$80,000 in Grants Boost Preservation Initiatives in 7 CT Communities

Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC), the downtown revitalization and economic development non-profit, has selected seven organizations and municipalities to receive a share of $80,400 in 2016 Preservation of Place grants. The grants will be used to provide communities in Bridgeport, Canton, Haddam, Fairfield, New Britain, New Haven (Westville Village) and Simsbury with targeted resources to increase their capacity to plan for preservation and revitalization initiatives in their downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts. place

This year's awards are notable because two applicants, Canton and New Britain, sought the grant funds to pursue the creation of tax increment financing (TIF) districts, made possible through the passage of legislation in 2015 that was proposed by a coalition led by CMSC. TIF is a financing mechanism in which an investment in a specified area is repaid over time using the increased tax revenue generated by the investment.

"The projects funded through this year's Preservation of Place round have the potential to be transformative for these communities," said John Simone, CMSC's President & CEO.  "Canton and New Britain may very well become the models for creating successful TIF districts, while Haddam's award can help set the foundation for a unified, mixed-use commercial area that marries their historic charm with a modern, connected design. Certainly, all of the communities represented are as diverse in location as in their unique character, but each has something wonderful to offer, which will only be enhanced through the use of these grant funds."

The Preservation of Place grant program provides a source of funding for new initiatives that can be integrated into, and leverage, comprehensive Main Street preservation and revitalization programs.  The funds are meant to be flexible to meet individual community need.

The 2016 recipients of Preservation of Place grant funds are:BPT creates

  • Bridgeport Downtown Special Services District - Awarded $10,400 for Bridgeport CREATES, Phase II, to assist in the pre-development activities associated with the creation of a Maker Space/ Innovation Center.
  • Town of Canton - Awarded $10,000 for a Tax Increment Financing Master Plan for Collinsville Center & the Collins Company Complex to develop a viable TIF agreement, master plan and district to help develop the historic complex.
  • Town of Haddam - Awarded $10,000 for a Market Analysis & Village District Zoning Regulations for Tylerville in order to assess viable businesses and draft zoning regulations that will allow for and promote such businesses, as well as mixed-use development, in this historic area.
  • Town of Fairfield - Awarded $10,000 for a Signage & Wayfinding Program for Downtown & Neighboring Commercial Districts to help visitors and residents navigate their way around downtown Fairfield's many prominent cultural, tourist and academic attractions.
  • New Britain Downtown District - Awarded $10,000 to work in conjunction with the City on the Creation of a Tax Increment Financing District for transit oriented development around the CTfastrak terminus.
  • Westville Village Renaissance Alliance (New Haven) - Awarded $20,000 for the Westville Village Comprehensive Plan: The Visioning Phase, a comprehensive plan to guide a sustainable and place-based approach to long-term economic and physical development.
  • Simsbury Main Street Partnership - Awarded $10,000 for a Comprehensive Parking Study of Downtown to develop specific parking recommendations, including short- and long-term solutions.

Since 2008, the Preservation of Place grant program has leveraged over $1 million of investment in local Main Street initiatives. Connecticut Main Street Center and the Preservation of Place grant program receive support from the State Historic Preservation Office, with funds from the State of Connecticut through the Community Investment Act.

With Hockey History, North Carolina and Connecticut Look to Baseball, Attendance Growth

North Carolina and Connecticut – two states forever linked in the cross-currents of sports by the Hartford Whalers relocation to the Tarheel State in 1997, are both using 2014 to heighten their professional baseball credentials. The City of Hartford has announced that the Double A franchise currently in New Britain will be moving to the Capitol City in 2016 in a soon-to-be-built $60 million, nearly 10,000 seat stadium. Just two months ago, the Triple A Charlotte Knights opened their newly constructed 10,200 seat $55 million downtown stadium. The Knights are an affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Ground was broken on the new stadium in September 2012, about an 18 month construction schedule.

