Be Here Now
Connecticut is showing it’s the place to be in 2021
n the pages of Connecticut Town & City magazine, we have featured dozens of stories about economic development over the years. These innovative ideas are the foundation of town and city life in the state of Connecticut – whether we are boosting businesses, funding the arts, or capping a stubborn brownfield, our state relies on municipalities to be vessels of economic growth and to be a welcome home to residents old and new alike. In this special issue of Connecticut Town & City: Innovative Ideas, we will bring together a wide array of these ideas that helped a municipality say to prospective businesses and residents – “Welcome to Connecticut, we are ready to do business.” So why economic development? Why now? When we bring on to The Municipal Voice, our podcast, a Mayor or First Selectman, or a State Official or Legislator, we often ask them how they feel about the future of our state. And with barely any caveats, the answers are almost 100% positive.
Part of that is, of course, due to the pandemic. It’s hard to talk about anything let alone economic development without mentioning the disastrous effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. When businesses closed down in early-2020, with no end in sight, it was easy to see writing on the wall. But something strange happened. Towns and cities across the state rallied around their small businesses, especially restaurants, enabling many to stay open. And CT residents became the model citizens of the pandemic. After an initial scary burst as we were still figuring out exactly what our best course of action was going to be, CT residents masked up, socially distanced, and worked together. This collaborative spirit allowed our state to become one of the success stories in vaccine roll-out. It turns out that many residents from bordering states noticed that – with articles in the New York Times and discussions on the Today Show talking about the influx of residents coming to Connecticut and the peace of mind it gives them to be here. No wonder so
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many are optimistic about the future of our state. The key is to build upon this foundation. The Connecticut General Statues 7-136 gives municipalities the authority to create Economic Development Commissions to do just that: “The commission shall conduct research into the economic conditions and trends in in its municipality, shall make recommendations to appropriate officials and agencies of its municipality regarding action to improve its economic condition and development, shall seek to coordinate the activities of and cooperate with unofficial bodies organized to promote such economic development and may advertise and may prepare, print and distribute books, maps, charts and pamphlets which in its judgment will further its official purposes.” CCM wants you to know that we are your partners in this growth. And that with the innovative ideas contained in this book, you can let everyone know that you mean business.
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OFFICERS President Luke A. Bronin, Mayor of Hartford 1st Vice President Jayme J. Stevenson, First Selectman of Darien 2nd Vice President Thomas Dunn, Mayor of Wolcott DIRECTORS Elinor Carbone, Mayor of Torrington Justin Elicker, Mayor of New Haven John A. Elsesser, Town Manager of Coventry
Inside this issue...
Ridgefield Cultural District
Carl P. Fortuna, Jr., First Selectman of Old Saybrook Laura Francis, First Selectman of Durham Joseph P. Ganim, Mayor of Bridgeport
Berlin6 Old Saybrook Geofencing
Matthew Hoey, First Selectman of Guilford
Berlin Yellow Pages
John L. Salomone, City Manager, Norwich
West Haven Enterprise Zone
Barbara M. Henry, First Selectman of Roxbury
Laura Hoydick, Mayor of Stratford Catherine Iino, First Selectwoman of Killingworth Matthew S. Knickerbocker, First Selectman of Bethel Marcia A. Leclerc, Mayor of East Hartford Curt Leng, Mayor of Hamden Rudolph P. Marconi, First Selectman of Ridgefield W. Kurt Miller, Chief Fiscal Officer, Ansonia Edmond V. Mone, First Selectman of Thomaston
Hartford Parkville Market
Danbury Career Academy
New Haven Loans
Old Lyme EDC
Michael Passero, Mayor of New London
Brandon Robertson, Town Manager of Avon
Erin E. Stewart, Mayor of New Britain Mark B. Walter, Town Administrator of Columbia PAST PRESIDENTS Susan S. Bransfield, First Selectwoman of Portland Mark D. Boughton, Mayor of Danbury Michael Freda, First Selectman of North Haven Neil O’Leary, Mayor of Waterbury Herbert Rosenthal, Former First Selectman of Newtown
CCM STAFF Executive Director, Joe DeLong
Ridgefield Free WiFi
Windsor Locks Train Station
Wilton Library Learning Center
South Windsor Distribution
New Britain Data Center
New Haven Harbor
Museum, Trails, and Fairs
Deputy Director, Ron Thomas Managing Editor, Kevin Maloney
NEW HAVEN TERMINAL, INC.
Connecticut Town & City
The Economic Development section of CT&C is sponsored by New Haven Terminal, Inc. Learn more: www.nhterminal.com
EN TE AV
A MIN L R
Writer, Christopher Gilson
Layout & Design, Matthew Ford
© 2021 Connecticut Conference of Municipalities
MAY 2021 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | 3
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Our Rich Cultural Heritage
Ridgefield becomes first in state with official Cultural District designation
onnecticut is one of the most culturally rich states in America, though many might not realize it. At one time, New Haven was known for being the launching ground of Broadway Plays. Oklahoma, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music all premiered at the Shubert, and that’s just Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals – the list goes on. And it’s not just New Haven, the Wadsworth in Hartford has Wyeths and Van Goghs, there are opera houses up and down the coast, historic homesteads going back centuries. Municipalities are finally able to begin showing that off with the creation of the official Cultural District designation. The overarching goal was to promote those cultural treasures that exist in every nook and cranny throughout the state, giving municipalities a tool “to promote the education, cultural, economic and general welfare of the public through the marketing of arts and culture attractions, the encouragement of artists and artistic and cultural enterprises and the promotion of tourism.” The idea to create an official Cultural District designation for municipalities stretched back almost a decade before it was carried across the finish line by former State Representation John Frey in 2019. The law became effective in October 2019 with guidelines becoming available around February 2020, which now looks like a portentous date in hindsight – over the next year, almost all plans that our towns and cities had to work on marketing and tourism would be pushed to the wayside in favor of the much more pressing public health crisis. By the end of 2020, municipalities were beginning to gear up for the eventual reopening of our state after a year in pandemic mode. Restaurants and cultural providers were devastated by the pandemic – many were forced to close, some permanently. Adding an official cultural district designation could certainly help boost tourism and the economy once people are up and out once again. Liz Shapiro, Director of Arts, Preservation and Museums with the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), she noted that the program was designed so that there’s a lot of flexibility, that this program will work best for municipalities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first town that took advantage of the Cultural District program was Ridgefield, the town that Rep. Frey represented. “This program recognizes the essential role that local arts and cultural resources play in building healthy communities over the long-term,” she said in a press release celebrating the first in the state designation. “I applaud Ridgefield for taking the initiative to establish
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the district and ensuring that arts and culture are at the heart of their planning efforts moving forward.” According to that release, the district encompasses downtown Ridgefield and surrounding areas that stretch from Keeler Tavern in the south portion through Ballard Park and the Ridgefield Library in the north, and a half mile to the east to the Ridgefield Theater Barn and Guild of Artists. It includes many cultural attractions, including the Pride Arts Center, Conservatory of Dance, Prospector Theater, Scott House, ACT of CT and the Ridgefield Playhouse. According to Shapiro, this is neither an overnight process, but it also shouldn’t take years either. The Cultural Districts Standards and Criteria are available on the DECD portal and lay out the requirements for municipalities to establish a Cultural District. Before applying to the state, towns and cities should assess the inventory and location of cultural assets in town. This should give a broad outline of where the Cultural District should be located. Once you confirm that you are eligible by reviewing the standards and criteria, you submit a letter of intent with your Designated Regional Service Organization (DRSO). For Ridgefield that would be the Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut. The standards and criteria say a municipality must hold a vote to approve the creation of the Cultural District, meet the required definition, be walkable, have cultural facilities and assets as well as public infrastructure and amenities. The municipality must also pass a resolution following a community input meeting and form a Cultural District Commission. The commission that oversees the Cultural District “should represent a diverse mix of organizations and businesses, with a majority representing the arts/culture community as well as working and/or living in the district. A minimum, the members should include one municipal representative, one local cultural/arts council representative, one cultural organization, at least one artist that lives and/or works in the district, for-profit creative businesses, and a local business or chamber of commerce. This mix was created by DECD to keep the program open and available to both small towns and large cities – which Shapiro says will keep the voices from the cultural community at the table in terms of decision making, planning, and strategy. Ridgefield’s Advisory Council subcommittee is comprised of representation from the Board of Selectman, the Historic District Commission, the Ridgefield Arts
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT The Ridgefield Playhouse’s recent virtual presentation of ‘Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad’
Council, the Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center, The Ridgefield Playhouse, the Ridgefield Library, the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Thrown Stone Theater Company, the Ridgefield Historical Society, the Ridgefield Guild of Artists, TownVibe Media, and the West Lane Inn. The final step in the process is a walkthrough, but because of the situation, Ridgefield actually completed theirs virtually. The hope is that moving forward as more towns and cities apply for Cultural Districts, they will be able to perform these walkthroughs in-person. Much of the benefit from a Cultural District will be from the ability to market the cultural district to not just residents and tourists, but also to businesses that might like to associate themselves with a cultural center. This can help towns and cities not only drive economic growth, but perhaps expand their tax base as a community forms around the Cultural District. DECD will be providing marketing assistance to qualifying Cultural Districts in the form of in-kind marketing, promotion, and additional resources via the tourism websites and promotion by CT Office of the Arts and their regional DRSOs. To qualify, Cultural Districts must apply to the CT Office of the Arts, arrange a site visit, and discuss plans, assets, and goals for the district. There are additional benefits for towns that are part of SustainableCT, as the creation of the Cultural District will add action points towards their future or current
certifications. Now that Ridgefield is the first in the state with a Cultural District, other towns have a model for what a Cultural District looks like. New London had concurrently approved the formation of a Cultural District and Stonington is not too far behind. Other towns and cities that are interested in a Cultural District, but don’t know where to start, Connecticut Main Street Center, DECD, and CCM are holding a workshop on July 22 about the process. For more information, visit www.CCM-CT.org. In the months and years ahead, municipalities can use the designation as a way to increase foot traffic at home or tourism abroad – to support the kind of economic growth that our towns and cities need in a post-COVID economy. Just as importantly, with so many towns with so many cultural attractions, the development of the Cultural District was a way to honor that deep and rich history. When you think about Ridgefield, you think about the Ridgefield Playhouse and the Aldrich. New London brings up connotations of one of its most famous residents – Eugene O’Neill. Around the State, there is such a wealth of art, of culture, that with the creation of the Cultural District, no one will forget what Connecticut municipalities have to offer.
