Amplify Fund providing more than $8.2 million to 68 lead non-profit organizations throughout New England, Long Island, and Rockland County, NY.

The new Diversity on Main Collaborative will bring together CMSC’s expertise as the state’s premier resource for developing and sustaining the vibrant downtowns with BBA’s comprehensive resources for Black-owned businesses, including education, capacity building, and technical assistance. The aim of the Diversity on Main Collaborative is to advance equity while contributing to thriving and inclusive main streets by establishing opportunities for minority-owned businesses to occupy and own main street storefronts and properties.

The initiative is expected to be rolled out in phases over two years. During the initial planning phase CMSC and BBA will recruit members representing statewide economic development, commercial real estate, entrepreneur support organizations, and lending institutions to the Collaborative. In addition, the Collaborative will also develop community level data and assessment strategies before launching a year-long pilot program in downtown New London. During this phase the stakeholders will co-create a plan to support local minority businesses, engage the community, and gather baseline data. The Collaborative will also shepherd small business owners to move their business into a vacant storefront through a “matchmaking” process that aligns prospective businesses with property owners and vacant properties.

“We’re thrilled the M&T Charitable Foundation recognized the impact a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem can bring to a downtown and excited to partner with BBA to support small and minority-owned businesses in the New London area,” said Michelle McCabe, CMSC Executive Director. “This funding provides a unique opportunity to partner with BBA – an outstanding resource for black-owned businesses – and a dynamic municipality like New London to support small businesses and address vacant properties from multiple angles. Together, we’ll provide a 360-degree approach to main street economic development that prioritizes advancing equity and inclusion in the most valuable commercial areas of a town or city.”

“The Diversity on Main Collaborative allows us to bridge the gap between what black and minority-owned businesses offer and what they need from a community to thrive,” said Anne-Marie Knight, BBA Executive Director. “Working with the City of New London and its downtown stakeholders will allow us to create a template we can share with other Connecticut communities, creating a vital network of successful entrepreneurs and improving economic vitality in distressed areas.”

“Through the Amplify Fund, we are committed to continuing our partnership with organizations like Connecticut Main Street Center that work hand-in-hand with community members in the field to provide the critical resources and programming necessary to truly make a difference,” said Dominique Goss, Executive Director of the M&T Charitable Foundation. “At M&T, addressing the institutionalized and systemic issues preventing disadvantaged communities from accessing opportunities and achieving long-term success is key to our mission as a community bank. We are proud to provide the Amplify Fund as a difference-making resource in the communities we serve.” 

First announced in May 2022, the Amplify Fund is a $25 million philanthropic investment as part of the merger between People’s United Bank and M&T Bank. Powered by the M&T Charitable Foundation, the Amplify Fund is a one-time supplemental charitable program to provide further support in the legacy People’s United communities. The first round of funding totaled more than $11.8 million to 105 nonprofit organizations and focused on equity and environmental initiatives, mission-driven and capacity-building work, community and tenant organizing, and financial empowerment and education for individuals and small businesses. 

Phase II of the Amplify Fund focused on providing funding, for up to three years, to nonprofit collaboratives working together toward a common goal for solving a specific social issue, to help advance equity in the following key areas of focus: 

  • Family Stability: Affordable housing, food security, and access to quality and affordable childcare.
  • Income & Wealth Equity: Employment, small business development, homeownership, and financial empowerment initiatives.
  • Workforce Development: Education and training opportunities focused on upskilling and career pathways in high-growth sectors leading to economic prosperity.
  • Health Equity: Access to quality and affordable healthcare, with a priority on youth mental health and women and infant health.

The Amplify Fund is designed to drive sustainable impact that is equitable, accessible, and responsive to local needs. Regional representatives of the bank will continue to meet with local leaders to help inform the strategic direction for the Fund’s third round. 

Learn More

For more information on CMSC, its members and programs, visit CMSC’s website. For more information on the Amplify Fund, including the full list of grant recipients in New England and Metro New York, please visit the Amplify Fund 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

About M&T Charitable Foundation

The M&T Charitable Foundation, the philanthropic arm of M&T Bank, is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charitable organization founded in 1993 and funded by M&T Bank. The M&T Charitable Foundation awards nearly $40 million in grants per year to thousands of nonprofit organizations focused on improving the quality of life in the areas the bank serves. M&T Bank Corporation is a financial holding company headquartered in Buffalo, New York. M&T’s principal banking subsidiary, M&T Bank, provides banking products and services in 12 states across the eastern U.S. from Maine to Virginia and Washington, D.C. Trust-related services are provided in select markets in the U.S. and abroad by M&T’s Wilmington Trust-affiliated companies and by M&T Bank. For more information on M&T Bank, visit www.mtb.com. 

