New Year’s may be over, but the optimistic glow of a promising 2014 lingers, infusing us with enthusiasm as we embrace the challenges of assisting our downtowns in strengthening their local businesses and working to promote mixed-use development.
One of the biggest tasks before us is increasing technical assistance to the businesses and small merchants of Main Street. This is an underserved audience, especially as most state programs aimed at business creation and retention often focus on larger businesses, not the “mom and pop” retail and local food operations that are the true economic heart of our downtowns. Not only do we want to help these small enterprises grow their employees, but we want to assist them in creating healthy organizations that are able to thrive in all aspects: financially, commercially, organizationally.
The other big challenge for us this year is a positive one – growing pains. We accomplished so much in 2013 that we now have to plan for our next phase of growth. Last year was great for us as we made tremendous progress on our Come Home to Downtown program in partnership with the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) utilizing Community Investment Act (CIA) funds. This program aims to bring more housing above commercial space – also known as mixed-use development – back to our downtowns.
We’ve contracted with CHFA for a second year, but with the State’s $1.5 billion investment in transit, more needs to be done to bring this type of development to those towns impacted by the CTfastrak busway and New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail line. We already held several meetings among our staff and Board on how we can best promote mixed-use development among our downtowns and municipalities and will continue seeking opportunities to convene the private and public leaders to implement these functional, dynamic and multi-modal social centers.
Christine A. Schilke is the communications & office manager for the Connecticut Main Street Center.
Click here to read previous blogs.