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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT A Beautiful Partnership
Berlin and Newport Realty Group make economic development work
here’s no store that sells Economic Development – you can’t Amazon Prime business growth, Walmart doesn’t have Transit Oriented Developments in Aisle 9. Economic Development doesn’t happen overnight either- it’s often the result of years and years of work, bringing together the municipality and a developer to work in tandem to create something that will work for both parties. Steele Center in Berlin is the fruit of one such partnership. Connecticut Town & City recently sat down to speak with Chris Edge, Economic Development Director for the Town of Berlin and Anthony Valenti of Newport Realty Group to speak to what it really takes to bring a project to life. The story in Berlin begins like so many others in Connecticut – with an unused land parcel located on Farmington Avenue, just around the corner from the Berlin Train Station. The town had purchased a few lots in the mid-aughts as a possible location for a new police station in town. Two separate plans in the mid-2010s for this parcel weren’t able to move forward – one voted on by the public that was voted against for its high cost, and one voted down by the Town Council. But then Transit Oriented Development became hot in Connecticut on the back of infrastructure investment. CTfastrak, a rapid transit busing line connecting New Britain to Hartford first went into operation in 2015 after over a decade of planning and construction. Then the Hartford Line (CT Rail) in 2018 became a surprise hit with an $8 fare from New Haven to Hartford. Berlin had plans on reinvigorating this area for years, but the stars had never been more aligned. Looking at a map, the parcel that the town owned could not have been better situated – the lot is practically begging for Transit Oriented Development. Lots like this are a rarity, Valenti said sadly that “those parcels just aren’t out there.” As with so many of Connecticut’s municipalities, Berlin has a history of manufacturing that is simply less prevalent in a global economy. If the parcel was simply too good to be true, that’s because the catch was it needed Brownfield remediation before it could be fully utilized, which took coordination and partnership with the State of Connecticut before they put out the Request For Qualifications (RFQ). “It took multiple state agencies – Department of Transportation, Department of Economic Community Development, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Office of Policy and Management – so it’s really has been an all hands on deck story.” Overall, the State put in over $4 million, with another $500,000 coming from the town itself.
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One of the most important aspects of this new development was figuring out how to make it not just work, but fit in Berlin. Given the location, it was easy to look at developments in places like New Britain and Hartford, both of which are seeing an investment in Transit Oriented Development. “Putting a five-story building with residents wouldn’t be a good fit,” Edge said, noting that the development should feel more like a Blue Back Square – the platonic ideal for many developers – and “It’s gotta fit in.” “Three to four years ago if you asked what my vision of Berlin could be, it was breweries, coffee shops, restaurants, people on the street, and a combination of millennials and empty nesters enjoying what Berlin has to offer.” Fortunately for Edge and the Town of Berlin, that’s where Newport Realty Group stepped in. Both Valenti and business partner Mark Lovley had years of experience, with various real estate related investments and developments around Connecticut – including the development and sales of twenty-five luxury townhomes in West Hartford where Blue Back Square is located. The fit seemed to be perfect. Meeting with the town, Newport said that they wanted to come to the table and make that vision a reality. But they also had a number they needed to hit – which in this case was 76 apartments across a total of five buildings that will be completed by the end of the project. These would be mostly studio and one-bedroom apartments, along with a nice mix of two-bedroom units – precisely the kind of housing that many younger people and empty nesters are looking for. Their proposal included buildings that were a mix of brick and traditional siding – not the modern glass clad buildings that feel more appropriate in an urban setting. They’ll have first-floor retail, but they don’t particularly want to bring in a major retail chain. “A lot of the national brands are out on the Berlin Turnpike,” Valenti said, “And maybe that’s where they should be. One of the nice surprises of COVID is these mom and pop restaurants have done well, they’ve been scrappy, they know what they’re doing in terms of running a restaurant.” Edge said that’s exactly right for Berlin, “We want people and our businesses to truly be a part of the community.” And he said that Newport Realty Group was already doing that work: “They purchased what is now called Newport Center, a mixed-use commercial and residential building located across Farmington Avenue from the Berlin Train Station last February, and when
Newport purchased it, it had never had a commercial tenant since it was built. 14 months later, our second locally owned coffee shop, a hair salon, and several executive suites are now occupying the 1st floor of building.” The groundbreaking for the Steele Center development first building took place on September 16, 2020. The historic event included project partners Gov. Ned Lamont, Berlin Mayor Mark Kaczynski, Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner David Lehman, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Deputy Commissioner Betsey Wingfield, and Office of Policy and Management Deputy Secretary Kosta Diamantis, therefore representing the work that went on before the RFQ went out, as well as Valenti and Lovley. While the full project won’t be done overnight, neither was the work that got the town to this point: the brownfield remediation, the RFQ, the planning, finding the right partner, and deciding what was the right fit for not just any town in Connecticut, but for Berlin. Ultimately, economic development is work. Work that
needs to be put in on the town side and work that needs to be put in on the developer side. Without any of the pieces of the puzzle coming together in just the right way, then projects like Steele Center and Newport Center won’t happen. In Berlin, both parties are happy with the progress being made despite the bumps in the road because they know that they can make this project work. “We formed this partnership’” Valenti says, “And it’s easy to use that phrase but not really mean it. We mean it because what we needed to get this development launched, the town helped us with, and what the town needed from our end to get this project launched, we provided to the town.” Valenti summed up the relationship by saying, “this is the kind of blueprint for other towns to follow.” And blueprints is the kind of thing that he understands. For the town, the old saying that the reward for good work is more work can be rephrased in this case as the reward for good economic development is more economic development. But that’s something that Berlin is clearly invested in.