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Everything Old is New Again: How the Windsor Historical Society is making the town’s past modern & accessible

Everything Old is New Again:

How the Windsor Historical Society is making the town’s history modern & accessible

CMSC recently talked to Doug Shipman, Windsor Historical Society’s Executive Director to learn how they’re engaging Windsor’s diverse residents, partnering with the downtown, and going viral on Facebook.

As a New England state, Connecticut has a long history, and as home to the first English settlement, Windsor lays claim as Connecticut’s first town, and correspondingly the state’s first downtown. So it’s not surprising that like other Connecticut towns, Windsor has a Historical Society to preserve and share the stories of its past. What is surprising is how proactively this historical society is working to bridge its history with its present, making a point to tell everyone’s stories – not just offer the traditional perspectives – in addition to spotlighting the town’s current diverse demographics. They’re also refreshingly open to embracing new technologies and working with a myriad of partners to reach new audiences.  


Celebrating All Residents & Their Stories

Windsor Historical Society (WHS) was established in 1921 to prepare for Windsor’s 300-year anniversary in 1933. At the time, the Historical Society was focused on preserving its colonial past, buying their first building – the current Strong-Howard House – within their first four years. That focus on preserving colonial era history would remain until only very recently. Doug Shipman, WHS Executive Director, notes that as the town edges towards its 400-year anniversary, they’ve been changing their focus to be more representative of the town’s current demographics and to celebrate and share the histories of all of Windsor’s residents.

While Windsor was ninety-eight percent white in 1921, it’s now forty-eight percent white, fifty-two percent people of color. In fact, Doug notes it’s one of the most diverse towns in CT. To help reflect this, the WHS had a nine-foot tall map of the town made that they bring to public events. They then took pictures of residents and added them to the map where the person lives. To date, over one thousand residents can now see themselves pictured on the map with friends and neighbors. To Doug, this exercise has dual achievements: it helps people see that they’re all a part of the Windsor community and also lets them know the WHS is there for them. “It’s kind of our way of bringing a little bit of the Historical Society into the downtown and people seeing, ‘hey, the Historical Society is kind of a cool, modern, history-is-fun kind of place, not this stodgy old brown furniture thing.”


Collaboration Over Competition

In addition to engaging residents and visitors directly, Doug is also quick to credit collaboration as one of the keys to their success. The Historical Society makes an effort to partner with downtown businesses and organizations like CMSC member First Town Downtown to amplify each other’s events and work. WHS has also been involved in the town’s tourism efforts for a long time, with WHS and other arts and culture organizations playing a large role in the overall nature and quality of the community. The Historical Society was one of the founders of the Windsor Arts and Museums Association (WAMA), a collection of seven museums and attraction sites people can visit, including art museums, the CT Valley Tobacco museum, a vintage radio museum, Loomis Chaffee Mercy Gallery, Oliver Ellsworth Homestead (the third U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice and framer of the Constitution), and the Windsor Freedom Trail sites.

His approach is optimistic and pragmatic. “I endeavor to say yes to partnering with others. I try to avoid the idea of scarcity, but rather collaborate on funding,” Doug says, noting that they can do more by working together. He talks excitedly about UConn Department of History Professor Fionna Vernal who’s been working with WHS, South Windsor’s Wood Memorial Library and Bloomfield’s Wintonbury Historical Society to get grant funding for an online oral history collecting platform called Their Story.

He adds that this is a great example of why it’s important to collaborate, not compete. Each of the three organizations has a particular strength that they focus on. When someone is looking for something WHS doesn’t offer, they’re happy to recommend their colleagues, and they do the same in return for WHS.


Using New Approaches

Beyond partnering with local and regional organizations, WHS is open to using new technology to further engage audiences. Doug muses how people used to think they had to physically get people through their doors because they feared if you put something online no one would come. Now it’s the opposite. To meet this new mindset, they offer a lot of information online – Black histories and oral histories, even the last seventy-five years of Windsor High School yearbooks.  They also partnered with First Town Downtown and the Chamber of Commerce to create a virtual walking tour that bridges attractions separated by the town’s geography. With their proximity to Bradley Airport, the walking tour also occasionally attracts travelers who may have long layovers and want to get out of the airport for a little while.

