A high school AP economics class that engages students in proactive land-use planning, the owners of a downtown Segway tour company that let the community help name their new business, and the state’s Department of Transportation are among the organizations and initiatives chosen to receive a 2015 Award of Excellence from the Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC). Seven recipients were selected for the prestigious award, representing initiatives in Mansfield, New London, Putnam, Simsbury, Waterbury, and Upper Albany in Hartford.
The other winning entries included a First Fridays series that draws thousands of visitors with its hands-on arts and cultural events; a massive, multi-cultural downtown gathering of dozens of ethnic groups to celebrate a common community pride; a multi-year, multi-million dollar public/private partnership to design and build a brand-new town center; and a local merchant who remains committed to the neighborhood and the state despite becoming an international success.
For the first time in the history of the awards program, a state agency was also selected to receive an award. The CT Department of Transportation received a special award for Starting a Revolution: Integration of Land Use and Transit in recognition of the progressive nature of CTfastrak, the bus rapid transit system opened earlier this year. The awards jury that selected the winners gave the award because they felt the new busway represents a cultural shift in how Connecticut views transit, and wanted to acknowledge the future promise of transit oriented development that will hopefully result around the station locations.
The Connecticut Main Street Awards annually celebrate and communicate the most successful and innovative efforts in Main Street revitalization in Connecticut. A jury comprised of industry-related professionals and CMSC staff judged the submissions on criteria that included innovation, replication, representation, partnerships utilized, and outcomes.
"Our members continue to impress us with how they support, encourage and implement new ideas from the ground up," said CMSC President & CEO John Simone. "They're constantly forming partnerships with new groups, working to sustain local merchants, and tirelessly promoting how wonderful our downtowns and Main Streets are. We're proud of their efforts and excited to share their achievements with everyone else."
The awards will be presented at the 2015 Connecticut Main Street Awards Gala on June 8th at Trinity-on-Main in downtown New Britain. This year's event will feature guided tours of downtown New Britain, including a Downtown Arts, Heritage & Culture tour, a tour of Walnut Hill Rose Garden & New Britain Museum of American Art, and a tour of CTfastrak in New Britain: Transportation, Housing & Main Street.
The full list of 2015 Awards of Excellence winners:
2015 Connecticut Main Street Awards of Excellence
Main Street Partnership
▪ Simsbury High School AP Economics Course, to Simsbury Main Street Partnership and Simsbury High School.
▪ Step by Step: Building a Downtown from Scratch (Storrs Center), to Mansfield Downtown Partnership, the Town of Mansfield, UConn, LeylandAlliance and the Citizens of Mansfield. (photo, above right)
Events & Programming (Sponsored by Webster Bank)
▪ The Gathering (Downtown Waterbury), to the City of Waterbury, the Waterbury Observer, and Main Street Waterbury.
Award of Merit for Events & Programming
▪ First Fridays (Downtown Putnam), to the Town of Putnam, Putnam Business Association, and the Putnam Arts Council.
Business Owner of the Year
▪ Dawn & Kristin Harkness / Wheeling City Tours (New London), Submitted by New London Main Street.
2015 Main Street Pioneer: Outstanding Commitment to The Avenue (Sponsored by Webster Bank)
▪ Vivian Akuoko / Evay Cosmetics (Upper Albany Avenue, Hartford), Submitted by Upper Albany Main Street.
Starting a Revolution: Integration of Land Use and Transit
▪ CTfastrak, to the State of Connecticut Department of Transportation and the Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG).
The Connecticut Main Street Awards of Excellence were created in 2003 to recognize outstanding projects, individuals and partnerships in community efforts to bring traditional downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts back to life, socially and economically. In recent years, the Awards Gala has been held in New Haven, Hartford, Manchester, Torrington and Bridgeport.