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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CT’s Small Towns Go High Tech
How Old Saybrook is using geofencing advertising to help its Main Street
hese days, there are two things probably everyone can agree on – one, the pandemic has hit small downtown businesses hard, and two, mobile technology is here to stay. So what does one have to do with the other? The answer was shared during Connecticut Main Street Center’s recent Recovery & Resiliency series webinar, Covid-19 Check-In: Do my businesses have what they need as we move into 2021?. The webinar featured speakers Sadie Colcord of AdvanceCT; Mary Dickerson, Portland Development Planner; and Susie Beckman, Old Saybrook Economic Development Director who together discussed how the pandemic has impacted local businesses. Each speaker offered practical, innovative information on how their towns and the state are supporting local merchants with online marketing and sales, implementing Covid safety protocols, and supporting local arts and entertainment venues. Yet, one novel approach being used in Old Saybrook stood out among the rest: geofencing advertising. Geofencing advertising creates a virtual boundary around a location, then targets ads to people who enter that location via their mobile device based on certain characteristics such as demographics or shopping behavior. Local marketing consultant Scierka Lang Media Solutions helped Old Saybrook set up geofencing about three years ago, and they’ve been using it since to target ads to people who visited nearby outlets and other shopping locations as they approach Main Street. While Ms. Beckman says it’s been a very effective part of the town’s marketing strategy due to its highly focused advertising, “small businesses would have a hard time doing it without a partner.” So Old Saybrook decided to offer a unique proposition to its Main Street businesses who may not otherwise
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be able to invest in the new technology: for $200 local merchants can buy into the geofencing for a four-week campaign utilizing the business’s own ads. The campaigns are offered two to three times per year and usually incorporate a theme, such as holiday season shopping. Last fall, four Old Saybrook businesses signed up for the geofencing campaign, which allows for easy tracking of potential customers. The return for the four businesses was impressive: the combined ads resulted in over 416,000 impressions (the number of times the advertisement was picked up by a mobile device), 439 ad clicks (the number of times someone clicked on the ad and was sent to the corresponding business website or landing page), and 495 visits to Main Street (the number of times a mobile device was tracked to Main Street after receiving an impression). While they couldn’t necessarily determine the actual conversion rate on the ad clicks, having an additional 500 visits to Main Street during the holiday season would clearly be welcomed by any down-
town. Overall, Ms. Beckman views geofencing as a benefit for both the town and the businesses and would recommend it to other towns as part of their overall marketing strategy. She believes the geofencing has been at least as effective as print advertising, if not more so because of the ability to reach more targeted markets, and says the cost is about half the industry average per impression when compared to a small business using a vendor such as a newspaper for the service. It’s also relatively quick to set up as well as versatile – businesses can stop the campaign and switch their ads if they find they aren’t working. While it’s not a panacea, geofencing advertising harnesses technology almost every customer has in their pocket. And if that gets them to move their feet to Main Street, that’s a win for all our communities. For more information about Old Saybrook’s geofencing advertising, contact Susie Beckman, Economic Development Director, at Susan. Beckman@oldsaybrookct.gov.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Eat, Drink and Stay Local Berlin helps restaraunts survive and thrive
he past twelve months have not exactly been fortuitous for economic development in towns and cities anywhere. It was a year of back to basics for many, making sure that businesses that already exist stay whole throughout the pandemic. In Berlin, they’ve come up with a novel solution to help residents help local restaurants. Located on the Economic Development webpage for the town is a PDF document called Eat, Drink and Stay Local. On this list is every restaurant and coffee shop in Berlin, along with their phone number, hours, and whether or not they offer dining in, take-out, delivery, and gift cards, along with a link to their website or menu. This helps because with the pandemic, information was changing so often that it was hard for businesses to keep up with all of
the platforms that they can be listed on. There can be one set of information on Google, another on Facebook, and others on the restaurants own website depending on how and when the information gets posted. Economic Development Director Chris Edge was quoted in an article in the Hartford Courant this past December, saying “Some people weren’t modifying their website or (operating) hours. Sometimes it wasn’t off by a lot, or sometimes it just didn’t say if they do dine-in or takeout or delivery – those small tweaks are vitally important to a customer who wants to get food quicky.” Because of this attention to detail and quick response, Berlin has seen businesses remain open or even seen businesses open. According to a second article in the Courant,
Edge said that while two restaurants had closed throughout the year, three had opened. The quick reference guide is one of those kinds of ideas that is both obvious and not obvious. The first telephone directory was published in February of 1878 in New Haven, but now the yellow pages aren’t utilized in the way that they were just 20 years ago. And with so many different places for listings, it’s hard to keep in mind everything that is open in town. Perhaps, once the pandemic is over, keeping this listing open, reaching out to businesses to be a part of it, and letting residents know where it is will be a quick and easy resource for people to support a local business. For Berlin residents, asking what’s for dinner tonight and keeping that choice local is a piece of cake.
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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Zoned For The Future West Haven enters Enterprise Zone program
here’s a popular phrase that says “don’t leave any money on the table.” For municipalities, this often comes in the form of money that can be had from the federal and state government through tax breaks. Recently, West Haven has established an Enterprise Zone that aims to entice businesses and real estate to town. Connecticut was ahead of the curve on enterprise zones, and was the first state in the country to establish a statewide Enterprise Zone in 1982, according to the state’s website, and businesses can receive tax incentives for developing properties in distressed areas. The site says that there are currently 43 participating communities. The town or city property must meet certain criteria in order to be considered for the Enterprise Zone program, it needs to be “a contiguous tract of land with high poverty and unemployment rates, along with a significant percentage of the population on public assistance within the boundary,” per the city of West Haven. Only one tract in West Haven met those criteria, but that doesn’t mean that the city cannot benefit from even just this one area seeing increased economic development. Mayor Nancy Rossi said in a press release from the city that businesses are already interested in the area as the initiative moves forward, generating “much-needed revenue and jobs.” There are two key incentives according to the state: a five-year, 80% abatement of local property taxes on qualifying real estate and personal property; or a 10-year 25% credit on the portion of the corporate business tax that is directly attributable to a business expansion or renovation project, as determined by the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services. Under the header eligibility for businesses, they list one of three criteria that businesses must meet in order to receive the incentive: renovate an existing facility by investing at least 50% of the facility’s prior assessed value in the renovation; construct a new facility or expand an existing one; or acquire a facility that has been idle for a set amount of time based on employee numbers. With development in many areas coming to a complete stand-still throughout 2020, tax incentives have shown to be one of the ways to draw interest from businesses. An Enterprise Zone is one of those programs that tries to match areas that need that development the most with businesses that are looking to get a jump start or simply grow. West Haven getting in on the program is a smart way to not leave any money on the table without betting the pot on the city’s future.
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State Rep. Michael DiMassa and Mayor Nancy Rossi work on the city’s enterprise zone effort.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Stratford Stays Stratford Strong Long-term recovery planned in wake of COVID
ith news that the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic might exceed that of the 2008 recession, many Connecticut residents have been left wondering what the future might look like. Businesses, large and small, have felt the impact of this virus, leading municipal leaders across the state to begin the process of recovery. In Stratford, Mayor Laura Hoydick formed Stratford Strong to ensure a bright future for the town. Partnering with local organizations who have great insight into the local community and business owners, they have implemented several plans that have already seen enormous success in the short time since Stratford Strong was formed. One such plan was a simple marketing plan that aimed to utilize social media and traditional media to get the word out about businesses across seven different sectors – small business, arts, wellness, services and hospitality, salons and barbers, and restaurants – a new one each week. Each video shows how that particular sector has adapted to new measures that are necessary under social distancing protocols, while showing that life can go on in a meaningful way. In the arts video, coming in just under a minute, shows a young dance troupe, a child learning how to play saxophone, others painting. All in all, the videos have been seen by the followers of the town’s social media pages, reaching an audience of over 18,000 people, with videos reaching over 7000 views. In a press release about Stratford Strong, Mayor Hoydick said that “while this is a long-term recovery program, [she] is pleased with the work that the task force has accomplished in its first month following the Town’s extraordinary and sus-
Mayor Laura Hoydick
tained response since March.” She urged residents to follow up with the task force at firstname.lastname@example.org, which was set up specifically for this reason. They are continuing to compile information on the ongoing pandemic and the impact it is having on local businesses, and without input
There’s no telling when a vaccine will be ready to get us back to normal, and what that normal will look like. Towns like Stratford have started this race by putting their best foot forward, and with the Stratford Strong task force, they will certainly have the strength to cross the finish line when we get to it.
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What’s For Dinner?
Hartford eatery changes economic paradigm
unicipalities are often left wondering what to do with the warehouses that have been left empty by a changing economic paradigm. These brick mammoths used to be integral to a productive and industrial town, but with American manufacturing becoming a thing of the past, there’s no need. In many towns and cities, the go-to answer is to convert the space into apartments, but Parkville Market in Hartford shows that other adaptive uses are possible. The Parkville Market boasts that it is the first food hall in Connecticut, but this trend is just picking up in America. An Eater blog defined them as a sprawling market that showcases a variety of mini-restaurants and retail food vendors under one roof, and back in 2017 labeled them as the next big thing in the food industry. It’s no surprise then that Connecticut Magazine said that it took three years for Carlos Mouta, the owner, to see his vision become a reality. This space used to be the home of Pope Manufacturing, Columbia Bicycle, the Underwood and Royal Typewriters, the Gray Telephone Pay Station, and more according to the Parkville Market website, but today it has become a collective of “some of the most innovative businesses in Hartford.” Food halls are meant to be a collective of unique and affordable restaurants that one can go to for a myriad of choices. According to the Eater article, restauranteurs have been warning of an impending affordable restaurant apocalypse as more and more Americans move towards fast-casual chains. This makes the Parkville Market the perfect kind of reuse to fit into a new and changing landscape, supporting not just one business but up to twenty restaurants, and anchoring a neighborhood with a restaurant haven in one building.
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The vendors are selected to give you a taste of the cultural history of Hartford, and currently include Bombay Express, Brazilian Gula Grill, Chompers (small bites), Crave Leche (ice cream), Fowl Play, Hartford Poke Co., J’s Crab Shack, Jamaican Jerk Shack, Las Tortas MX, Mercado 27 (Peruvian), Mofongo, Okinawa Boba Co., Pho Go, Portly Pig, Que Chivo (Salvadorian), The Butcher & The Bean (coffee), and Twisted Italian Café. There’s no doubt that Connecticut needs more housing, especially in the cities. But as apartments move in, restaurant options that mirror the eclectic demographics of a bustling city are needed in the same measure. One might find that food halls like the Parkville Market become anchoring points, attracting more residents and more businesses, and sparking natural growth.
