(Hartford, CT – May 29, 2012) – The Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC) will hold its 2012 Awards Gala at the Little Theatre of Manchester at Cheney Hall, the downtown revitalization organization announced today. The annual event honoring outstanding examples of restoration, rehabilitation and complementary new construction in Connecticut’s downtowns will be held on June 11th. Participants will be treated to an array of special events, including an Open House featuring newly renovated, “green” loft apartments in the heart of Downtown Manchester and an outdoor “Welcome to Main Street” reception on the theatre’s portico, to be followed by the awards presentation in the storied theatre.
Cheney Hall was designed in 1866 by Hammat Billings of Boston for renowned silk industrialists the Cheney Brothers Company. The Victorian Hall was built as a theatre and cultural community center for Manchester. Cheney Hall opened its doors in 1867, hosting a variety of theatrical and musical events, galas, and lectures by prominent speakers of the day, including Presidents Grover Cleveland and William H. Taft and Susan B. Anthony. The Hall served many functions over the next six decades, including as a library, lecture and concert hall, theatre, armory (during the Spanish American War), banquet hall, hospital, school, church and tea room. In 1978, Cheney Hall was designated a National Historic Landmark and donated to the town three years later. It was subsequently leased to the Little Theatre of Manchester.
The Little Theatre of Manchester (LTM) is a theatre company of, by and for the community. Since 1961, LTM has produced a total of 577 performances and 133 major productions, playing to a total estimated audience of a quarter of a million people. Over 1,000 non-professional actors and 700 volunteers have performed in the shows or worked backstage or on the business end of the theatre company. In 1982, the Town of Manchester approached LTM about taking over operations of Cheney Hall once restorations were complete. The award-winning renovations were finished in 1991, thanks in large part to LTM’s fundraising efforts, and the theatre company moved into the newly restored Cheney Hall, managing the facility for the Town of Manchester.
The Cheney Hall portico will be the site of the CMSC “Welcome to Main Street” reception which begins at 5:00 PM, to be followed at 6:30 PM by the awards presentation in the theatre. Prior to the reception, attendees are invited to a special Open House at 869 Main Street in Downtown Manchester. From 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM, guests can tour “green” loft apartments in a landmark renewable and energy-efficient building. The newly renovated apartments represent an adaptive reuse of a circa 1894 mixed-use property in the heart of Downtown. The building features 12 apartments with contemporary finishes and energy efficient appliances and fixtures. The apartments at 869 Main Street are also home to the first viable, “hybrid” commercial solar thermal and gas-fired heating system in the State. The three-story building also includes over 12,000 square feet of office and retail/restaurant space on the ground floor, including The Landmark Café, where friends and family can meet and dine together in a warm, relaxed atmosphere. Manchester Hardware and an insurance brokerage are also housed in the retail portion. During the Open House, owner John Lee will discuss how he assembled the funds and technology to complete the apartment’s renovations. Additionally, energy contractors and the property’s developer will be on-site to answer any questions visitors may have about the building.
The Connecticut Main Street Center holds its Awards Gala in a different Connecticut venue each year as a way to showcase the many interesting and vibrant downtowns around the State. Long considered Manchester’s town center, the Downtown is home to nearly 190 businesses and organizations serving both the immediate neighborhood and the town as a whole, as well as neighboring regions. Like 869 Main Street, many of these businesses are situated in mixed-use properties with shops and restaurants on the first floor and housing or office space on the upper levels. Downtown Manchester also supports many other community institutions, including numerous churches, as well as the Mary Cheney Library and the Center Memorial Park.
The Downtown Manchester Special Services District is located within this area, and consists of 134 properties. The district was created in 1991 as a way to promote the growth and prosperity of Downtown. The Downtown area also incorporates the Main Street Historic District listed in the National Register for Historic Places for its large collection of historic commercial buildings built primarily at the turn of the century during the height of the Cheney silk mills. One such building, Dye House, built in 1914, is located in the Cheney Brothers National Historic Landmark District. Fifty-seven modern one-, two- and three-bedroom apartment homes were created in this adaptive reuse project while still retaining the historic charm of the building’s structure. The former mill building was redeveloped by The Simon Konover Company, one of the sponsors of the Awards Gala, in conjunction with Carter Realty, LLC and New Castle Housing Ventures.
The Connecticut Main Street Center Awards Gala has become the highlight of the year for CMSC and its member network. Award winners are chosen through a competitive process. This year’s winners were recently announced and have been recognized by a number of publications throughout the State. The winning Main Street projects and individuals will be presented citations from Governor Malloy during the Awards Gala.
The “Welcome to Main Street” reception is sponsored by Fuss & O’Neill. Webster Bank is sponsoring the Community Spirit Award for Business Retention and the Main Street Property Owner of the Year Award. Wells Fargo is sponsoring the Award of Excellence for Main Street Partnership. Additional Awards Gala sponsors include First Niagara Bank Foundation, Colliers International, Connecticut Community Investment Corporation, Connecticut Economic Development Association, CDM Smith, Corporation for Independent Living, National Development Council, The Simon Konover Company, Connecticut Economic Resource Center, and ForeSight Technologies, Inc.