BB_T_Ballpark_media_7suaxdjb_lv2jd5cuThe first Knights game took place on April 11, 2014. (photo at left) The stadium features a two-level club with skyline views as well as a VIP, climate-controlled club with full service bar. In addition to corporate suites, there are 987 club seats at the new Charlotte stadium. Of those, 170 on the upper level sell for $41.50 per game, or nearly $3,000 per season. The remaining 817 club seats, at $21 per game, sell for about $1,500 annually.  All of the club seats were sold out 10 months prior to the season opener, according to the Knights website.  Season tickets require either a two- or four-year commitment. Naming rights to the stadium were sold to BB&T Corporation in 2012. Published reports also indicate that multiple new hotels are expected to open in the area around the stadium in the coming years, along with restaurants and retail.

The Charlotte team’s website reports that “National ballpark consultants conservatively estimate that in its first year BB&T Ballpark should draw at least 600,000 fans just for baseball.” In addition to obtaining corporate sponsorships, among the fundraising initiatives along the way in Charlotte were commemorative bricks sold to be placed in the stadium’s entrance, at a cost of between $90 to $195, containing individual messages determined by purchasers. A portion of the sales went to local charities in Charlotte.

Comparing Attendance Numbers, Possibilities

The Rock Cats drew more than 307,000 fans to their 6,100-seat stadium in New Britain last year, ranking sixth in the 12-team Eastern League. The Knights were last in attendance in the Class AAA International League last year, with an average of 3,803 per game, down from a high of 4,736 in 2006, according to the Charlotte News Observer. In 2013, the New Britain Rock Cats averaged 4,653 fans per game, which ranked 59th among baseball’s minor league teams. Charlotte ranked 80th. The top team in the league - and in minor league baseball - the Columbus Clippers, drew 9,212 per game.

Knights website

The AAA Pawtucket Red Sox average attendance in 2013 was 7,827, ranked #10 in minor league baseball. The Double-A Portland Sea Dogs, also a Red Sox affiliate, ranked 47th, drawing an average of 5,096 per game. Among Double-A teams, Portland ranks tenth.

The top minor league teams, based on average attendance in 2013, are in Columbus, Lehigh Valley, Indianapolis, Sacramento, Dayton, Buffalo, Louisville, Round Rock (Texas) and Albuquerque. The top Double-A teams are in Frisco, TX (7,057); Richmond, VA (6,689); Reading, PA (6,321); Tulsa, OK (5,704); Birmingham, AL (5,669); Corpus Christi, TX (5,498); Trenton, NJ (5,373) and New Hampshire (5,125).

On July 12, 2008, the Rock Cats established a franchise record for single game attendance, with a crowd of 8,115 at New Britain Stadium. The record was broken on June 27, 2009, with a crowd of 8,212. The Rock Cats reached the 8,000 mark once again on May 31, 2014 with a crowd of 8,079.

For those who wonder if there is a Triple A future for a Hartford baseball stadium, the history of Pawtucket may be of interest. The first team to be named the Pawtucket Red Sox debuted in 1970 as a member of the Double-A Eastern League, according to Wikipedia. After three seasons as a Double-A Red Sox affiliate, Pawtucket's Eastern League franchise moved to Bristol, CT in 1973 to make room for the new Triple-A PawSox. And as most Connecticut sports fans recall, the Bristol franchise then moved to New Britain in 1983, first as a Red Sox Double-A affiliate (through 1994) and then as the farm team of the Minnesota Twins.IMG_6669

And might the presence of a stadium in Hartford, rather than New Britain, cause the Red Sox to return with an affiliate in Connecticut? Apparently not any time soon. The Sox appear set in Pawtucket and Portland.

In January 2013, the Portland Sea Dogs announced an extension of their affiliation with the Boston Red Sox as the Double A minor league team. Their contract was set to end after the 2014 season but the extension through the 2018 season was announced during the Portland Sea Dogs Hot Stove Banquet by Red Sox director of player development Mike Hazen and Sea Dogs president Charlie Eshbach. Eshbach served as Eastern League President for 11 years and is the league's longest serving active member  – dating back to his tenure as general manager of the Bristol Red Sox in Connecticut, not too many years after attending college at UConn.

