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Tag: Dedicated Management

CMSC Webinar – Constructing Downtown: Storrs Center 20 Year Update

CMSC Webinar

Constructing Downtown: Storrs Center 20 Year Update

Webinar Summary

Twenty-four years ago, the Town of Mansfield and UCONN had a vision to create a vibrant, walkable, mixed-use downtown. Today, Storrs Center is home to 60 businesses, 1300 residents, and boasts civic space and multi-use buildings. So what’s next?

In this webinar, Cynthia van Zelm, Mansfield Downtown Partnership Executive Director, shares share her firsthand experiences and lessons learned in downtown management.

Presentation Highlights

  • The Three Stages of Development

    Mansfield Downtown Partnership, Inc. has been involved in the construction of Storrs Center from the very beginning. Its role has changed to meet the needs of the project: planning, construction, and management


    • 1999 – Mansfield Town Council forms “Town Green Committee”
    • 2001 – Mansfield Downtown Partnership, Inc. to oversee redevelopment efforts
    • 2003 – Partnership selects master developer
    • 2003-2006 – Partnership guides Town, UConn, and master developer through approval process
    • 2007 – Design guidelines approved


    • 2011 – Construction Begins
    • 2012 – First building of Phase 1A Storrs Center opens
    • 2017 – Construction of “Storrs Center” complete


    • 2018 – DOWNTOWN STORRS introduced for whole district
    • 2018- Today – Key management activities include: providing business support, operations (e.g. enhancing public spaces, etc.) , working with property owners, promotion and marketing of the district, and hosting community events
  • Mansfield Downtown Partnership, Inc. Organization & Budget

    The Board of Directors is made up of:

    • 3 Town of Mansfield positions (appointed)
    • 3 UConn positions (appointed)
    • 2 Student representatives (selected)
    • 6 Elected positions (voted on by “membership” base)
    • 2 ex officio positions:
      • Mansfield Mayor
      • UConn President or designee

    Staff includes:

    • Executive Director
    • Senior Communications Manager
    • Event Coordinator
    • Administrative Assistant (part-time)


    Their annual budget is $405,000.

    • Town of Mansfield – $175,000
    • UConn Contribution – $175,000
    • Economic Development Service Fee – $40,000
    • “Membership” Dues – $15,000
  • Lessons Learned

    • Clear direction/everyone on same page as the mission
    • Dedicated and funded staff is key
    • Be ready to pivot
    • Bring on and mentor a staff team that meets evolving needs
    • Try not to take things personally

View the Recording

Additional Resources

Professional Affiliates

Several of the photos of Storrs Center were taken by CMSC Professional Affiliate Levin Aerial Works

About Cynthia van Zelm

Cynthia van Zelm, is Executive Director of Mansfield Downtown Partnership. She was involved in Downtown Storrs from its inception and now concentrates on managing and promoting the downtown and Mansfield’s economic development.

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Hiring a Main Street Executive Action Kit

Hiring a Main Street Executive Action Kit

Hiring a Main Street Executive – whether for the first time or as you bring on a new leader – is an exciting time. It’s a great opportunity for the organization to reposition itself and infuse it with new life. However, without strong leadership, hiring a new Main Street Executive can be delayed or worse, the wrong person might be hired.

To assist in achieving the best outcome, Connecticut Main Street Center developed an action kit to support downtown organizations in hiring a new leader. This action kit includes a workbook and editable templates and checklists. It will guide you step-by-step through the hiring process and provide you with estimated timeframes you can use throughout the entire process.

Included in the Hiring Your Main Street Executive Action Kit:

  • Step-by-Step guide available as an online course or PDF
  • Action Kit Overview Checklist
  • Outgoing Executive Director Exit Survey Template
  • Community Survey Template
  • Community Focus Group Presentation Template
  • Job Description Template
  • Connecticut Job Marketing Resources
  • First Round Interview Scorecard Template
  • Second Round Interview Scorecard Template
  • Reference Check Template
  • Onboarding Checklist
  • “A Day in the Life of a Main Street Executive” Video

Purchase the Hiring a Main Street Executive Action Kit


Interested in learning more? Check out our webinar on the 7 Steps to Successfully Hire a Main Street Executive.

O.3.2 Strategic Plan

O.3.2 Strategic Plan


Update or develop a strategic plan with stakeholder input and informed by your district’s assets.


A strategic plan outlines the key goals and initiatives you want to undertake in your district over a period of time.


Review the “Main Street Planning for Success” guide from Main Street New Jersey for steps to guide you through the strategic planning process.

Elements of a good strategic plan:

  • Update every 3 years.
  • Develop through an inclusive process gathering district and community input to keep the pulse on the district’s needs through focus group events, online surveys, and/or other strategies.
  • Reflects opportunities driven by local and national trends informed by market research and analysis.
  • Reflects the district’s business, building, historic, public spaces, art, and business clusters inventory.
  • Includes measurable outcomes and benchmarks.


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



Email questions to

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