Greenwich parking lot solution opens up spots on main drag
fter you buy a car, you need a place to put it. For most people they will generally park their cars at home in a driveway or on the street and drive to locations with ample parking – the supermarket or an office building. But what happens if there’s a shortage of parking spaces? Downtown Greenwich has had an issue with a shortage of short-term parking spaces taken up by residents who feed a meter every two hours. This prompted the need to find longer term solutions, and a 100 spot lottery. For residents who live within the boundaries of the designated area, the proposed lottery would be for one of 100 parking permits that come out to $720 a year, which is much less than it would be to feed the meters for a full year according to the Greenwich Free Press. Previously, these residents would sometimes have to feed a meter every two hours in order to not be
ticketed. The issue is that those two-hour parking spots weren’t necessarily meant to be clogged up all day. But with changing driving patterns throughout the pandemic, and no real clarity on when the work-from-home trend will start to phase out, there is a real need to get cars out of desirable spots meant for quicker shopping or eating trips. The highlights of a program like this one is how many problems it solves for both the resident and the town. By offering what essentially amounts to a discount to residents who live within the bounds of this parking area and freeing them from the burden of having to feed the meter throughout the day, they are given a win-win situation. The town on the other hand, frees up spaces and gets a guaranteed amount of revenue whether or not those permittees are parking there or not. Quoted in the Greenwich Times, Deputy Police Chief Mark Marino
said that this program will not have a negative impact on the volume of cars in the area because the people that are being targeted by this program are already parking in the lots and spaces. The program’s limit on 100 permits does force a lottery if more than 100 people apply, and according to the Free Press, these permits are non-transferable to any additional cars owned by a family, nor will they automatically be rolled over if the program continues. Sometimes a solution is fairly simple and gets exactly what you need out of it. That’s what makes this solution so innovative. Americans still overwhelmingly rely on their cars, maybe even more so in a pandemic because of how efficient a solution they are. A car will get you from A to Z, the only thing that really matters is if you have a spot to park it at the other end.
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The New School
Danbury plans for city within a city at old Matrix building site
efore 2020, the idea of going to work or school where you live would have seemed like a farfetched idea for a majority of people. In Danbury, town officials and developers have created a plan for a mixed-use city-within-a-city that will feature housing, businesses, and a school for over 1000 students. At the June meeting of the 2020 Danbury Public Schools Task Force, Mayor Mark Boughton along with a team of others, proposed the idea of the Danbury Career Academy with the intent to “connect with various businesses, agencies, and non-profits in Danbury to provide a training opportunity for students, as well as academic classrooms.” Located at the former Matrix building in Danbury, which has been in disuse for years, the building will be able to have space for 1,100 students over 40 classrooms across two “pods.” The proposal describes the location as having room for a
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gymnasium, media center, conference rooms, pupil services, and teacher’s lounge in addition to classroom space. Danbury Career Academy would provide extra classrooms in the City rather than replace an older school. Currently the school population is increasing, with estimates putting the growth at seven percent over the next 10 years. In some of the other pods, there will be space for apartments, a convention center, and more. This can put students in close contact with businesses that are located in the development for internships, hence the name. According to CT Insider, it’s fairly rare for schools to be set in mixeduse developments. In Hawaii there is a plan to build a public elementary school within a mixed-use development, and in New York and New Jersey there are similar developments with charter schools.
This unusual arrangement is suited for a building which has taken on a reputation as an unusual development. The current owners, Summit Development say that the “forward-thinking structure gained immediate global attention when it first opened in 1982, and today its visionaries from Summit Development are reimagining what it means to be an innovative corporate campus.” One hold up in the process is the unique way in which Danbury plans to finance the development. They are looking to purchase the space once it is completed rather than hiring an architect and construction company according to information gather by CT Insider. Because this will save money, Mayor Boughton told the papers that he would be seeking a higher reimbursement rate from the state, but that would require the state legislature to pass a bill.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Surviving With Local Support New Haven Partnership Loan Program gives loans to small businesses
here is an undeniable symbiotic relationship between municipalities and small business. A healthy town is often populated with locally owned small businesses – barbers, restaurants, and other industries impervious to outside ownership. In places like New Haven, many are minority and women owned businesses. But when relief funds for the businesses, it was these businesses that were left out. The City of New Haven in partnership with HEDCO, Inc., The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and The Amour Propre Fund have come together to offer loans to these forgotten businesses. The Partnership Loan Program for Minority- and Women-Owned Small Businesses will offer qualifying small businesses with 20 or fewer employees to apply for a four percent term loan up to $25,000. Initially starting with $1.5 million, businesses in New Haven and the Lower Naugatuck Valley can apply if they are a for-profit business, minority or women owned, are in good standing with the Department of Revenue Services (DRS) and have been conducting business for a minimum of one year. The loans, which are underwritten by HEDCO, Inc, carry the four percent interest and terms in which the first 12 months are interest only. Those businesses in good standing after 12 months are eligible for forgiveness of up to 16.67% of the original loan amount, which is just over $4000 if the maximum amount is taken.
The Partnership Loan Program for Minority- and Women-Owned Small Businesses in New Haven and Lower Naugatuck Valley
HEDCO, Inc., The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, the City of New Haven, and The Amour Propre Fund are collaborating to provide financial relief and recovery resources to minority-owned and women-owned small businesses (the “Program”) . Under the Program, a qualifying small business with 20 or fewer employees (1-20 employees) may apply for a four (4%) percent term loan for up to $25,000 (twenty-five thousand dollars). This $1.5 million Program will be initially allocated to minority-o wned and women-owned small businesses based in New Haven and to minority-owned and women-owned businesses located the Valley with a priority to the towns of Derby or Ansonia. The program will be administered and underwritten by HEDCO, Inc. Eligibility: To be considered for this Program, your small business must:
Be a for-profit business with no more than 20 (full or part-time) employees Be a minority-owned and/or women-owned small business (minimum 51% of minority/woman ownership required) Be located in the city of New Haven or the Lower Naugatuck Valley Be in good standing with the Department of Revenue Services (DRS) Have been conducting business for a minimum of one year
Terms & Conditions
Term Loan up to $25,000 (loans available from $10,000- $25,000) 4% interest rate First 12 months interest only – 13 month converts into principal and interest payments No application fee Loans to New Haven small businesses in good standing after 12 months are eligible for forgiveness for up to 16.67% of the original loan amount.
Small businesses urgently needed an influx of money to hold them over during the shutdown after being left out of the original Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a $349 billion program that was part of the larger $2.2 trillion CARES Act bailout earlier this year. They were unable to navigate the application process with as much ease as larger businesses that had access to staff and legal teams to file for them. This led to companies like Shake Shack, which has locations throughout Connecticut including one in New Haven, to receive $10 million loan, which they gave back after an outcry. The New Haven program requires only a one-page
application, along with standard loan information, making it accessible to any business that needs it. New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker, quoted in the WTNH report, said that “What COVID has highlighted is the severe inequities which are being experienced by the Black and Brown communities.” The Partnership Loan Program seeks to make the situation equitable for the small business owners that would otherwise not have survived the extensive shutdowns due to the coronavirus. Cities like New Haven thrive on the local businesses that give it its culture, this program gives it a chance to see a day when social distancing is a thing of the past. 2021 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS | 15
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT New Plans in Old Lyme
Economic Development Commission says bike lanes and recreation are in
conomic development is not something that just happens naturally. Municipalities must look at the lay of the land; study existing businesses, zoning, and interest; and make recommendations. The town of Old Lyme Economic Development Commission (EDC) has been working on a plan that they believe will lead to smart growth “focused on maintaining the smalltown character and charm” of Old Lyme. Through the completion of three studies: a town-wide survey, two Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) workshops, and an Economic Development study. Each aimed to look at a different side of economic development. From the town-wide survey, many agreed that the natural beauty of the beaches and open space with the New England charm was what made Old Lyme Old Lyme. So many felt that new housing development was not necessary, but the town should look into adding recreational benefits. Perhaps unsurprisingly, infrastructure was a big key for residents when considering commercial development. Bike lanes, pedestrian infrastructure, and more visually attractive roadways were popular developments. They noted a strong generational divide in town as well. Younger respondents were more likely to support more dining and entertainment options, according to the survey results, but were opposed to the development of condos and apartments. Older respondents were fine with the way things were but wanted more condo options so they could downsize in retirement. While a town-wide survey might be self-explanatory, a SWOT workshop looks at a specific cross-section of “town stakeholders.” This included businesses, resi-
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dents, town leaders, nonprofit organizations, and clergy. The SWOT response noted similar findings or was able to elucidate findings from the residents. For instance, one weakness they found was that there was a lack of diversity in housing and residents, and there was an even split among demand for affordable housing, 36% for and 40% against. Adding housing will bring the “density to support additional dining, entertainment, and retail options,” which makes affordable housing an opportunity. In a letter to the CT Examiner, the EDC said they had two main goals: “first, attracting new businesses that fit the character of Old Lyme, and second, supporting existing businesses.” Facing a declining population was a big challenge that business had to overcome. They also acknowledged that the landscape had changed because of COVID-19: “We recognize the business and economic landscape will be altered which will require adjustments to our future plans. We believe we are in a better position to confront the “new normal” that will result from the impact of the virus by having the results from these projects as a baseline to work with.” Encouraging the people of Old Lyme to look over the findings in the CT Examiner letter, the Old Lyme EDC asked for continued participation from the residents. Sharing the process, the findings, and the plan with residents is an integral part of the process. No economic development plan works when it flies in the face of the people. Old Lyme took the right steps to see what the town wanted first and will then build the plans on top of that.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Fast Track To The Future Autonomous vehicles will be a part of local transportation future
hen you look back to visions of the future, you’d think we’d have flying cars by now. Unfortunately, we will have to settle for earthbound travel for most of our transportation. But, if you’re taking CTFastrak between New Britain and Hartford, your ride will be very futuristic as the state intends on implementing driverless electric buses for large tracts of the route. In June of this year, the Connecticut Department of Transportation announced that it had received nearly $40 million in grants to be used on multiple projects throughout the state, including more train service on the Hartford Line, rebuilding a railroad bridge in Norwalk, as well as the aforementioned self-driving buses and technology according to the State’s press release. The electric buses will be used on the CTfastrak rapid bus transit corridor, of which there are 15 on order. As CT&C wrote in the May issue, there are many benefits to electric buses, primary of which is the cost of fueling. But the interesting part is that the buses will be fully automated for parts of the route. CTDOT describes the program as a first in the nation for automated technology. Automated technologies demonstrated will include steering, precision docking at CTfastrak station platforms, and platooning, all of which can enhance service and improve safety for drivers and passengers.
