For 35 years, I have lived in Manchester, CT. Exploring, photographing, and writing about Manchester is the aspiration for this blog. I think it's a great place to live and raise a family. Money Magazine named Manchester 2018's #1 place to live in the state of CT.
More news about Downtown Manchester. Landfill to the Rescue?
Proposed Downtown Initiative
I love to go downtown to shop. It’s close to my house, easy to park and there are some interesting stores and restaurants. Manchester Hardware and Beller’s Music are great examples of warm, friendly, comfortable places to shop.
I went to the Economic Development Commission Meeting last week and learned a few new things about downtown. There are 200 businesses downtown and more square footage available than Buckland Hills Mall. Who would have guessed?
However, Downtown Manchester is underutilized because the buildings are old and deteriorating. The cost of bringing the upper floors of most buildings to code is prohibitive. An owner who pays for work to be completed would most likely never see a return on the investment. The private market will not enable the landlord to collect enough rent money in the newly refurbished apartments and offices to repay the amount due on loans. So, the upper floors continue to deteriorate.
There is good news yet. Because of a positive variance in the sanitation budget this year a proposal has been made to use the money ($750,000) to help out the landlords. The proposal would make available no interest loans of up to $250,000 over the next two years.
The Economic Development Commission would be assigned the job of reviewing the applications and approving those that meet the standards. Approved applications would then be submitted to the Board of Directors for release of funds. Loans would need to be re-paid in 10 years but after 5 years the loan could become a grant. To be eligible for grant status the loan payments have to be made on time during the first 5 years and the building must be occupied. There is a cap of $75,000 on the amount that could become a grant. The payments made on the loans would be returned to the sanitation fund.
The goal would be to use the money for infrastructure improvements to the second and third floors of downtown buildings. The ideas for improvement should be transformative and the aim is to turbo-charge the downtown area.
We were thrilled when Steve’s opened. The bagels are great and we no longer have to drive to the mall or Glastonbury to get a bagel on a Sunday morning. As I was taking this picture I met Nicole McCann waiting for her order. She told me she loves this place “Great people, great food, great service.”
We ate here in October with friends Chien and Anne Nguyen. My husband and I had never tried Vietnamese food. Chien and Anne are experts, especially Chien who grew up in Vietnam. Anne has been a frequent visitor to Vietnam and of course eats Vietnamese food at home when Chien cooks. I had a Bánh Xéo, Vietnamese Pancake made from rice flour that was crispy and folded like a taco. It was stuffed with lots of vegetables, pork and shrimp and it was delicious. We all enjoyed our meal and the ambience of the restaurant. I wish the owners of the building would take better care of it but that is for another post.
OK. I know. Not a restaurant. But we went there last Thursday night for Mulberry Pizza and Athletic Brewing Company Beer. Everyone knows Mulberry Pizza has delicious food. I tried the Italian Job Pizza for the first time and it was tasty; sweet AND savory with lemon creme and prosciutto and carmelized onions. Everyone should try it once. If you don’t it would be like driving to Pepe’s in New Haven and never trying the Clam Pizza. You’ll never know what you are missing.
Athletic Brewing Company brews craft non-alcoholic beer. I tried the Autumn Brown Ale. Very good! It’s a unique and courageous concept to brew non-alcoholic craft beer. They are located in Stratford but you can find the beer on shelves at quite a few Manchester package stores or have some with pizza at Pepe’s on Middle Turnpike and maybe soon at Mulberry St. Pizza.
Both owners were interviewed after we had a chance to sample their products and it was broadcast live on Facebook. It was helpful to hear how each entrepreneur got started and the triumphs and pitfalls of owning your own business. Every month Work_Space hosts an event like this.
After voting on Tuesday we went down to the Angry Egg for breakfast. I like to try different foods but my husband is more restrained in his selections preferring a few favorites. I tried a menu item called “The Jose” which was eggs (poached for me) with meat (bacon for me) and fried plantains and biscuit. It was very good but I’m not sure if the biscuit would be considered a traditional Spanish food.
Army Navy Club Pancake Breakfast
Again not a restaurant. But, today is Veteran’s Day and we went there for breakfast with my mother, stepfather and mother-in-law. My stepfather, Vic is a veteran of World War II. On June 13, 1944 at the age of 19 he landed on Utah Beach during the 10 day Invasion of Normandy. He was shot in the head but survived and still has shrapnel in his skull which occasionally sets off a metal detector at the airport. The guest of honor at the breakfast was another WWII vet who is 104 years old. (I will update this post with his name soon.)
Kind and Caring People Co-ordinate Services to Offer Support & Resources
Last Thursday, on the second floor of the Manchester Police Department, the Manchester Community Services Council (MCSC) met. Approximately 20 people attended the meeting. This group meets once a month to focus on networking and timely topics with a goal of matching resources and agencies with Manchester people in need. Shannon Baldassario, Director of Community Outreach and Emergency Services for Manchester Area Conference Of Churches (MACC) was the speaker.
