Looking to enhance commercial traffic and to spur business retention and growth in Sandy Hook center, a local business support group is working with Newtown’s Community and Economic Development Director and the Connecticut Main Street agency establishing a multifaceted project designed to spur economic recovery to the village center.
Numerous business and property owners in Sandy Hook have been suffering losses since the events of 12/14 closed Sandy Hook School, substantially reducing local daily traffic and potential customers to the local village center.
Town economic officials have been working with Sandy Hook Organization for Prosperity (SHOP) as well as other town merchants beyond Sandy Hook, launching a townwide “buy local” campaign earlier this year, and supporting several Sandy Hook and SHOP events attempting to draw customers to, or back to, local merchants.
The project announced this week involves bringing three separate groups together in round table fashion, according to town Economic and Community Development Director Elizabeth Stocker. Those meetings will commence as part of a full day of meetings and workshops Monday, September 16.
This kick-off session will set the stage for a three-day marketing and brand development visit in October. It will include a Merchant Roundtable open to as many merchants/business owners who can attend. All Sandy Hook merchants and business owners are encouraged to participate.
A Stakeholder Roundtable will also be held for other advocates in the community.
“These are nonmerchant stakeholders who may be area residents who want to support a thriving business district in Sandy Hook, because that potentially improves the quality of life in the area and around town,” Ms Stocker said.
Stakeholders could also include faith-based leaders and customers of Sandy Hook businesses from across the community and even outside of town as well as town officials, she added.
The third-tier panel would include Newtown officials and school officials meeting in closed session where, Ms Stocker said, participants will discuss more sensitive topics in order to make sure that any concepts coming out of the other two panels are not in conflict with town and school district messaging.
She is hoping Interim Superintendent John Reed and Sandy Hook School administrators could join in this group, along with leaders from public safety agencies including police, fire, and other first responders.
Excited About Partnership
First Selectman Pat Llodra said she is excited at the prospect of Newtown partnering with the Main Street program.
“We’re looking forward to having folks from Main Street join us as we try to develop greater sustainability in the Sandy Hook commercial center,” Mrs Llodra said. “This will not only be good for Sandy Hook, but for the entire community.”
With enhancements to the pedestrian-oriented village center in place, including developing new streetscape components, Mrs Llodra said, “Our next step will address how we brand and market the unique shops and businesses, dining experiences, and beautiful vistas that Sandy Hook Village has to offer.”
To that end, Newtown has selected a team organized by Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC) to coordinate an economic recovery consultancy for Sandy Hook Village. In a release, Kimberley Parsons-Whitaker, associate director of the agency said CMSC will collaborate with Arnett Muldrow & Associates of Greenville, S.C., and with NetMark Associates of Canton, Conn., to work closely with the town and SHOP representatives to examine the market for Sandy Hook Village for shopping, dining. and gathering.
The ultimate goal will be to engage more people to come to Sandy Hook, and to craft a marketing and promotion toolkit for the village to better share its assets with residents, visitors, and investors, Ms Parsons-Whitaker wrote. The Main Street team will assist Sandy Hook Village business and property owners with economic recovery, while ensuring a vibrant social center that reflects the true nature of the community.
Phase one of CMSC’s consultancy will begin in Sandy Hook in mid-September and continue through December 2013. The town and CMSC are currently coordinating a schedule that will involve business and property owners and the community at-large in branding and community identity focus groups and workshops early in the fall.
Assessment And Marketing
The Main Street official said a detailed market assessment and proactive branding and marketing plan will debut by mid-November.
“The intent is to position the Village Center for success in the fall and into the fourth quarter retail season while highlighting and enhancing the many positive aspects of Sandy Hook Village,” she wrote.
Phase Two of the consultancy, focusing on positioning the merchant and property owner community for long-term success, will commence in January with an organizational assessment of SHOP and a visioning workshop.
Deliverables will include an operational plan and strengthened governance and partnership strategies, as well as on-the-ground coaching and assistance throughout the spring of 2014.
“CMSC has assembled a team that has local knowledge of the needs of Sandy Hook Village while also involving an outside perspective of and experience with working with communities going through the recovery process,” said Ms Parsons-Whitaker, who will serve as project manager for the consultancy.
“Sandy Hook Center is becoming a premier destination for dining, shopping, and enjoying the natural beauty of the Pootatuck River,” said Michael Burton, president of SHOP. “The current streetscape project, funded by the town, has provided a connection from the business district to existing and planned residential neighborhoods.”
Mr Burton pointed out that two new gathering vistas have been installed for residents and visitors to relax while strolling through Sandy Hook Center.
“SHOP is excited to be partnering with the team of consultants that CMSC has assembled to lead us through a marketing and branding campaign,” Mr Burton added.
Funding for the consultancy comes from a State of Connecticut Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant awarded to the Town of Newtown in January 2013 for purposes of providing business assistance to Newtown’s businesses following the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on 12/14.