Downtown Update
Newsletter of the Connecticut Main Street Center 

Celebrating 20 Years of inspiring great Connecticut downtowns,  
Main Street by Main Street.
CHFA Wins National Award for Small Property Development; Includes CMSC's Come Home to Downtown Program

CHFA is presented with the Jack Shannahan Prize for Public Service at the CMSC Awards Gala in June.

The Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) was recently awarded the Robert C. Larson Workforce Housing Policy Award by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Terwilliger Center for Housing. The award recognizes exemplary state and local programs, policies, and practices that support the production, rehabilitation, or preservation of affordable and workforce housing.

CHFA won the award for its Small Multifamily Rental Development Strategy, a suite of programs and products that bring public and private financial resources and expertise together to create affordable housing. CHFA partnered with Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs) like LISC and the Greater New Haven Community Loan Fund and non-profits like CMSC after an assessment revealed nearly 10 percent of housing units in Connecticut are in buildings with five to nineteen units. CHFA's strategy centers on a partnership with the CDFIs who provide the knowledge and capacity to serve smaller properties and their owners with both financing and technical assistance. Through the program, CHFA has partnered with the CDFI's to efficiently create more than 2,200 units of affordable and mixed-income housing. CMSC's Come Home to Downtown program, which aims to bring housing above commercial space back to our downtowns (and for which CMSC and CHFA have received local awards), is part of the overall Small Multifamily Rental Development Strategy.

CMSC congratulates CHFA on winning this prestigious award, and is proud to partner with them on the Come Home to Downtown program. To learn more about ULI and the Roberty C. Larson Award, click
here .
CMSC's John Simone Receives National Development Council Certification

CMSC's President and CEO, John Simone, has received certification as a Historic Housing Development Finance Professional from the National Development Council (NDC). This is a professional credential given to individuals who successfully complete NDC's intensive historic housing development finance training series. The training provides individuals working in the field of housing development with instruction specific to historic housing projects.
Spotlight on 2015 Awards of Excellence:  Planning
Step by Step: Planning and Building a Downtown from Scratch

Mansfield Downtown Partnership  
Photo Credit: Kim Bova

The goal: To create a pedestrian-oriented town center for the whole community. This was accomplished by building public support for and guiding the development of the area adjacent to UConn's campus, civic institutions, existing commercial properties, and across the street from the regional high school and Town Hall. The result: Storrs Center.