Attendees were from Eastern CT Health Network (ECHN), Rebuilding Together, Highland Park Market, Manchester Adult & Family Services, National Alliance for Mental Illness, Manchester High School Family Liaison, Interval House, Pastoral Counselors from the Unitarian Universalist Society, a retired University of St. Joseph professor, and a representative from an organization that helps homeless veterans. (I don’t always write fast enough to get names of all of the organizations so please excuse any errors or omissions.)
Meeting attendees provided a glimpse of the good work performed daily to offer valuable assistance to those in need in Manchester. Shannon Baldassario, of MACC Charities, spoke to the group about her efforts to provide outreach to people whose circumstances leave them without a home. She informs them of services available, including clothing and showers at MACC Charities, free laundry, and appropriate referrals for mental health and addiction services. Once a connection is made, follow-up occurs after a week or two with additional support provided if needed. Shannon is persistent and thorough in reaching out as often as needed to connect individuals with appropriate resources.
Another service provided by MACC utilizes resources available at MACC Charities to keep individuals or families in their home or apartment. Clothes, dishes, grocery vouchers and funds to pay for utilities are available for people at risk of losing their home/apartment. This is short term help to keep people and families from becoming homeless.
Emergency referrals can be made directly to Shannon Baldassario by calling (860)647-8003 X 31 or emailing email@example.com. A phone call may also be placed to 211 to refer someone to the Coordinated Access Network (CAN). This network provides triage for people at imminent risk of becoming homeless or for people who are chronically homeless. Individuals will be placed in shelters or on a waitlist for a shelter. The maximum stay at a shelter is 30 days. Families are referred to an organization called Journey Home.
If you are interested in helping out here is a brief list of needs:
Joy of Community Sharing (adoption of 40 families not receiving services but in need for Thanksgiving and Christmas)
December 20 – Holiday Party for children under 10, volunteers needed
The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce (GMCC) is located in a Cheney Mansion built by Frank Cheney, Manchester’s first fire chief. It’s situated at 20 Hartford Rd. close to Main St.
Early Wednesday morning the chamber, in partnership with AT&T, hosted a breakfast for people running for office. After eating breakfast provided by AT&T at the Shoppes at Buckland Hills and some time to wander around meeting people, April DiFalco, President of the GMCC asked everyone to sit down. The pre-election forum was set up with a panel of candidates facing the audience and a moderator, John Emra from AT&T.
The panelists seated from left to right were:
Mark Tweedie (R), CT Senate District 4
Thomas Tierney (R), CT House District 12
Jennifer Fiereck (R), CT House District 13
Jason Rojas (D), CT House District 9
Geoff Luxenberg (D), CT House District 12
Jason Doucette (D), CT House District 13
Jeff Curry (D), CT House District 11
Steve Cassano (D), CT Senate District 4
Jennifer Nye (R), US House District 1
Jeff Russell (G), US Senate
John Larson (D), US House District 1
Each candidate had two minutes to introduce themselves. I took brief notes on the introductions that I will share here:
John Larson is an incumbent U.S. Congressman who talked about being proud to be involved in a bi-partisan technology take-off that helped Sikorsky, Pratt & Whitney and Electric Boat in the state of CT. Also, he had a plan to fix and fund social security and talked about how it is unfair to women.
Jeff Russell is the green party candidate. He isn’t worried about the U.S. running out of money because the U.S. is the source of money. Our debt is not actually a debt but represents the money supply. He is for universal health care.
Jennifer Nye’s experience in office included a position on the Manchester Board of Directors. Running against John Larson to be a representative in the U.S. Congress she would support strong borders, legal immigration and term limits.
Steve Cassano previously had served as deputy mayor and then mayor of Manchester. He is an incumbent running for office for the last time and is running against Mark Tweedie. He wants to fill manufacturing jobs at Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky and Electric Boat by providing training. He doesn’t think everyone needs to go to college and that junior high school is the place to begin to let students know about all of the career options.
Jeff Curry is an incumbent who is running unopposed. His district includes the Buckland Hills area and East Hartford. He is concerned about crumbling foundations and as a state rep has been involved in a committee that will provide funding to homeowners whose foundations are deteriorating from pyrrhotite. There will be a rollout of funds which will be available in December to homeowners. He wants to improve the predictability of education funding so schools are not scrambling at the last minute or during the school year to fund teaching positions. He has championed LGBTQ rights.
Jason Doucette is an attorney and small business owner running against Jennifer Fiereck. He started his own law practice and works with many small business owners.