“We are delighted to extend our relationship with the Portland Sea Dogs for an additional two seasons,” said Hazen at the time. “We are extremely fortunate to work with some of the best people in minor league baseball in Portland. The Burke family, Charlie Eshbach, and the entire Sea Dogs organization always go above and beyond to provide support to our players and staff. With the Sea Dogs, our minor leaguers experience the ideal environment to succeed and grow.”

The Sea Dogs are now in their 21st season at Hadlock Field, their 12th as an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox originally entered into an agreement with the Sea Dogs following the 2002 season, when Portland changed affiliations from the Florida Marlins.

 (photo credit: Rob Kavaler)


Top Main Street Revitalization Initiatives in Connecticut Named

Manchester, New Britain, Waterbury, Seymour and the Northwestern CT Regional Planning Collaborative are being highlighted by the Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC) for their strategic downtown revitalization initiatives.

As recipients of the organization’s 2014 Awards of Excellence, the efforts include a community college partnering with the downtown and others to create a co-working space; connecting the Naugatuck River with the downtown through extended trails and a linear park; and regionalizing marketing for a collection of small village centers.

The annual  Connecticut Main Street AwardCT Main Street LOGOs 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. All of the award recipients continue the tradition of stimulating economic development and reinvigorating Connecticut's social centers, officials said.

"Our members continually inspire us with how creatively they respond to the needs of their community," said CMSC President & CEO John Simone. "They're deeply committed to every aspect of their downtown - the businesses, public spaces, local institutions, and above all, creating a place that people really enjoy living in and visiting. We couldn't be happier with how this year's winners represent all we stand for in downtown revitalization."

Submissions were judged on criteria which included innovation, replication, representation, partnerships utilized, and outcomes.  The awards will be presented at the 2014 Connecticut Main Street Awards Gala on June 9th at Roia Restaurant in downtown New Haven.  Award recipients, by category, are:

Events & Programming

Award of Excellence for Wine on Main St. to Main Street Waterbury, Terry Boyd, Braza Churrascaria, Courtyard by Marriott, Diorio's Restaurant, Shamrock Pub & Grill, Tryst Lounge, Signature's Restaurant, City Hall Café, Howland Hughes Center, and Nutmeg Fine Wine & Spirits.

Marketing & Communications

Award of Excellence for Discover NW CT to Northwestern CT Regional Planning Collaborative (representing the Towns of Sharon, Falls Village, Goshen, Cornwall, Canaan, Salisbury, Kent, and Norfolk), Studio Two, local business owners in the eight towns in the "Secret Corner", and local historical societies.

Public Space

Award of Excellence for Complete Streets Master Plan for Downtown New Britain to Downtown Streetscape Working Group, the City of New Britain (including the Mayor's Office, Public Works, Planning and Parks Departments), New Britain Downtown District, Polonia Business District, Central Connecticut State University/ITBE, Capitol Region Council of Governments, and Project Consultant Team.

Renewed Commitment to Main Street

Award of Excellence for Seymour Downtown Action Strategy to the Town of Seymour, Seymour Economic Development Commission, Seymour Downtown Committee, Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce, Naugatuck River Greenway Steering Committee, Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments, Downtown Merchants Association, Planimetrics, Milone and MacBroom; CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection,and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Main Street Partnership

Award of Excellence for Axis901 and MCC on Main (Manchester) to First Niagara Bank, Manchester Community College (MCC) Foundation, and the Town of Manchester (Board of Directors and Staff).

Economic & Business Development

Award of Excellence to The Business Women of Grand Street (Waterbury) to The Dutch Flower Lady, Technology Forensics, John Bale Book Company, Fine Craft Jewelers, Dottie's 2, Princess Lingerie, Brass City Market on Field, and Fashion Addict.