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Study suggests ways to strengthen town center

KENT — In a recently issued report, the Northwest Connecticut Planning Collaborative has made several recommendations for the town as part of a Village Center Vitality Program.

The recommendations were made after a study was issued during the summer by planning and consulting firm AKRF.

The report identifies strategies, both short and long term, for the eight towns in the collaborative, which includes all six Region One towns, plus Norfolk and Goshen.

As part of the report, AKRF surveyed 95 stores in Kent.

Since the survey was completed in July, several new businesses have opened up, including The Millstone Cafe, Kent Goods and the Rolling River Antiques shop.

In a list of strengths, the survey notes that the town has a strong retail mix, which includes specialty foods, galleries, book stores, restaurants and outdoor recreation stores.

Indeed, traveling down Main Street one can find Toys Galore and More right next to the Eckert Fine Art Gallery, or Kent Coffee and Chocolate right next to the House of Books.

Because of that, the town appeals to a mix of locals, tourists, children, seniors, families and bikers (and cyclists).

The survey also notes the town has a “pleasant pedestrian environment that promotes wandering and discovery; benches and street furniture facilitate impromptu gathering places.â€

On the list of the town’s weaknesses, the survey says the length of the Main Street corridor discourages strolling and window shopping from end to end of the village.

The survey also cites a decline in quality in the sidewalks and the “pedestrian experience†north of the railroad crossing on Main Street.

There are two short-term strategies suggested for the town:

• Use public funds to improve the gateway to Main Street from the north side of town. This can be done in part by improving lighting and signage near the Kent Green shopping plaza and the Fife ’n Drum Restaurant and Inn.

The report suggests that the town should also extend the quality of the pedestrian environment north of the railroad crossing.

• Build a “local brand†for the Kent Green shopping plaza.

The two long-term recommendations include:

• Finding a new tenant for the former Chevrolet site on North Main Street.

• Changing what is offered at Station Square. The current tenant mix, which is primarily office-commercial, breaks up the predominantly retail character of Main Street.

The survey results and strategies are available on the collaborative’s website, nwctplanning.org.

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