The Downtown

Dublin Core

Abstract

Booklet on Danbury Redevelopment

Date

1960

Publisher

PDF Search

Text

The Downtown

The downtown encompasses the older, more
densely populated part of Danbury. Is it
a viable area? What will its role be in
Danbury's future?

Webster defines downtown as "the business center of a city or
town", implying an area basically limited to commercial activity.
But the central business district (CBD) of a community is customarily thought of as the heart of the City where various
elements of the community come together and interact. Therefore,
the CBD is often an area where the diversity of land uses is most
abundant, including commercial, industrial, residential and
municipal development. The downtown of a city also serves to
form the image of a particular community perceived by individuals
who reside within or outside the particular community.

"DANBURY'S DOWNTOWN is U NIQUE IN TWO RESPECTS: 1) THE CBD
RETAIL AREA PROVIDES A M YRIAD O F C OMMERCIAL ENTERPRISES MIXED
WITH BANKS, GENERAL OFFICE A ND M UNICIPAL BUILDINGS W I T H I N A
THREE BLOCK AREA O N M A I N STREET A ND 2) W ITlll'N O NE B LOCK O F
THIS DOWNTOWN RETAIL A REA, O NE C OMES I N C ONTACT W ITH RESIDENTIAL LAND USES, W HICH COMPRISE T HE M AJOR PROPORTION O F LAND
AREA I N THE D OWNTOWN."

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Danbury's downtown is unique in two respects. First, the
CBD retail area provides a myriad of commercial enterprises
mixed with banks, general office and municipal buildings
within a three block area on Main Street to meet an equally
great number of consumer needs. Secondly, within one block
of this downtown retail area, one comes in contact with residential land uses, which comprise the major proportion of
land area in the downtown. This factor alone necessitates a
broader perspective of the downtown for planning purposes since
any changes induced by the planning process will not only
affect the retail center but the ambient land uses as well.
In addition, all of these components interact to determine
the character of the area and to shape Danbury's image and
therefore must be considered in planning a program for the
total area. This chapter will deal separately with the inventory and analysis of retail and residential land uses present
in the downtown area in preparation for the enumeration of
recommendations for an overall downtown program.

THE C OMMERCIAL DOWNTOWN

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For the purpose of this discussion, Danbury's commercial
downtown (CBD) is considered to be the development along
Main street from the intersection of Boughton and Center
Streets north to the intersection of Kennedy Avenue and White
Street, as delineated on the following map. The western
and eastern perimeters of the CBD are defined as the rear
elevations of the buildings which abut Main Street within
the north-south boundary aforementioned. The eastern boundary also extends along Liberty and Delay Streets. These
boundaries were qualitatively determined by the consultant
through field analysis and observation of the dominant flow
of vehicular traffic and pedestrian movement along street and
sidewalks, respectively. The patterns of movement manifest
a complex web of interaction between the variety of existing
retail enterprises, institutional structures (banks, post
office, etc.), and the tastes and preferences of the consumer.

This definition of the parameters of the CBD coincides w ith the
area which has been the focus of four separate studies which
have analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of the CBD in terms
of its continuing as the City's retail center and which also
have recommended strategies for improving its economic viability.
Several conclusions can be derived by combining the results of
these four reports:

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THE
DOWNTOWN STUDY A REA
CENTER o f the
RETAIL C BD A REA

SOURCE: T PA

S ervices

DANBURY
CONNECTICUT

Table 5.1

Year

Recent Trends in Danbury's Total Number of Households,
EBI per Household, and Total Retail Sales

Households
(1000's)l

1969
1970
1971
1972
1973
1974
1975
1976

15. 2
16. 0
16. 8
18. 0
18. 3
18. 8
18. 6
19. 0

Effective Buying
Income per Household2
10 ,721
12 ,205
13 ,291
12 ,870
14 ,073
15 ,863
17 ,050
18 ,346

Total R etail Sales
(1000's)3
101,665
103,130
121,222
156,393
171,975
297,724
317,227
347,030

Population Estimates by Sales and Marketing Management
1

^Personal income less personal tax and non tax payments
(developed by S & MM)

\l sales are all net sales, minus refunds and allowances
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for returns, of establishments engages primarily in retail
trade (sales tax included).