For those concerned about implementing without testing, the State plans to do extensive testing on an off-road facility first before bringing it to the streets. As an added safety guarantee, there will always be a driver on board who will take control if necessary. The driver will also manually drive on downtown Hartford mixed-traffic roadways. New Flyer, the company that created the technology for transit buses, said that they have leveraged “the internet of things (an extension of internet connectivity to physical devices and everyday objects) to build connectivity in sharing public roadways.” Back in 2018, Connecticut set guidelines for vehicle testing, and municipalities such as Stamford and New Haven had applied for testing. New Haven was planning for an autonomous shuttle between the Yale New Haven Hospital and St. Raphael campuses. If testing goes well and the technology improves, many towns and cities across Connecticut might soon develop plans for driverless transportation options around town, from the train station to down town, or around a university campus. We might not yet have flying cars, but every year we inch towards newer technologies that can make our streets safer and a little more modern.
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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Are You A Tourist?
CT Towns and Cities look to summer vacation boost
ave you booked your summer vacation yet? If not, you might want to as a mixture of pent up demand and caution might have Connecticut booming with tourists this summer for a quick weekend getaway.
That is the slogan of CT Tourism’s newest campaign, which Castonguay says was born out of research and observing the trends of what’s going on.
Your next adventure awaits!
From Hartford: • Take CTrail Hartford Line from Hartford Union Station to New Haven Union Station • Transfer to CTrail Shore Line East to continue to Madison Station • Connect to 9-Town Transit 641 at Madison Station
The new ParkConneCT program expands transit service and connections to some of Connecticut’s most popular state parks. Start your journey with the information below.
“We had almost 60% say ‘yes, once I am vaccinated, I am going to be out enjoying tourism activities,’” she said, “But the interesting thing to note is people also were indicating that they wanted to stay within 100 miles of home.” In a reversal of the old adage that Connecticut is uniquely situated between New York City and Boston, the state’s location might be the selling point – “it provides ample opportunity for everybody to travel less and enjoy more.” Tourism is no small industry in Connecticut. According to her figures, the tourism industry brings in $15.5 billion to Connecticut, supporting 123,000 jobs.
From New Haven: • Take CTrail Shore Line East from New Haven Union Station to Madison Station • Connect to 9-Town Transit 641 at Madison Station
Christine Castonguay, the Interim Director of CT Tourism came on the Municipal Voice, the podcast of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and WNHH FM, to discuss why more people might be saying “Yes to Connecticut.”
Hammonasset Beach State Park
New Haven Union Station
From New London: • Take CTrail Shore Line East from New London Station to Madison Station • Connect to 9-Town Transit 641 at Madison Station
SHORE LINE EAST
From Stamford: • Take New Haven Line (Metro- North) from Stamford to New Haven Union Station • Transfer to CTrail Shore Line East to continue to Madison Station • Connect to 9-Town Transit 641 at Madison Station
Additional Information • The 645, Madison Shuttle, and Clinton Trolley will stop at the Middle Beach traffic circle within the park • 641, Old Saybrook/Madison: From the Route 1 & Hammonasset bus stop, follow the paved recreation path through the campground and to the beach (0.7 miles to the beach) • Madison Train Station will also connect to the 645 on weekdays and Madison Shuttle 7 days/week • Park admission is free when arriving by bus • Madison Shuttle and Clinton Trolley are fare-free 7 days/week; all connecting bus routes are fare-free on weekends through Labor Day
drink when they show they are vaccinated. CTrail New Haven Line (Metro-North) 9-Town Transit While it took a hit in 2020, Castonguay praised the HartfordLine.com | ShoreLineEast.com New.MTA.info EstuaryTransit.org 877-287-4337 877-690-5114 860-510-0429 Vaccination clinics themselves are going to be a feaindustry leaders for being creative and innovative in ture at local institutions – the Stafford Motor Speedthe way that they were able to provide services and way and Hartford Yard Goats offered vaccination leisure opportunities. Measures like outdoor dining and clinics for guests. online art galleries allowed businesses and institutions the ability to stay connected to the public while they “We’re starting to see some of those Fairs return, we’re weathered the pandemic. starting to see outdoor music festivals, and also some “I think communicating the cleaning protocols that were in place, the social distancing, the mask wearing, the sanitation, but also a lot of the automated options, checking into your lodging facility via mobile phone or purchasing tickets online, cutting down on those touch points is what brought us here,” Castonguay said. Some of the measures that were taken during this time might be here to stay: some social distancing, hand sanitizer stations, plexiglass barriers will all be part of the social landscape in the coming months, and maybe years. In the near-term, there are programs like “Connecticut Drinks On Us,” that were coordinated between the Office of Tourism, the Governor’s Office, and the Connecticut Restaurant Association to give folks a free 18 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS | 2021
indoor theater coming back online,” she said, “And that really feels so good as a Connecticut resident.” For those that want to head outdoors, Castonguay mentioned the ParkConneCT program which offers fare free shuttle service to state parks, and Weekend Wheels which is free bus service on Saturdays and Sundays. Both programs run through Labor Day. “We need to support our local restaurants, to go to Pomfret or small towns and walk the Main Street and the Town Green, shop at the local boutiques, go to the local coffee shop, go to those local attractions and really continue to support the economic recovery here in Connecticut,” she said. “That is really, at the end of the day, what we’re all trying to do.”
Middletown S&P rating allows for economic development in hard times
s the economic fallout of coronavirus begins to unfold, Connecticut towns and cities should look at many of the gains that have occurred over the last decade or so that will put them at a better standing to face the future. Middletown has maintained the highest possible rating of AAA from Standard and Poors for five years now.
of all the unpredictability, I am incredibly proud of the budget we are introducing, and of the team that put it together. And while we don’t know what the world holds for us in the year ahead, what we do know is that Middletown is on strong financial footing and we are well-prepared for whatever harsh winds blow in our direction.”
That rating is per Standard and Poor’s definition “a forward-looking opinion about the creditworthiness of an obligor with respect to a specific financial obligation, a specific class of financial obligations, or a specific financial program.” The rating opinion assesses the town’s “capacity and willingness to meet its financial commitments as they come due.”
Late in April, the Middletown Economic Development Commission approved $250,000 to help small businesses recover once social distancing measures are loosened, allowing businesses to reopen. Like all towns and cities in Connecticut, Middletown has a thriving local economy based on a well-traversed Main Street.
According to data published by the Middletown Press, the high rating allowed the city to borrow money at low cost, effectively allowing them to pay off the new Middletown High School in 10 years rather than the typical 20. Even despite the coronavirus epidemic that has stalled local businesses quite unlike anything this country has ever seen, Middletown’s finances have allowed it to stand on firm ground. In a statement announcing the budget, Middletown Mayor Ben Florsheim said “in spite
Helping sustain those businesses in times like these will ensure that the economic factors that led to the initial AAA rating five years ago continue. Over the last ten years towns and cities across Connecticut have made gains, both large and small, that have allowed them to be in a better footing than they were just before the 2008-09 recession hit. Many factors have gone into the economic success Middletown is seeing now, but maintaining it will be the challenge. With good fiscal minds and a head towards preserving local small businesses, Middletown will be AAA-ok.
