STEAP Grant Construction to Revitalize Sense of Identity in Centerbrook
Essex received a Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) Grant totaling $491,887 for Centerbrook Village Main Street improvements. The money will be used to improve lighting conditions and pedestrian sidewalks along Route 154 between Railroad Avenue and Deep River Road.
The goal, according to Town of Essex First Selectman Norman M. Needleman, is to create a village feel and distinct identity in Centerbrook, similar to the improvements already made in villages of Essex and Ivoryton. At the moment, though Centerbrook is the most commercial area of Essex, it is still in need of some work to develop a connected area with a consistent lighting and signage scheme, pedestrian-friendliness, accessibility, and a welcoming streetscape, Needleman said.
In 2014 a group of stakeholders including residents and business owners and employees came together to establish the identity for Centerbrook, and come up with initiatives that could make the village safer for pedestrians, cyclists, patrons, and vehicles. The group identified as problematic that the area was dominated by vehicles with few pedestrian-friendly safety measures, including lack of clear signage, broken or narrow sidewalks, lack of safety accommodations for cyclists, and a lack of a buffer area between roadways and pedestrian areas.
“There’s a lot of economic development, a new restaurant, and beautiful historic buildings on the Centerbrook Village Main Street,” said Needleman, who is also running for state senate in November. “A village feel and renewed identity will drive continued economic vitality.”
The grant application was completed with the help and input of Economic Development Consultant Susan Malan, Town Planner John Guszkowski, and the Centerbrook Visioning Group. The key components of the grant aim to make street and infrastructure improvements that will better facilitate the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians.
According to the application, “This project will enhance the multi-modal, complete-streets setting that the town seeks to establish while having a positive impact on the economic, commercial, and social environment of this historic village and better connect the diverse neighborhoods of Essex.”
This translates to sidewalk improvement and replacement of the deteriorating continuous sidewalks on the south side of Main Street and installation of street lighting in the sidewalk area that’s consistent with the character of the village as defined by the stakeholder group and outlined in a Preservation of Place Grant from the Connecticut Main Street Center adopted in November 2015. New gateway signage will demarcate the village to visitors and tourists who currently cannot clearly distinguish the differences between the town of Essex and its three distinct villages. Finally, bicycle lanes will be added along Main Street, allowing for safe bicycle access between Essex Village, Centerbrook Village, and Ivoryton Village.
Needleman hopes that work on implementing the revitalization plan can begin next fall. The town will request design proposals through the spring, with subsequent public viewings and approval processes. What separates this project from previous efforts is that the entirety of the planned improvements run along state roads, and therefore requires further approvals from the state. The Town of Essex will work closely with the state and the Department of Transportation on the proposed plans and designs, but expects a longer timeline for the approval process.