Four towns headed in the right direction
Downtown revitalization projects in area unfold in varying ways
Downtown revitalization is a complex process.
It takes time and money. It takes good planning and cooperation among stakeholders.
It also really helps to have a couple of true calling-card attractions and a synergy among the businesses, restaurants and other entities that compose the downtown.
Every municipality would love to have a vibrant town center -- an enticing, welcoming place for residents and visitors to shop, dine, peruse, hang out and spend money.
And nearly every town in Greater Danbury is focused on ways to revitalize its downtown.
Some towns have natural physical advantages, like a village green, proximity to a body of water, wonderful architecture, historic buildings and great infrastructure.
Some towns have to find ways make up for an absence of one or more of those advantages.
There are a lot of key ingredients that go into becoming a bustling town center, but no two revitalizations unfold in identical fashion.
Right now, for example, the towns of New Milford, Brookfield and Kent and the city of Danbury are poised to take significant steps forward -- each in different fashion.
New Milford has been working on its downtown revitalization for two decades and is closer to reaching its goals than most area towns.
But the village center is getting a real shot in the arm from the multi-million-dollar investment of entrepreneur Gary Goldring, who has acquired and renovated several properties and is starting to fill those spaces with businesses.
The downtown also stands to benefit from the recent opening of Gallery 25 and Creative Arts Studio in a town-owned building on Church Street. The new arts center will serve as a co-operative gallery showcase for area artists, with studio space for classes and demonstrations.
Ironically -- or perhaps fittingly -- Gallery 25 is right next door to the site once envisioned as a Museum of Contemporary Impressionism, a project that didn't happen for financial reasons.
That museum would have drawn folks from miles around and would have put Church Street on the map as a place to visit and shop. We hope Gallery 25 will have the same impact.
New Milford's neighbor to the south, Brookfield, is in the early stages of trying to turn its Four Corners into a welcoming village center.
Previously best known for its four gas stations and for major traffic tieups at rush hour, the Four Corners is now a quiet -- too quiet -- business district in want of more activity.
Town officials have been busy changing zoning regulations and developing a community consensus about the future of the Four Corners, and three major housing developments have already been approved for that part of town.
But to draw townspeople and visitors to the Four Corners, work needs to be done to make it more pedestrian-friendly. In keeping with that, First Selectman Bill Davidson has announced steps have been taken that will lead to the design and engineering of a streetscape with sidewalks, lighting, benches and curb cuts.
Brookfield has a long way to go with its Four Corners, but the streetscape piece of the puzzle represents an important step forward.
New Milford's neighbor to the north, Kent, already possesses a quaint, attractive village center that is a major tourist destination.
But town leaders recognize downtown revitalization is a never-ending process, and they are in the midst of an effort to improve their streetscape to make it easier to walk around town.
Successful downtowns need a critical mass of residents, and Danbury is close to getting a needed housing catalyst in the form of a $70 million private investment for 367 luxury apartments at Kennedy Place on Main Street.
Four municipalities, all at different stages in the life of their downtowns. But it's welcome news that all of them are headed in the right direction.