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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Wired/Unwired
Ridgefield toys with idea of free wireless throughout town
hen Nikola Tesla began building Wardenclyffe Tower, he thought he was starting the groundwork on electrifying the world. Tesla had invented a way of transmitting electricity that did not require wires. In 1901 he made the shocking claim that information could be transmitted wirelessly and instantaneously, which sounded like science fiction. It would take over 100 years for Smart Cities to step into science fact, offering just a fraction of Tesla’s promise. One feature that has been the proverbial dipping a toe in the water is public wifi, something that the town of Ridgefield is looking into for their downtown area. They would be following the suit of many towns and cities around the country that offer some kind of free access to internet. In New Haven, for instance, there is free wi-fi on the green, which provides access to the immediate area. For the past year the Economic and Community Development Commission (ECDC) has begun looking into the idea, trying to make it a reality. Some of the benefits of public wifi is that like any other resource – whether it’s a public library or park – it attracts people to areas that you want them to be. If 2020 is any indication of where technology is going, having a fully functional internet infrastructure is one of the most important criterion for a modern city. The town itself can benefit by controlling things like transportation flows by utilizing the Internet of Things, which allows devices to talk to each other. Major cities like New York City are installing hubs where people can charge their phones, which allows for integration of advertising revenue to pay for it all. But this isn’t to say there aren’t drawbacks. When Tesla devised his free electric network, he didn’t realize that he was creating an environment that prohibited the advance of computer technologies. In order to create sophisticated computer boards, you need to have a completely static free area, which is not possible when everything you use is powered by wireless electricity. In much the same way, there are concerns about all-encompassing wi-fi or 5g networks. A group of over 200 scientists have signed a letter saying that: “Numerous recent scientific publications have shown that EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines.
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Numerous recent scientific publications have shown that EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines. Effects include increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damages, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and negative impacts on general well-being in humans. Damage goes well beyond the human race, as there is growing evidence of harmful effects to both plant and animal life.” Ridgefield is fully studying the effects of these wireless systems while deciding whether or not to implement these new technologies. So, the problem is how to square the need for a good infrastructure of internet capabilities and good sound scientific advice. There’s no reason to believe that we will not continue to innovate – just like the advance of electrical systems did not stop at the failure of Wardenclyffe Tower. The next bright idea is always just around the corner.
Shining Time For A New Station Windsor Locks gets a federal grant for new train station
ithin weeks of the launch of the Hartford Line, Transportation officials knew it was going to be a success. Windsor Locks is looking to capitalize on that success with a new train station that will bring more focus downtown. To support it, the town was recently rewarded over $17 million in Federal Grants. This has been a goal for both the town and First Selectman Christopher Kervick for many years now, an action plan written in 2016 outlined the benefits of not only the Hartford Line, but Transit Oriented Development (TOD) as a whole. The Windsor Locks station will be moved to the historic downtown area, near the Montgomery Mills apartment complex. Currently the Windsor Locks train station is located south of town in an area that is not easily accessible to the majority of Windsor Locks residents. The goal is to “reinvigorate downtown,” as the action plan lays out, by addressing the lasting impacts of urban renewal, finding a balance between traffic flow and pedestrian/bicycle traffic, and a healthy parking strategy. As with almost many TOD projects, the core principle belief is that younger generations look to work in heavily populated areas with functional transit options. The action plan cites higher property values, increased private development, and a sense of community as
the major benefits they believe will come to Windsor Locks as a result. IN a press release, Governor Lamont said that “up and down the Hartford Line, towns like Windsor Locks have engaged in aggressive planning around the train stations to maximize the economic energy created by investment in the train service.” According to that press release, this was a joint project between the Department of Transportation, the Department of Economic and Community Development, the Department of Housing and the Office of Policy and Management, through its Responsible Growth Grant Program, as well as all departments in Windsor Locks. First Selectman Kervick told the Journal Inquirer that he expects the full plan to cost around $65 million, and that it will be Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Compliant, and that there will be plans to connect the train station to the Canal State Park Trail. With many pieces beginning to fall into place, there’s only the proverbial shovels in the ground stage left before this plan is officially underway. In the state press release, they say that the nearby Montgomery Mills apartment complex will be 100% occupied by Spring 2020, meaning that the train station can’t come soon enough.
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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Oh, The Places You’ll Go
Wilton’s Library Learning Commons are a model of adapting to the future
s a society, we have come to recognize the importance of an education. In 2017, we reached a milestone where 90% of Americans 25 and older had completed high school according to Census data, compared with only 24% in 1940. What’s left is the question of what makes a good education and how to adapt to modern technology. Wilton Public Schools is offering one solution with their Library Learning Commons (LLC).
Digital Citizenship might be the newest category on that curriculum. What might be termed etiquette in the real world, Digital Citizenship takes a look at how one acts in a digital first world. Bullying and trolling, even invasions of privacy are all issues that have been contended with as the internet has evolved. And Digital Identity management is a crucial skill because more and more often are employers looking at social media profiles when considering candidates.
These spaces are not so different from libraries of yore — they have books and librarians — but they have thought about what will be important to the students of today and tomorrow. They see themselves as a place that “provide a comprehensive program of instruction, rich collections of print, online and “making” resources, as well as provide support for the district’s implementation of the Ready-Access Digital Learning Program.”
Students at all grade levels take lessons on Digital Citizenship in the LLC during the first month of school, while students in 6th grade take a full digital literacy course.
For Generation Z and the generation after them who will be entering middle school in the coming years, a full set of tech resources will not only be useful, but essential to their education. The LLC incorporates 5 curriculum strands according to their website: Research and Inquiry; Digital Citizenship; Literature Appreciation; Tech Operations; Collaboration, Communication, and Innovation.
One can argue endlessly over what books a student should read, how to most effectively teach to STEM, but one thing is for sure: digital tools will be part of the educational landscape for the foreseeable future. Wilton’s Library Learning Commons have become a place that has adapted to the times and are teaching students the valuable lessons for Digital Citizenship while still being libraries.
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Wilton Public School says that “the foundational skills that will prepare the K-12 students to be effective, responsible and creative users of all types of information and tools will also prepare them well for their college work as well as career.”
Meriden lifts ban on tattoo and piercing businesses in city
elieve it or not, but the history of tattooing extends beyond Generation X. In fact, it goes back perhaps 6000 years from Polynesia to Ireland, there is evidence that humans have been creatively marking their skin throughout known history. In Meriden, they recently voted to end their long-standing prohibition on tattoo and body piercing shops. Stigma had surrounded the art form for decades in America. Clinton Sanders, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Connecticut wrote the essential book on tattooing, “Customizing the Body: The Art and Culture of Tattooing.” In it he argues that because of an implied connection with a seedy underbelly, they lost their connection with the original meanings as signifiers of culture or even just beautification. But that slowly began to change especially as military servicemen began to wear tattoos. Heroes coming home naturalized the tradition. The trend broke through with Generation X and Millennials. Estimations in the early 2000s suggested that about one in ten people had a tattoo, by 2020, nearly three in ten people had a tattoo. In the Record Journal, City Planner Renata Bertotti echoed that statement, saying “I think most of why
it was prohibited has to do with [negative stigmas around tattoos], which may have been true in the past, but every single woman in my class has a tattoo.” Many people who get tattoos often go on to get more. A full third of people get a second tattoo, with the average number of tattoos being four according to a study done by Ipsos polling. That means that there is plenty of demand for tattoo shops. It is also a burgeoning creative field. Joe Capobianco, one of the most celebrated tattoo artists internationally, maintains a shop in New Haven called Hope Gallery. Featured in dozens of industry magazines for his artwork, he rose to fame on the TV show Best Ink, which aired on Oxygen TV. Because of his acclaim, artists like him can have year’s long waiting lists for customers, and he’ll also travel the country to do “guest spots” at other tattoo shops. The City Council vote to allow tattoo shops from opening in Meriden was 9-1, suggesting that still not everyone is on board with tattoos. But the art form, thousands of years old, doesn’t look like it is going anywhere. More and more people are getting tattoos for different reasons, and no longer are they associated explicitly with a criminal element.