Doug notes that their staff does a great job of posting to Facebook, with the archivist, curator, community history specialist, and the office manager taking turns so it’s not overwhelming for any one of them. And it’s working – several of their photos have gone viral, with tens of thousands of people seeing their images. Doug loves it. “It’s great because a lot of people see themselves in it and share it and that’s what we want, people relating to their history.” He adds, “That’s their memory. They’re trying to make a connection between what we’re doing, the history we’re presenting and their memory, and that’s how people learn and have an emotional attachment to history and become fans and love history, because of that personal connection.”

To learn more about the Windsor Historical Society or view their upcoming events, visit their website.


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 www.ctmainstreet.org.

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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

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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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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.

 

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 www.ctmainstreet.org.

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Press Release: CT Main Street Center Announces 2023 Awards of Excellence Winners

CT Main Street Center Announces 2023 Awards of Excellence Winners

New “Downtown Hero” award honors late Rep. Quentin Williams

For Immediate Release – June 1, 2023

(Hartford, CT) – The Connecticut Main Street Center is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2023 Awards of Excellence. The six awards recognize communities and individuals for their outstanding contributions to downtown vibrancy. Three of the awards honor CMSC member communities for their efforts to spur local vibrancy, while another two recognize state officials for their leadership in effectuating positive change in Connecticut’s downtowns. This year CMSC is also unveiling a new award category named in honor of the late Representative Quentin “Q” Williams that celebrates his collaborative and tireless advocacy for Main Streets.

“We are thrilled to share the fantastic work happening every day in our downtowns across the state and to champion the individuals who have meaningful impact on Connecticut’s Main Streets,” said Michelle McCabe, CMSC Executive Director. “All of our award winners deserve to be in the spotlight for their efforts to add vitality and life to their downtowns. The cumulative effect is a constellation of lively and prosperous downtowns across the state that benefits all of us.”

Awards of Excellence

These awards honor CMSC members – the people, communities and organizations – whose exceptional efforts are contributing to thriving downtowns in Connecticut.

  • Town of Berlin – Berlin is being recognized for their economic development efforts in the Kensington Village area. Utilizing CMSC’s Main Street approach, they leveraged investment in the $18 million mixed-use Steele Center to create a new village center, bringing small businesses, jobs, and vitality to the area.
  • Norwich Community Development Corporation – NCDC is being recognized for the creation of a new mural series celebrating art, history and new beginnings, as well as the Parklet Program powered by Archatrak®, both of which are bolstering the downtown’s economic vibrancy while creating a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.
  • Thomaston Economic Development Commission – Thomaston EDC is a new member of CMSC and is being recognized for their enthusiastic efforts to revitalize their Main Street, notably creating an incremental plan to revitalize their downtown through the collaborative efforts of the EDC and several local organizations.

The Quentin Williams Downtown Hero Award

This new award honors the legacy of state Rep. Quentin “Q” Williams. Q was a great friend of CMSC and a champion for all of Connecticut’s downtowns. This award honors those who embody his greatest strengths, including tireless advocacy, working collaboratively to achieve common goals, bringing a multitude of voices to the fore, and working to create downtowns that are inclusive and welcoming to all.

  • Sarah Nielsen, Simsbury Main Street Partnership, is being recognized for her herculean efforts to aid Simsbury’s businesses during the Covid pandemic, tireless support which continues to today, and her exceptional devotion to Simsbury’s Main Street district.

“I couldn’t imagine a better inaugural Downtown Hero Award recipient than Sarah,” said Ms. McCabe. “She lives and breathes Main Street, with her enthusiasm and influence stretching far beyond Simsbury.”

The Jack Shannahan Award for Public Service

This award recognizes public and private sector individuals and organizations that exemplify a high standard of leadership with a deep commitment to the success of Connecticut’s Main Streets.

  • Liz Shapiro, CT Office of the Arts, is being recognized for instituting several statewide programs, including the Cultural District program and AIR Collaborative, that contribute to the vibrancy of Connecticut’s downtowns by enhancing their unique sense of place and supporting the local creative economy through jobs and visitors.

CMSC Founder’s Award, presented by Eversource

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.

  • Kimberley Parsons-Whitaker, DECD, is being recognized for her 20+ years of service to Connecticut’s downtowns and Main Streets. Ms. Parsons-Whitaker 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.

The Awards of Excellence were created in 2003 to recognize outstanding projects, individuals and partnerships in community efforts to bring traditional downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts back to life, socially and economically. This year’s awards will be presented at an awards celebration on June 20th in New Haven.

You can find more information about the award winners and CMSC 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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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

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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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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

Continue reading

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

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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


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