Like many of Connecticut’s young adults, I grew up in a suburb here before heading out into the world, studying at a big-city college and travelling, visiting cities from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon, from England to Italy before returning again. My new perspective was further enhanced by my current work at the Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC), and previously at the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority.
Having seen tiny towns with Main Streets a block long and cities miles wide and centuries deep, I know that livability is not necessarily dependent on size – or on any one thing, for that matter. Instead, thriving downtowns take a holistic approach to their success, weaving their identity and culture into every facet of their make-up. From Paris’s chic, walkable avenues with its shops and cafes, to Portland, Oregon’s love of eccentric outdoorsmen, “Keep Portland weird” motto and buses full of bike racks, these towns encourage visitors to stay and play in a way that’s unique to them and appealing to others.
As much as I love Connecticut’s variety, from the cute shops of Mystic to the exotic restaurants in Middletown, we need to do more to encourage well-rounded downtowns and to make them more accessible, both within themselves and with each other. More affordable housing, more means of transportation, more ways to get out and enjoy our Main Streets – that’s what I’m advocating for, both as a part of CMSC and through my involvement with Young Energetic Solutions (YES).
CMSC’s mission is to inspire great Connecticut downtowns, Main Street by Main Street, through customized technical assistance, education and advocacy. YES offers a way for young people to get involved and create neighborhoods that promote economic vitality and drive growth. In February, we’ll co-host a forum to bring town planners and young people together to learn from and listen to each other on the type of Connecticut we’d like to create. After all, if the rest of the world can do it, so can we.
Connecticut Main Street Center and Young Energetic Solutions (YES) are presenting: Fostering Communities that Attract Young People – A Forum on What Young Professionals Want in Downtown living and How Towns Can Attract and Keep Them There. For more information or to register for the event, click here.
*Christine Schilke is Connecticut Main Street Center communications and office manager, and a participant in Partnership’s Young Energetic Solutions.
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