Opportunities & Challenges:
  • For years, Town officials had talked about the need to create a commercial center for Mansfield which, through a quirky combination of historical conditions, sentiments of anti-development, and limited land ownership, had no discernible center.
  • Mansfield residents first supported the concept of a commercial district in the late 1990s. Residents had earned a reputation for being anti-development, however through several years and hundreds of public meetings, it turned out that residents were not opposed to all development - just bad development.
  • With the transformation of UConn's main campus in Storrs, university officials began to recognize the need for a "college town" to attract top students and faculty. The community and university alike desired a real downtown, with a mix of residences, a variety of things to do, and places to meet friends and neighbors.
  • In the past, the "town / gown" relationship had been strained - and at times contentious. In 2001, the Town of Mansfield and UConn formed the Mansfield Downtown Partnership to be the leading agency to guide the planning and development of Storrs Center. This Partnership is the key to the success of Storrs Center. 
  • The Mansfield Downtown Partnership embarked on what would become a decade-long process of gathering community input: building public support; acquiring requisite approvals; developing a master plan, then a municipal development plan; and creating new zoning for a downtown to match the community's vision of a welcoming place to live, to work and to gather as one community.
  • With the community's vision clearly articulated, the Partnership selected LeylandAlliance, LLC as the developer.  With its roots in New Urbanism, LeylandAlliance was the natural match for the community.
  • Throughout the course of planning, the Partnership and LeylandAlliance encountered several design-related issues, including zoning which did not allow housing; the site's proximity to wetlands and a vernal pool; and limited existing public infrastructure (e.g. water, sewer, gas). The Partnership and LeylandAlliance collaborated to create a Special Design District: guidelines that included descriptions of different neighborhoods within the project and regulations on building heights and setbacks; site utilization; building materials and colors; signage types, and more.
  • Just as the Partnership and LeylandAlliance secured the final approvals for new zoning for Storrs Center, the national economy hit its lowest point since the Great Depression. Undeterred, work continued toward the creation of a new downtown.
  • The projected cost for the full Storrs Center development is $220 million. Through the efforts of the Partnership, the Town has received over $25 million in state and federal funding for the public infrastructure to support the development. The rest is privately funded by LeylandAlliance and its partner EdR, who owns the rental apartments, The Oaks on the Square
Major Accomplishments:
  • Since the construction and leasing of Phases 1 and 2, the Town's Grand List has grown by 4%, even with a partial seven-year tax abatement. The Oaks on the Square apartments have been 100% leased since opening in August 2012, as are the commercial spaces in Storrs Center.
  • 33 business are open in Storrs Center, with four more expected to open in early 2015. The businesses in Storrs Center have created over 200 new full and part-time jobs.
  • Throughout construction, there have been over 100 construction workers employed on site each day.
  • The success of Storrs Center has inspired Mansfield residents to think of development differently.  The Town's Plan of Conservation & Development now places an emphasis on targeted, dense development in specific areas, with residents pointing to Storrs Center as evidence of success for walkable, mixed-use development.
Congratulations to the Mansfield Downtown Partnership!
Pictures from the 2015 Awards Gala have been posted to our Facebook page. Learn more about the winning initiatives and individuals here. 
Re-Mains of the Day 
New London Public Library Receives 3D Printer The Connecticut Small Business Development Center (CTSBDC) is providing a 3D printer to the City of New London to help foster innovation and create educational opportunities. The printer will be housed at the Public Library of New London, where a ribbon-cutting ceremony and demonstration where held recently to celebrate its launch. Tony Sheridan, President & CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Eastern Connecticut said, "Students will now be able to explore scientific concepts they've learned in a new and very engaging way, while our region's talented designers and 3D modelers have a means to instantly test new concepts. The entire community benefits from access to this technology." The library will offer classes on how to use the new equipment .
Metro Hartford Progress Points holds second forum on workforce development and access to jobs - Metro Hartford Progress Points, and initiative of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, is offering the second of three forums on Friday, November 20th. The conversation will focus on jobs, particularly the connection between higher-education and the workforce. Young professionals especially may be interested in this discussion as it centers on the future of jobs in the region. Asnuntuck Community College President Emeritus Dr. Martha McLeod will talk about the history of the manufacturing programs they've developed at the school (including the creation of bus routes to connect the town to campus), while Terri Wilson will talk about the new Hartford.Health.Works project and the potential for biomedical industry in the region.  In addition, Susan Winkler, Executive Director of Connecticut Insurance & Financial Services will talk about the future of insurance / financial services jobs and programs to prepare people for jobs in the industry, and Michael Goodman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Public Policy at UMass Dartmouth, will talk about work they've done in Massachusetts to better understand the manufacturing sector and the real hiring needs of employers. For more information, click here.

Free Webinar on Healthy Approaches to Placemaking - Interested in creative, low cost ways to making your community's built environment more supportive of healthy behaviors? Then join the free, informative webinar, "Healthy Approaches to Place Making" with Kate Rube, Vice President of the Project for Public Spaces and Jennifer Smith, Program Manager with the Kennedy Plaza's Downtown Providence Park Conservancy on December 3rd. Learn about the "lighter, quicker, cheaper" model that has been used successfully by planners in communities of all sizes and types across the US.  Click here for more information.     
President's Message 

Most people who know CMSC know we have a network of over 60 members across the state. But did you know that means nearly half of the state's population lives within our member towns? Realizing almost one out of two residents is directly affected by our work and that of our members makes what we do all the more vital. After all, having a strong downtown core is the foundation of a healthy community, increasing economic resiliency, enabling social interaction, and enlivening public spaces.
The issue of data - how it's collected, and perhaps more importantly, conveyed - is becoming an increasing topic of conversation. Understanding what information we need to best communicate the value of our downtowns (monetarily and otherwise) and make smarter decisions is of tremendous importance. That's one of the reasons we asked Chris Ortwein, Director of Retail Sq. Ft., a program of the New Haven Town Green Special Services District, to talk to our members about this issue during our recent BRIDGE Series event. Chris told them where to find relevant market data and how to use it to make decisions about the types of retail and consumer markets a district can feasibly attract.
There's no doubt knowledge is power. Pairing the right information with the right audience can transform ideas into action and create dynamic downtowns teeming with life, economic opportunity and free-spirited fun. CMSC is taking steps to collect and incorporate more data into the work we do to ensure our downtowns our highlighted in the best way possible, while providing the necessary tools for creating long-term vibrancy.
All of us at CMSC would like to wish you a safe, healthy and happy Thanksgiving!

Connecticut Main Street Center

c/o Eversource

PO Box 270 

Hartford, CT 06141



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November 2015
Vol. 15/Issue 11

Upcoming Events
MetroHartford Alliance Breakfast - Mind the Gap: Attracting and Retaining Young Leaders
November 19
More Info

Metro Hartford Progress Points Forum - Access to Better Jobs: Workforce Development and Job Growth
November 20
Register & More Info

CMSC Closed for
November 26

CMSC's Offices Closed
November 27

Webinar: Healthier Approaches to Place Making
December 3