Monday, February 24, 2014 at 10:59AM
New Britain is one of two Connecticut cities that will receive customized technical help to turn underutilized downtown buildings into residential housing above commercial space. Connecticut Main Street Center is an economic initiative that aims to bring the state’s commercial districts back to life socially and economically.
CMSC President and CEO John Simone said Friday that New Britain and Meriden had been chosen to participate in the second year of an innovative program, Come Home to Downtown. Simone said the downtown revitalization organization chose New Britain and Meriden because both are focusing on transit-related issues. “The state’s $1.5 billion investment in transit ensure[s] that areas around the bus and rail stations provide an interesting mix of housing, retail and other uses, a critical component of how we grow our town,” Simone said. “Many of the buildings surrounding transit stations are exactly like the ones we chose for this program — older, underutilized and full of potential.”
“The Come Home to Downtown pilot program will help communities find ways to add housing in existing buildings, which will add value to the buildings, create more housing options in communities and more vibrant main streets,” said Eric Chatman, CHFA’s president and executive director. CHFA contracted with CMSC for a second year of the program, during which CMSC will continue to work with property owners in the first three pilot communities as well as downtown stakeholders in Meriden and New Britain.
“Creating dynamic neighborhoods offers a tremendous economic payoff for the community; money spent downtown stays downtown,” said Simone. (A study of downtowns in Iowa demonstrated that residents of each new apartment developed spent an additional $20,000 to $39,000 a year downtown.)
With CTfastrak (the rapid transit bus system) underway, an expansion of Central Connecticut State University in the downtown and a Bike Connectivity Plan recently implemented, the city is investing in neighborhoods with a variety of housing, retail and transportation choices. CMSC’s Come Home to Downtown efforts are expected to complement these initiatives; the Raphael Building chosen for the program is at 99 W. Main St. Owner Avner Krohn has already improved the façade and remodeled the ground floor into commercial space. He is seeking help in converting the upper floors to residential housing.
Krohn said he welcomes mixed-use real estate. It focuses on buildings with existing first-floor commercial uses and provides significant resources to help develop the upper floors into r residential space. New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart said she is pleased that a historic piece of downtown will be kept intact. With CTfastrak coming in 2015, New Britain “will be a hub for transit-oriented development projects that will help spur growth downtown,” Stewart said. “The Come Home to Downtown project is key to that.”
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
NEW BRITAIN — The city has been awarded a 2014 Connecticut Main Street Award of Excellence for Public Space by the Connecticut Main Street Center. Public Works Director Mark Moriarty called it “a very prestigious award.”
“This was a public/private partnership between the city and many other groups,” said Downtown District Director Gerry Amodio. “These groups jelled as a team to produce a wonderful plan for the future look of downtown.”
The Award of Excellence for Complete Streets Master Plan for Downtown New Britain went to the Downtown Streetscape Working Group, the city of New Britain (including the Mayor’s Office, Public Works, Planning and Parks Departments), the New Britain Downtown District, the Polonia Business District, Central Connecticut State University and its Institute of Technology & Business Development, the Capitol Region Council of Governments and the Project Consultant Team.
“This recognizes the city’s commitment to implement the plan to bring back the core part of the city,” Amodio said. “With luck, we’ll get national recognition. In terms of CTfastrak, this could give us an edge on other communities.”
Moriarty, who oversaw the master plan, called it “a major community effort. People from other cities are taking notice. For instance, the town of Greenwich called. They were interested in our head-out angle parking for their community. We also got recognition for our bike initiative. The more we’re looked at as leaders, the more favorable it will be for us to get projects funded.”
New Britain was one of six winning entries, representing initiatives and organizations from Manchester, New Britain, the Northwestern Connecticut Regional Planning Collaborative, Waterbury and Seymour. All of the award recipients continue the tradition of stimulating economic development and reinvigorating Connecticut’s social centers.
“Connecticut’s downtowns provide the cornerstone for economic growth and prosperity, social opportunity and communal spirit,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a statement. “I applaud this year’s winners for the innovative way they’re creating downtowns that will meet our future needs while preserving our natural and historic assets.”
“Our members continually inspire us with how creatively they respond to the needs of their community,” said CMSC President and 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.”
The Connecticut Main Street Awards of Excellence were created in 2003 to recognize outstanding projects, people and partnerships in community efforts to bring traditional downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts back to life, socially and economically.
The Connecticut Main Street Awards honor the year’s most successful and innovative efforts in Main Street revitalization in the state. Submissions were judged on criteria including innovation, replication, representation, partnerships utilized and outcomes. The awards will be presented at the 2014 Connecticut Main Street Awards Gala on June 9 at the Roia Restaurant in downtown New Haven.
Scott Whipple can be reached at (860) 225-4601, ext. 319, or email@example.com.
New Britain Herald- May 21, 2013
Avner Krohn may have said it best.
“For some time we’ve seen projects on the drawing boards — the new police station, CTfastrak,” said the chairman of the board of commissioners for the New Britain Downtown District. “But, now we’re seeing reality in downtown New Britain — projects actually under way.”
Krohn, a leading downtown developer, said with the completion of these projects the city can look forward to transit-oriented development in residential, retail and commercial spaces.
“We’re seeing an increased demand for retail space, bringing a multicultural, diverse tenant base with business owners from various backgrounds,” he said Monday. “They bring with them new kinds of retail we haven’t seen here for years.”
New Brite Plaza, for example, is now 100 percent occupied, and has a waiting list of prospective tenants.
The 29th annual downtown district meeting in the new police station community room was attended by more than 100 business and civic people. They heard reports from Krohn, Mayor Tim O’Brien, Police Chief James Wardwell, Mark Moriarty, director, New Britain Public Works, and Downtown District Director Gerry Amodio.
Amodio predicted that in 10 years property owners’ investments will be worth a lot more.
“This is a safe, thriving community,” he said. “Now that CTfastrak is real we can expect downtown to become the beginning of a true college town; this is significant and can bring the city even greater value.”
Wardwell talked about a safer, cleaner city since a series of drug raids this year and Mayor Tim O’Brien invited other business owners to consider relocating to downtown, issuing an open invitation to Broad Street businesses.
Moriarty said people he has spoken with are excited about the concept of Streetscape, particularly the bike paths through the city.
“Bike paths can become a family event,” he said, and adding that people like the idea of the connection between city parks and schools. He also stressed that back-in and angle parking, primarily on Chestnut Street, will make traffic safer for both pedestrians and drivers.
Rob Trottier, the city’s civil engineer, said contractor Martin Laviero of Bristol will start work on the reconfiguration of the Arch Street section of Main Street. The project, which begins in June, will extend south of Court to Elm Street and is expected to take 180 days.
The district’s proposed 2013-2014 operating budget is $226,619.
Scott Whipple can be reached at (860) 225-4601, ext. 319, or firstname.lastname@example.org