Middletown’s downtown parking issues a top priority

April 9, 2018


By: Larry McHugh


The spring is off to a fast start in Middlesex County and the chamber team, as always, is on the move.


I do want to begin this week’s column however, by covering a very important issue that is having a major effect on downtown Middletown. The recent announcement of the closure of the Arcade Parking Garage is creating serious parking issues for our retail establishments, our restaurants, and other downtown businesses and organizations. It is evident that we need a workable plan and a path forward that will address the parking shortage in the near term and in the long term. I appeared before the Common Council last Monday night to support three important bond ordinances that would appropriate the necessary funds for the Planning, Design, Engineering, and Deconstruction of the Arcade Parking Garage, the Planning, Design, Engineering, and Construction of City Public Parking Improvements, and the Planning, Design, Engineering, and Construction of Surface Parking Lots in the Downtown Area. These measures were passed by the council, and I want to thank Mayor Drew, and Councilmen Serra, Santangelo, Daley, Chisem, Blanchard, Faulkner, Nocera, and Pessina, and Councilwoman Bartolotta, for supporting the measures. City of Middletown Parking Director Geen Thazhampallath gave a presentation at last Thursday’s Central Business Bureau meeting which took place in a packed chamber conference room. Geen, along with the mayor, outlined the plan for the near term and what the city’s options are moving forward. Members in attendance, including downtown business owners, council members and other stakeholders, expressed their strong disappointment with the situation as it currently stands, but also offered some very good suggestions that will be considered as we move forward. Follow up discussions on this issue and on the ideas presented at Thursday’s meeting will be held at the May meeting of the Central Business Bureau which is scheduled for Thursday, May 3. This is a critically important issue for downtown Middletown, and I will certainly share additional information on downtown parking issues in future editions of the chamber column. The chamber, as always, looks forward to being a constructive partner as these important parking focused discussions continue in earnest.


On the chamber event front, this Tuesday will feature our much anticipated 2018 Women in Business Leadership Conference, Luncheon, and Health and Wellness Fair taking place at the Red Lion Hotel, Cromwell (formerly Radisson Hotel Cromwell). This event, sponsored by Citizens Bank, brought to you by Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore, and presented by the Women’s Leadership Collaborative, will feature a full day of learning, growing, and networking. The luncheon portion of the event will be headlined by keynote speaker Jean Chatzky, an award-winning personal finance journalist who serves as the financial editor of NBC's Today Show. Jean Chatzky has been honored with multiple awards for her work to educate consumers about their money, and providing important information and smart steps for getting out of debt. Signed copies of Jean Chatzky and Michael F. Roizen, MD’s new book, “AgeProof, Living Longer without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip,” will be available.


A kickoff presentation called “EMBODY THIS! Leadership Success,” will be given by Ellen Feldman Ornato & Jenny Drescher of The Bolder Company. The Bolder Company is the catalyst for lasting behavioral change that empowers businesses to thrive. A breakout session on “Building Strategic Relationships” will be given by the Owner of R.J. Julia Booksellers Roxanne J. Coady and Lisa Maass, President, Citizens Bank, Connecticut. A second breakout session on “How to Negotiate and Handle Difficult Conversations” will be led by Wendy Shumway of Invision CCS. In her 30 years of medical practice, Dr. Shumway has worked in a variety of settings and with a range of patients. Through Invision Coaching, Consulting and Seminars, Wendy works nationally, connecting with service-based professionals and organizations to help them move beyond surviving to get to thriving as she does not accept that coping is the best we can do.


Master of Ceremonies for the event will be News 8 Anchor/Reporter Ann Nyberg. Ann Nyberg has spent nearly 40 years in broadcast television news. She is the longest-serving, full-time female news anchor/reporter in Connecticut television history.


We look forward to an excellent event on Tuesday in Cromwell, and we ask those who are attending to please consider donating gently-used and nearly new professional attire to this event in support of Dress for Success of Hartford County. These suits could furnish another woman with the confidence to enter or return to the workplace and help her land a job that could change her life. I would like to thank Citizens Bank Connecticut President Lisa Maass for her outstanding support of the event, RJ Julia Booksellers Owner Roxanne Coady for her commitment and longtime partnership with the chamber, and chamber VP Johanna Bond who in partnership with the Women’s Leadership Collaborative has worked very hard to make sure that this event is truly productive and enjoyable for all of its attendees. www.middlesexchamber.com has additional important information as well as details on registration.  


Later on Tuesday afternoon, I look forward to attending a meeting of the Connecticut Culture and Tourism Advisory Committee at the DECD offices in Hartford. As I have noted many times, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce will always recognize that tourism is a key economic driver in our region and throughout our state. I look forward to meeting with my fellow committee members as we continue to work to make Connecticut a key tourism hub in the northeast United States.


This busy week will also feature two important chamber division meetings. On Wednesday morning, our Durham and Middlefield Division will meet at Torrison Stone & Garden in Durham from 8:00-9:00 a.m. In addition to updates from local officials, the meeting will feature a presentation from Connecticut Small Business Development Center Counselor Jim Jackson. The Connecticut Small Business Development Center offers expert assistance at no cost to entrepreneurs and small business owners throughout the state. Jim covers Middlesex County, and is a terrific resource for the business community. The Cromwell Division, one of our most active, will meet on Thursday at the Coles Road Firehouse at 8:00 a.m. This meeting, hosted by Arborio Corporation, will feature updates from local officials along with an update from the chamber’s Legislative Committee. As I have noted many times, our divisions continue to play a critical role in the operation of our organization.


Speaking of Cromwell, I look forward to joining Mayor Enzo Faienza and other local officials at a Grand Re-Opening Celebration for Hunter Law at 4:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon. Hunter Law, LLC is a general practice law firm owned and operated by Attorney Nancy S. Hunter. Attorney Hunter was born and raised in Cromwell and is doing a great job with this important local business. I look forward to joining her and members of her team as we celebrate the relocation of Hunter Law to Main Street in Cromwell.


As the legislative session moves forward in Hartford, the chamber’s Legislative Committee continues to stay active and engaged. Our Legislative Leadership Series continues next Monday, April 16 when we welcome House Minority Leader Themis Klarides to a special meeting at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell. At this special meeting, Rep. Klarides will visit with chamber members to discuss the 2018 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly. The leadership series concludes on Monday, April 23, when we welcome Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano for a similar session at the Courtyard. These meetings with the leaders of each legislative caucus have been very productive, and I appreciate each of them taking the time to visit with our members.


Another important session for our members is scheduled for next Tuesday, April 17, 8:00 a.m. at the chamber. CT Small Business Development Center Counselor Jim Jackson will lead this latest KeyBank Workshop Series titled “Two Faces of Time Management.” Join us to learn the overall principles and practical day-to-day methods that you can use immediately to gain control of your time. Attendees will learn how to plan and prioritize more effectively while managing interruptions and distractions. More information and event registration is available online at www.middlesexchamber.com, and I again thank Key Bank for their strong support of this series.


Finally, I ask that chamber members and other interested parties save the date for the 31st Annual Business & Education Partnership and Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program Recognition Breakfast which is scheduled for Monday, April 30 at the Red Lion Hotel, Cromwell (formerly Radisson Hotel Cromwell). Keynote Speaker for this important event is Mark E. Ojakian, President of the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities system. More information on this event is forthcoming, and we very much appreciate Liberty Bank’s sponsorship and support.


The Spring weather is slowly coming in, and the sun continues to shine in Middlesex County.


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