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Source:

Sales and Marketing Management

Danbury captured 62.3% of the total retail sales in a seventown market region in 1970. Brookfield and Ridgefield were a
distant second and third assimilating 10.8% and 10.6% of total
sales, respectively. There was slightly over a 4% increase
in the regional capture of sales for Danbury from 1970-74.
Consequently, Danbury has not only maintained its status as
the retail center of the region, but has strengthened this
position as a result of continued retail construction within
its municipal boundaries and the continued upward trends in
both the total number of households and household effective
buying income for the area. Though several towns, including
New Fairfield and Ridgefield experienced a sharp increase in
total retail sales for the same four-year period, ihese municipalities represent a much smaller percentage of the region's
total retail sales.

There is a dearth of retail data available specifically for
the CBD area. The 1970 U.S. Census was the only source of

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d ata found and indicated that in 1970 the CBD captured 24.2%
of Danbury's total retail sales. In light of the fact that
the retail expansion which has occurred in Danbury since 1970
has occurred outside the CBD, the implication is that this
percentage of sales capture is now less. However, two factors
speak well for the future of the CBD. First, the longevity
of many storeowners testifies to the fact that the CBD is an
area where an entrepreneur can maintain a "good business."
Secondly, through the urban renewal process a parcel of land
in the major retail block on Main Street has been prepared for
development. This could provide the first major commercial
development in the CBD in many years. The area is therefore
at an important juncture; its future status will be guided
by the policies now being formulated for implementation in
the next few years.

THE R ESIDENTIAL DOWNTOWN
As noted previously, the heterogeneity of the downtown requires
examination of the area from a broader perspective than the
economic aspects. Danbury's downtown is more than a retail
center: it is the core area of the City and "home" to many
residents. Planning for the area must therefore incorporate
these varied functions and determine the characteristics of
those who will be impacted by CBD activities.

"THE MOST SALIENT CHARACTERISTICS OF THE R ESIDENTIAL DOWNTOWN
ARE 1) THE P REDOMINANCE OF M ULTI-UNIT STRUCTURES (86% OF ALL
OCCUPIED UNITS), 2) THE AGE OF H OUSING (85% OF AJ.L H OUSING
IN THE DOWNTOWN AREA WAS BUILT PRIOR TO 1940), J 72% OF ALL
DOWNTOWN HOUSEHOLDS ARE R ENTERS, 4) THE A REA CONTAINS A SUBSTANTIAL PORTION O F H OUSING UNITS WITH A L IMITED NUMBER O F
ROOMS A VAILABLE,!,E, N 34% OF ALL U NITS CONTAIN 1~3 ROOMS,
AND 5) O NE-THIRD OF ALL R ENTER-OCCUPIED U NITS FOR THE DOWNTOWN STUDY AREA WERE CLASSIFIED AS LOW R ENT BASED ON 1970
CENSUS F IGURES,
The detailed examination of housing and population characteristics completed for the Downtown Study portion of Phase Four
of the Plan of Development update program utilized 1970 Census
data for the enumeration districts which comprised the study
area. This source provided the most detailed information
available for specific areas within the City. The following
is a summary of this data.

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The most salient characteristics of the residential downtown are 1) the predominance of multi-unit structures (86%
of all occupied units), 2) the age of housing (85% of all
housing in the downtown area was built prior to 1940), 3)
72% of all downtown households are renters, 4) the area
contains a substantial portion of housing units with a limited
number of rooms available, i.e. 34% of all units contain 1-3
rooms, and 5) one-third of all renter-occupied units for the
downtown study area were classified as low rent based on 1970
Census figures.

Age of housing is probably the single most important contributory factor for the conditions of blight and substandardness which exist in some parts of the area. As a rule, the
term "substandard" connotes a myriad of external and internal
housing conditions. In this case, however, the definition is
that of the 1970 Census of Housing in which "substandard housing"
was that which lacked a complete bathroom for exclusive use.
Approximately 5.3% of the housing in the downtown area was
classified as substandard i n the Census, as compared with 3.5%
for the City of Danbury. The highest incidence occurred in the
commercial downtown area (within one block of the CBD) where
approximately 12.5% of total occupied housing was "substandard".
Substandardness in terms of lacking plumbing facilities is,
therefore, not a pervasive problem in the downtown area, but
as noted earlier age of the housing in the area results in a
variety of physical and environmental deficiencies which would
normally denote substandardness. Substandard in the sense of
suitability for occupancy and freedom from health and safety
hazards may therefore be a more common problem in the area;
however, factual data in support of this premise is lacking.

In 1970, the number of units in the downtown area, which were
overcrowded (1.01 or more persons per room), was relatively
the same as that for the City - 8.2% and 7.0% respectively.
Overcrowded housing units in the study area were more prevalent
in housing that was rented than in that which was owned and was
considerably greater in housing occupied by Blacks (23.1% of
all downtown area units occupied by Blacks in 1970).