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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Distribution Centers Grow With E-Shopping South Windsor adds two new distribution centers as part of new trend
ith Amazon growing every day, it’s hard to underestimate their influence on consumer culture. Amazon Prime’s free 2-day delivery has forever changed the landscape of internet shopping, which turned from something you can do for only certain items (books) to the only place you buy anything (Amazon owns Whole Foods which offers online ordering). Distribution centers are becoming a more and more important cog for industries as diverse as Coca Cola and Home Depot, both of which have projects in South Windsor. The Coca-Cola plant will be a 200,000 square foot Class A warehouse and distribution center. This new building was created with an over $42 million dollar investment from the Coca-Cola corporation according to figures in the Hartford Courant, and they will be bringing in manufacturing and bottling of a new type of can for the company, which the Courant says they are currently buying from another company. Home Depot, the home improvement giant, is working on a distribution center to better facilitate “next-day or even same-day delivery,” per sources in the Hartford Business Journal. They say the full 46-acre property will hold a 421,000 square foot distribution center that will deliver not only to stores, but directly to consumers. Both facilities have the ability to bring in hundreds of workers, but required a tax-abatement as incentive. Even with the abatement, sources show that the estimated tax benefit for the Home Depot location is nearly $300,000 over the vacant property tax revenue. The warehouses mirror the recent development of the North Haven Amazon warehouse. Their goal is to be able to begin offering same-day delivery in much greater numbers to a wider array of households. The National Retail Federation said that many consumers, with Millennials leading the pack, are expecting not only free shipping, but free two-day delivery. Having warehouses throughout the country will allow companies to keep costs of delivery down. 24 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS | 2021
This trend shows no sign of slowing down, let alone stopping. As digital-first children grow up feeling comfortable with purchasing items, or even groceries, online, then companies are going to have to respond. This provides an opportunity for towns like South Windsor who had the space to allow businesses like Coca-Cola and Home Depot to build the facilities they need to accomplish this. They will bring in hundreds of jobs and can even add to the tax rolls.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT A Three-Year Overnight Success Ansonia’s revitalization proves that Economic Development takes time
conomic Development does not happen overnight. It is often a slow process, like a train, it needs to build momentum before it’s properly up to speed. And that means that towns and cities that stick to a plan are often rewarded. Three years into “Ansonia Recharged” and the town is seeing not only businesses come in, but positive press, which ultimately leads to more investment. The headline in New Haven Biz, an industry magazine covering southern Connecticut, said that “new businesses get a charge out of Ansonia.” The growth mainly came out of restaurants on Main Street, which was designated an opportunity zone in 2018. Just two years later, Main Street is known as “restaurant row” with diverse cuisines, “including Asian fusion, Polish, Costa Rican, Peruvian, Spanish, Italian, Latin fusion, Thai, and American.” Several other projects will add to the renovation of the downtown Main Street area, which includes a re-use of the Farrel Corp. building into the Ansonia Police Department and the Joseph A. Doyle Senior Cener and a nearby public/private recreation complex. They will additionally be demolishing the Ansonia Copper & Brass Co. site.
“This is a game changer for the downtown.” - Mayor Cassetti
All of this adds up to an attractive place to live and do business. Not surprisingly, the New Haven Register is reporting that the town might be seeing the “biggest development the city has seen in a half-century.” Shaw Growth Ventures are looking to invest $14 million around Main and East Main Streets to create 400 market-rate apartments as well as street level retail. This type of building has grown in popularity after waning for many decades. Mayor Cassetti is quoted as saying “this is a game changer for the downtown. […] It’s about time the city got out from owning those properties and putting them back on the tax roll.” The town is helping the investors by exempting property taxes for six years according to the article, which will go some ways to helping them clean up and rehabilitate the properties. For towns like Ansonia, rebuilding can seem like an impossible project. But what the Mayor and his economic development team is proving is that it just takes time. First the restaurants open up where there is opportunity, and then some businesses decide to move into town, and with a little patience and hard work, suddenly a company wants to add 400 apartments and retail into your town. It’s an overnight success that took three years to happen. 2021 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS | 25
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining
New Britain’s data center project represents a massive change
s time goes on, the tools we need change, which is why Stanley Black & Decker, whose wares were once the foundation of the American toolbox, had a building sit dormant for years. New Britain filled that space with a project that spans two generations of Mayor, two Governors and a company that wants to bring 21st century tools into town. Energy Innovation Park, LLC (EIP) has found the right location to bring not just one but two new uses to the old manufacturing building in New Britain. Not only will there be a Fuel Cell project, but there will be a high performance and computing and data center. In materials released by EIP last year, they call this project the transformation to The New Hardware City. According to the Hartford Business Journal, these centers are “seen as powerful economic drivers that allow cities, regions and states to generate jobs and tax revenue.” In fact, New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart has predicted that EIP is going to become one of the city’s largest taxpayers overnight. The project’s development will include multiple phases starting with a 20 megawatt clean energy generator, and finishing with the Data Center that will consist entirely of new construction. Adding to the benefit of the project, the fuel cells will be built by Doosan, whose headquarters are in South Windsor. The investment in New Britain and the state at large has been estimated at a billion dollars with 3,000 jobs. The tax revenue over the next 20 years equaled something like $200 million in state and $45 million, even despite $55 million in tax exemptions that helped bring the project here. That meant it took “a lot of partners to come to the table,” people like the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), and the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), and not one but two governors. “It’s very rare that you find a project that lasts the span of two governors, and has the support,” Mayor Stewart said. “It speaks volumes to how great a project this is.”
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Mayor Stewart knows how great this project is: when Governor Lamont was first elected, EIP was her very first phone call. Matt Pilon in the Hartford Business Journal said that the project was able to overcome hurdles to net the kind of company that will attract attention, quoting UConn economist Fred Carstensen, saying that it could be “the basis of what could be a state marketing campaign.” Names like Amazon and Microsoft were floated when imagining who could be pitched on the New Britain data center because of the location and the size of the project. These two names represent the sea change that has happened in the last 30 years. No longer do humans run machines, machines run machines, and no longer do we store information on paper, much of the collective human imagination is stored in the cloud. Just as Stanley was one of the most important companies of the last century, producing tools that everyone can use, Microsoft is to this young century. The EIP project represents that move forward as an investment in New Britain, and Connecticut, and the future.
The Port of New Haven moves goods and ships around CT
ne of the common refrains about the State of Connecticut is that it is perfectly situated between New York City and Boston, two cities that need no introduction on an international scale. Judi Scheiffele, the Executive Director of the New Haven Port Authority will convince you that the Port of New Haven is perfectly situated for economic development in its own right. One of the most impressive pieces of information about the Port is that the Army Corps of Engineers places New Haven as the 53rd most busy by volume, as well as being the busiest port between the behemoths of New York and Boston. Most of the freight, according to Scheiffele, is liquid freight, including home heating oil, gas, and even jet fuel. The rest of the freight is made up of things like salts, including 90% of the salts used on the roads and salts used by the Water Pollution Control Authorities to break down materials. While concerns about the quality of the air and pollutants have been raised for years, Scheiffele notes that there are many mitigating factors. For one, new U.S. and International regulations have capped the
sulfur that comes from boats. Add to that Scheiffele estimates 126 trucks are taken off i-91 weekly because the jet fuel that is stored in New Haven runs to Hartford by pipeline to be used at Bradley Airport. The salts used by the WPCA take approximately 600 trucks off the roads from the Port of New York. These are very real savings on emissions from trucks, as well as plenty of cars that are taken off the road. Additionally, “most of the contaminants found in the sediment, are legacy contaminants,” she notes, “that has little to do with current activities.” Many New Haveners may not be aware how far the Harbor came up, but most of Long Wharf has been built up with water reaching Water Street at one point in time. Much of this soil was dredged out of the harbor to deepen it to the current depth of 35 feet. The only way to grow the Port of New Haven is to deepen it, and the Army Corps of Engineers is in the process of conducting a feasibility study on just that. There is a “break-even” line at 40 feet, which means dredging up five feet of sediment.
These five feet will allow the next size class of boats to port in New Haven Harbor, but who that is nobody knows: “at this point, we don’t even know who’s not coming in here.” But these plans are not going to happen overnight, they will have to be studied, and reauthorized by the U.S. Senate. In the more immediate future, New Haven has big plans for Long Wharf, including a complete revamping of its image. Scheiffele says that she wants to see more recreational boats out on the water, but there have also been discussions with the New Haven Boat House on how to best educate recreational communities about safety when it comes to big ships. Planning by town and state officials in the past has kept most of the Harbor activity on the east side, but there’s plenty of room for both business and sport in New Haven Harbor. For many people, the New Haven Harbor is just a collection of tanks on the side of i-91, but that’s only part of the story. It is a microcosm of companies that have real benefits for the area, perfectly situated to boost the area economically. 2021 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS | 27
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Museums, Trails, and Fairs, Oh My! Great examples of tourism draws from around the state
onnecticut is one of the most interesting states in the union: it’s small, old, has coastline, rivers, bits of a famous mountain range, famous institutions, and the best pizza in the country. It is a great place to come see a baseball game or a concert, go to a few museums, or visit a fair, and that means it’s a growing tourist spot. Revenue from tourism has brought in $1.7 billion tax revenue per the Tourism Economic Study done by the state, including $910 million in State and local taxes: a 20 percent increase over the last five years. That means that tourism is an essential part of Connecticut’s economy. Many of our towns and cities have taken advantage of local features, or homegrown entire industries to bring people in, either for a day or a week. We at CCM decided to give you a brief overview of all that Connecticut has to offer.