Geoff Luxenberg recognized local politicians Jay Moran, mayor of Manchester and Darryl Thames, Board of Education member who were in attendance in the audience. He also defended Chris Murphy who he felt had been unfairly attacked by Jennifer Nye because he has enrolled his children in school in D.C. Geoff defended Mr. Murphy’s decision to be involved in raising his family by moving them closer to where he spends most of his work days. Jennifer had questioned if Chris Murphy is still considered a CT resident.
Jason Rojas is running for a 6th term. He serves as co-chair of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee and is a member of the Planning and Development Committee and works closely with the Appropriations Committee. There is much work to do but behind closed doors there is a bi-partisan effort to get things done for CT.
Jennifer Fiereck is a political outsider who wants to make the world better for her children. She is a small business owner who supports term limits and doesn’t want additional burdens on the wealthy and big business.
Tom Tierney is running as an unaffiliated candidate but has been supported by the Republicans.
Mark Tweedie runs a dental lab that makes crowns and bridges. He believes business is the answer to our budget problems and we need less red tape which slows growth.
After each person spoke the candidates were asked questions; first by the moderator and then by the audience. The initial questions were on transportation and the crumbling infrastructure and how to fund both. John Larson is concerned that infrastructure funding has not increased for 8 years. He is an advocate for using federal funds to build two tunnels through Hartford to re-connect the city divided by I-84 and gain access to the riverfront cut off by I-91. Jennifer Nye does not want a tunnel but would go through the northend of Hartford.
Jason Doucette would fund infrastructure improvements by requiring tolls for out of state traffic. Steve Cassano supports a mix of spending. Mark Tweedie thought the cost of the tolls would be passed on to the consumer. Jeff Russell questioned if tolls were a violation of the commerce clause of the constitution.
Additional questions were asked about what has been done in the past year to train people to fill the 35,000 job vacancies at Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky and Electric Boat. Steve Cassano stated that a program was started in Jr. High Schools to get students interested in those careers and Jason Rojas indicated that money was re-allocated to workforce programs.
The final question was asked by Darryl Thames of the Manchester Board of Education. He mentioned that state funding for schools has diminished and requested that the candidates share their views of funding public education. Jeff Russell addressed this question by speaking strongly about the need for better leadership from the U.S. Department of Education. We need someone who supports students by getting rid of these ludicrous tests that are turning public education into child abuse. Geoff Luxenberg also spoke up in support of more funding for the public school system.
At that point we ran out of time. I went back later to speak to April DiFranco and get pictures of the building. Since Election Day is tomorrow I felt that sharing this information as soon as I could was important so please excuse any errors and please vote tomorrow.
While Shelburne Falls is a great weekend get-away there is plenty of fall color right here in Manchester.
The sun finally came out Monday in the late afternoon so I drove around town and took some pictures as the sun was fading. I never noticed before how the telephone poles and wires obscure the view. So, I went to the golf course and I found some more color. These pictures were taken in the southend of town. Since, there were so many beautiful options and I took a lot of pictures in a short amount of time and had trouble choosing the best for this post I have used every format offered by WordPress to display about 1/4 of the pictures I took.
Manchester, CT to Shelburne Falls, Ma is an easy and picturesque Sunday afternoon drive in October
Shelburne Falls, Ma is an interesting place to visit any time of year. One of the conveniences of living in Manchester is the highway system that takes one to the Mass border in a half hour. From there it’s another 50 minutes up 91 to route 2 and west to Shelburne Falls.
An old bridge over the Deerfield River to Buckland was saved and up-cycled to create a bridge of flowers. A recent frost killed the tender perennials on the bridge but some mums and more hardy flowers added fall color when we were visiting last Sunday.
Bridge St. has some interesting shops, restaurants and coffee houses which remind me of a miniature downtown Manchester.
A waterfall and glacial potholes formed about 14,000 years ago are the big attractions. In the summer people find their way down to the rocks for sunbathing and swimming.
A one mile hike up nearby High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary will offer a spectacular view of the town and surrounding area.
Bridge of Flowers Pictures
Waterfall, Dam and Glacial Potholes
Views from Hike at High Ledges
Unfortunately, I forgot to bring along my camera so all of these pictures were taken with my cell phone. No camera really captures the true essence of a place so if you get a chance take a drive and a short hike some Sunday afternoon.
On Tuesday, my granddaughter Rose and I attended a program at the Manchester Public Library called Toddling Tots. The children attending were in the age range of 12-24 months. The parents and grandparents were older. We had a great time singing songs, playing with scarves, listening to a story and looking at a book. The program was downstairs in the Howroyd Room.
We arrived a little early and stayed a little bit after the program was over. In the children’s section of the library there were two chairs just the right size for Rose to sit in, puppets to play with and lots of books to look at. The Children’s Department at Manchester Public Library is staffed by four librarians with Master’s of Library Science Degrees. They choose books, read reviews and prepare and present programming with an emphasis on encouraging a love of reading. What could be better?