Main Street: Make it beautiful and they will come?

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Danielson - posted Mon., Jul. 15, 2013
Streetscape improvements will include curbing, planters and bike racks . Photos by D. Coffey.
Streetscape improvements will include curbing, planters and bike racks . Photos by D. Coffey.

The sidewalk area in front of Danielson's Trink-et Shop and The Last Green Valley is a study in what the rest of the Main Street businesses might soon get, now that the town is set to receive its portion of Main Street Investment Funds. Cement sidewalks surround a brick inlay center area. Granite posts mark off large planters filled with flowers. Two shade trees rise from the sidewalk and black lampposts, complete with hanging planters of million bells, provide some light and ambiance at night.

Across the street, the sidewalk in front of Lilium, Gil's Shoe Barn and the Daily Grind is nowhere near as nice or as smooth. “I'll trip on my way to the post office if I don't look where I'm going,” said Lance Collins, who works at Danielson Adventure Sports on Furnace Street.

That is set to change, with $500,000 slated for the repair and replacement of 27,000 square feet of sidewalk and curbs, and the installation of decorative lighting, bike racks and planters. The announcement was made by state Sen. Donald Williams, Jr. (D-Brookyln), on July 11. Williams was instrumental in helping to create the fund as part of the 2011 Jobs Bill.

“The Main Street Investment Fund will help local Danielson businesses make the improvements needed to create jobs, attract customers and improve their bottom lines,” said Williams. “While they may not be major multinational corporations, it’s the small businesses on Main Street that employ our friends and neighbors and drive our regional economy.”

The improvements will be a welcome addition to Main Street, whose curb appeal has dropped a few notches over the years. Cracks in the sidewalks, empty store fronts and occasional blight contrasts sharply with Killingly Commons in Dayville. The national chains housed in the recent development enjoy the accoutrements of new construction. Things haven't had time to fall into disrepair. But the converse is also true: the development has none of the charm of downtown Danielson.

The Evan's Block built in 1878, the Davis Building built in 1919, and the Diamond Building built in 1932 are sturdy brick two-story buildings that add character and charm to downtown. Danielson Adventure Sports occupies a caboose-shaped building adjacent to the tracks where three rail lines used to operate. Some town residents complain that policing issues and building blight keep people away. And some business owners have little confidence that town officials have the will to do more to attract customers to downtown.

The Main Street Fund was meant to jump start revitalization efforts with streetscape improvements. Whether those efforts increase the visibility and viability of local small businesses remains to be seen.  

Fourteen municipalities in Connecticut will divide $4,973,865 in Main Street Investment Fund grants.

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