Discovering CT through Museums One of the most important facets of a vibrant tourism strategy is culture. The arts, education, plays, and concerts all have the ability to bring in huge crowds. For instance, museums across America account for 850 million visits each year, which according to the American Association of Museums (AAM), makes up more than the attendance of all major league sporting events and theme parks combined. They contribute $50 billion to the economy every year, generating more than $12 billion in tax revenue, of which one third goes to state and local governments; this is why AAM has taken to calling them “economic engines.” Connecticut is fortunate enough to have unique and historical museums that make up a vibrant and enlightening part of our tourism. One could take a trip back to 1832, the year one of the state’s most important galleries opened. The Yale University Art Gallery was founded when John Trumbull donated 100 paintings to Yale College. Trumbull was
famous even at the time for his paintings of figures like George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, and events like the signing of the Declaration of Independence. After a major renovation, the New York Times said that it had the “aura of a destination. New Yorkers […] will want to start checking New Haven train times.” A train ride to see Picasso, Van Gogh, and other art from around the world for a ticket price of free. This kind of attraction makes spending the day a very easy proposition. Another university-sponsored museum is the Ballard Institute & Museum of Puppertry at the University of Connecticut, which is the only college in the country that offers a degree in puppetry. It houses over 2,500 puppets from all over the world, and boasts the largest collection of media on puppetry in the United States. The museum was named after Frank Ballard who held puppet productions of Shakespeare’s plays and Wagner’s operas. A handful of graduates worked for Jim Henson’s Muppets, and his wife Jane Henson taught in the school leading to the display of Scooter from the 1970s and The Wizard of Id. With a museum about puppetry, one might think that there couldn’t be an even more obscure museum, but up in Litchfield County, there is a museum dedicated entirely to Tort Law. Located on Main Street in the Winsted portion of Winchester, Ralph Nader founded the American Museum of Tort Law in order to “education, inform, and inspire Americans about two things: Trial by jury; and the benefits of tort law.” If you’ve ever wondered why you don’t see television ads for cigarettes, why your coffee cup says “contents may be hot,” or why there aren’t many vintage Ford Pintos at the hot rod shows, then this museum will have a lot to teach you. Representative John Larson said in a remark to the House of Representatives: “[the museum] has attracted national acclaim […] Thousands of people have come away educated, entertained, and impressed by its presentation.”
Leonardo da Vinci, The Annunciation, ca. 1475–79, is on view at the Yale University Art Gallery from June 29 through October 7, as part of their exhibit Leonardo: Discoveries from Verrocchio’s Studio
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Puppets From Around the World at the Ballard Institute & Museum of Puppetry
Mill House Antiques in Woodbury, Voted Best by Connecticut Magazine
And from 1832, you can travel to the present day to Ridgefield, where the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum has been promoting innovative artists since 1964. Per their website, it is the only contemporary art museum in Connecticut, and one of the few independent, non-collecting contemporary art museums in the United States. The Aldrich is what they call a “laboratory,” a place where emerging artists can work on innovative ideas and techniques. Since its opening, they have worked with more than 8,000 artists, including some that have gone on to be world-acclaimed like Eva Hesse, Robert Smithson, Frank Stella, Olafur Eliasson, KAWS, Mark Dion, and Shahzia Sikander.
Gillette, a stage actor most famous for playing Sherlock Holmes on stage. With his fame, he took to the Connecticut River to build a home for himself, completed in the first quarter of the 20th century. The castle was an amalgam of styles, creating a one of a kind dwelling. When Gillette died, leaving the building and nearly 200 acres of land to no one, the state bought it, making it open to the public. Visitors can enter the house, which has been impeccably maintained for almost 100 years.
Discovery is one of the most important aspects of a museum: the prospect of discovering a new artist or old, or looking at a beloved art from your childhood in a completely different way, or even learning about an important part of our legal system. Those intellectual tourists will come to your town or city, and discover more than just the museum.
Trail Blazers When it comes to tourism, some people are looking for a nice visit close to home. One way towns and cities bring in those tourists is trails, both literal and figurative, and Connecticut has its fair share of both types. One of the major trail thoroughfares that runs through Connecticut runs through the entire eastern seaboard of America. The Appalachian Trail is one of the most famous trails in the world, spanning 2,174 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia all the way to Mt. Katahdin, Maine. For those that want just a taste, you can hike 51 miles of the trail in Connecticut, which run the full gamut from beginner to expert; there’s even a section of the trail that runs through Falls Village in Canaan that is wheelchair accessible. It’s a great way for everyone to get in great views and hike a world renowned path. On the other hand, Gillette Castle has a bit of a different history. Known for the large castle that stands at the end of one of the trails, it was named after William
These aren’t the only kinds of trails in Connecticut. Sometimes a trail is a designated area that adopts one motif as the reason for visiting. Two of the most famous are the Connecticut Wine Trail and the Woodbury Antique Trail. While there are wineries all across the state, there is a collection of six wineries that cover New London County. From Preston to Stonington, you can make a day of visiting, traveling from winery to winery, sampling their offerings — though hopefully not too much —and buying wines made right here in Connecticut. Included in this circuit is Jonathan Edwards Winery located in North Stonington. It has been named one of the best wineries in America by FlipKey.Com, a Trip Advisor website, and best winery in state by Connecticut Magazine. One of the most interesting trails in Connecticut is the Woodbury Antiques trail, which features almost forty distinct shops that have specialties from Folk Art to Mid-Century Modern furnishings, and everything in between all situated in a three-mile long trail of Route 6. These shops take advantage of Connecticut’s long history of craftsmanship and art, preserving the legacy of those goods for future generations that will appreciate them. Of note is Mill House Antiques, which won best Antiques Dealer in Connecticut Magazine. There you can buy a simple pine chest, or a beautifully ornate piece
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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Festivals are an integral part of New England culture. Pictured here is the Brooklyn Fair
of Victorian furniture. If you want something a little more up to date, you can visit the exquisitely displayed George Champion Modern Shop, who buys and sells items made mostly after the 1950s. What all of these trails do, regardless of whether they are a hiking trail or a wine trail, is get people moving around town: good tourism means using what you have to bring people into your town.
Fairs/Festival Not many will know the deep roots of fairs in America, but a little information might explain why they are so popular in New England, and Connecticut in particular. Writing for Patch.com, Philip Devlin gives a little etymological history lesson: “the most likely source of ‘fair’ is ‘feria’ — Latin for ‘free day’ or ‘holy day.’ It was a “blending of agriculture, commerce, and religion in ancient times,” notably happening around harvests or plantings. By the 19th century, our young country began holding free exchanges of ideas, using the popular fair format. The Windham County Agricultural Society was established in 1809, and held the very first Brooklyn Fair that same year making it one of the oldest. Depending on who you ask — there is some controversy over exact dates — it might be the oldest continually active fair in the United States. Not much has changed over the last two centuries. To this day, one of the major features of the fair is the livestock competition. Though farming has largely industrialized, there is still an ox pull, horse pull, and pony pull. They also have Cattle, Dog, Sheep, Swine, Working Steer, and Poultry & Rabbit categories. They also have 30 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS | 2021
categories for vegetables, beer, handwork, baking, and quilt contests. There’s even a skillet toss with six age groups. Skillets will be provided by the fair. If you’re more into heritage fairs, just one town over you can join the Scotland Connecticut Highland Games that honors Scottish heritage for one day every fall. They too have competition, but in the Highland Dance, Bagpipes, and athletic areas. Bagpipes and drums provide the sound of Scotland throughout the day, and the 2018 Scotland Games feature North Sea Gas, one of “Scotland’s most popular folk bands,” and Charlie Zahm, a solo folk artist. This kind of festival you do not see just every day, nor will you ever see more kilts than in just one place. You cannot talk about fairs in Connecticut without talking about the Durham Fair. It’s probably only outshone in all of New England by the Big-E Fair held just over the border in Massachusetts, but not by much. Because of its size, it is able to draw some heavy hitters to play the festival. Past years have had performances by Blake Shelton, Pat Benatar, George Jones, Bill Monroe, Loretta Lynn, .38 Special, Charlie Daniels, The Guess Who, and Foreigner. This year, the headlining act will be Grammy Award winning Melissa Etheridge. No other state in the Union has a museum dedicated to Tort Law, but Connecticut does. And while you may find Ivy league schools, art museums, county fairs, wineries, and many other tourist spots elsewhere, no other state has quite the unique collection of culture, trails, and fairs. Good tourism means taking a look at what makes you unique, and promoting that. There are 169 towns and cities and Connecticut and a good reason to visit all of them.
SAVE THE DATES 11.30-12.01.21
TOGETHER AGAIN NEW LOCATION, NEW DAY
2021 CCM Convention Returns in person this fall with attendees, including local government leaders from across the state and companies providing the best in products and services to towns and cities, gather together for two days of informative workshops, interactive discussions, and networking opportunities.
See you this Fall at: