Press Release – For Immediate Release
February 21, 2019

Media Contact:
Christine Schilke
Marketing & Development Director


HARTFORD, February 21, 2019 –  Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC) is pleased to announce that for the first time in its history, it will donate 10% of its annual awards sponsorship proceeds (up to $5,000) to an organization in the host city, the Willimantic Whitewater Partnership. The funds will be used towards a new handrail along the riverfront that will provide the public with safe access to this natural asset.

CMSC recently announced downtown Willimantic as the host of its 2019 VIBRANT MAIN STREETS awards celebration on June 3rd. The Willimantic Whitewater Partnership (WWP) is dedicated to recapturing the waterfront of the Willimantic River by developing an urban waterfront and whitewater park, increasing safe access to the river for residents, restoring the environment, and celebrating Willimantic’s cultural history.
“Since completing an EPA brownfields-funded clean-up of the former mill site (and future park), public access is greatly improved butsafety remains a serious concern. By helping fund a handrail on the mill ruins abutting the river, the CT Main Street Center will allow families and children to be and feel safe while enjoying the beauty and power of the Willimantic River,” said Jana Roberson, WWP President.

In 2006, WWP purchased the 3.4 acre former textile mill property on Bridge Street in downtown Willimantic. Since then, the group’s efforts have focused on extensive site clean-up and working with the town and state to complete in 2016 the Willimantic River Trail linking three hiking trail networks. The new handrail, located on the parcel, will complement WWP’s overall development plan for the area which includes the new Rio Iluminado energy-generating art installation. WWP partnered with LAGI (the Land Art Generator Initiative), the Institute for Sustainable Energy (ISE) at Eastern CT State University, and the CT Department of Economic and Community Development’s Office of the Arts (COA) on the public art installation that generates its own renewable energy.

The idea of leaving a lasting legacy for the host city of CMSC’s awards was the brainchild of the CMSC Board of Directors who felt it was important to support a catalytic project that would enhance the downtown and be utilized by the community. The Board recognized the transformative nature of the Rio Iluminado art installation, and wanted to find a small, tangible project that would complement these efforts. “We view this as a win-win,” said CMSC Fund Development Chair Ted DeSantos. “Our sponsors support this event because they know our awards bring together Main Street professionals and local officials from all across the state to celebrate award-winning best practices. This year, our sponsors will have the added benefit of knowing that the more they contribute, the more they’ll be supporting the Willimantic community in addition to the great work CMSC does helping revitalize our downtowns and Main Streets. Celebrating a community’s assets and linking them to the downtown are what we’re all about – whether that’s in Willimantic or any one of our 80-plus communities across the state,” said Mr. DeSantos.
CMSC is off to a great start with its sponsorship campaign and was thrilled to learn recently that Eastern Connecticut State University will be the event’s Title Sponsor with a $10,000 commitment.
“We are delighted to serve as the title sponsor for the Connecticut Main Street Center’s upcoming celebration in Willimantic.  Willimantic is not only a classic New England mill town enjoying renewal and revitalization, it is a college town, and Eastern’s faculty and students are proud to be active members of the community,” said Dr. Elsa Nuñez, President of ECSU.
“Eastern has also been an active participant in the Willimantic Whitewater Partnership since its inception. From student volunteers cleaning up the riverbanks to the work of interns and staff in our Institute for Sustainable Energy, we have provided a range of support to the Partnership’s efforts to maintain a living link between the Willimantic River and downtown.
“I was especially thrilled to see the results of the 2018 art competition to showcase the Whitewater Partnership’s commitment to the environment. ‘Rio Iluminado,’ the creation of Pirie Associates, architect Lindsay Suter and sculptor Gar Waterman, promises to be a stunning display of the relationship that communities should have with their natural surroundings. The CMSC celebration in Willimantic this June is one more way we can continue our work together,” said Dr. Nuñez.
Fuss & O’Neill, the statewide leader in community development planning and engineering, has also committed to be the event’s Reception Sponsor.
“I am absolutely delighted that all the hard work our community had done has led us to recognition by so many who understand what it takes to rebuild our municipal centers of economic growth,” said state Representative Susan Johnson, who represents Windham. “The 2019 VIBRANT MAIN STREETS Awards Celebration will most certainly inspire our local entrepreneurs and residents to greater measures.”
Award winners will be announced in March. More detail about the VIBRANT MAIN STREETS awards event in Downtown Willimantic can be found here.

Anyone interested in donating to CMSC can do so here. Those interested in sponsoring CMSC’s 2019 VIBRANT MAIN STREETS awards celebration can learn more here .


About Connecticut Main Street Center

CMSC’s mission is to be the catalyst that ignites Connecticut’s Main Streets as the cornerstone of thriving communities. CMSC is dedicated to community and economic development within the context of historic preservation, and is committed to bringing Connecticut’s commercial districts back to life socially and economically.

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