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The density of the area's physical development is reflected in
the fact that 14% of D anbury 1 s total 1970 population resided in
the downtown. Analysis of selected characteristics of this population in 1970 indicates marked differences between downtown •

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residents and the total population of Danbury. The most
significant differences are a lower percentage of persons
under 18 years of age, a higher percentage of persons over
64 years of age, a lower educational attainment level, a
significantly lower median income, a significantly higher
percentage of families with incomes below the poverty l evel,
a significantly h igher percentage of Black population, and a
higher percentage of "blue collar" workers.
These characteristics are summarized in Table 5.2.

The downtown area's existing housing characteristics, interacting with these demographic characteristics and a variety
of environmental factors - accessibility to public transportation, accessibility to shopping or employment, market value
and types of housing available outside the downtown area, and
inflation - create the circumstances which determine who will
live in the downtown area. The net positive or negative effect
of this combination of factors will determine whose needs are met
or will be met and who is or will be attracted to the area.

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There are two general reasons which account for why people
reside in a given area: Choice or necessity. Those who live
in the downtown area by choice do so because the housing supply
meets their needs arid satisfies their tastes and preferences.
The second reason why people live downtown has to do with the
cost of housing in any given community. Housing is generally
less expensive in a downtown. Functionally obsolete structures,
lack of open space in the general area, heavier traffic volumes,
noise and air pollution have all contributed to lessening the
demand for dwelling units in the downtown, thereby causing the
price for rental units within and near the CBD for example to be
relatively lower than for rental units of more modern vintage
in other parts of the particular community where traffic counts
are lower and housing is less dense. People with small incomes
who cannot afford the higher priced housing, much less an automobile, gravitate toward the inner city area with its more
modest priced housing, public transportation and close proximity
to needed services. Quite often the types of p eople who reside
in the downtown are reflective of certain demographic and ethnic
characteristics (e'.g. the elderly and/or minoriti.es). As has
been noted previously, the study area has larger proportions of
these segments than the remaining portions of the City of Danbury
If the present housing conditions (cost, type) in the downtown
remain the same and the cost of housing outside the downtown area
continues to increase, it is highly improbable that the characteristics of future residents of the downtown area will change
dramatically.
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Table 5.2
GENERAL POPULATION CHARACTERISTICS
Downtown
Study Area

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City of
Danbury

Total Population
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6,940

50,781

Median Income

8,490

11,394

Percent below Danbury
Median Income

25.5%

Percent of Families
below the poverty level

12.5%.

5.6%

12.7%

5.2%

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Blacks as a percent
of total population



Population



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29.7%

33.9%

Population

> 64 yrs old

12.4%

9.5%

Less than 1 yr of High School

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< 18 yrs old

45.2%

30.2%

4 yrs of High School or More

42.4%

50.4%

"White Collar"

33.0%

47.0%

"Blue Collar"

52.0%

39.0%

15.0%

14.0%

Years of School Completed
(% over 24 years of age)

Occupational Categories
(% of Total Labor Force)

Farm Workers
Service Workers

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Encouraging the maintaining and upgrading where necessary
of existing housing as well as encouraging housing of all
price ranges should be given a high priority in the greater
downtown area. Attention should be given to the needs of
those segments of the general population who could most benefit from housing designed for a particular life style geared
to require public transportation and easy access to work or
shopping -- the retired, the newly wed, or single with limited
income as well as those families unable to afford the cost
of living in the suburbs.

In addition, the construction of market rate apartments in
the moderate to luxury price range would create physical and
socio-economic diversity in the area. These activities should
occur in the immediate area of the CBD along with mixed-use
development combining retail, office and apartments stratified
in moderate to high-rise structures directly within the CBD
area.

As long as the carrying capacity of the area is not exceeded
(i.e. adequate parking and access for vehicular traffic and
desirable accommodations for the pedestrian) so that intensification of uses can take place by the above alternatives
without impairing the quality of living in the area, attracting a diversified population can improve the economic viability
of the central business district (CBD) as well. Improvement
of the central business district therefore should be viewed
from a social as well as an economic perspective. The key to
accomplishing this objective is to develop a proper balance
among the various uses so that they are mutually supportive
of one another.

It cannot be overemphasized that in order to encourage desirable
development to take place in the CBD, community commitment to
improve the downtown arterial system is imperative so that
accessibility is enhanced as well as to insure that adequate
parking is strategically placed. These measures are necessary
to facilitate traffic flow, mitigate congestion, bottlenecks
and air pollution. This positive action will go a long way
toward improving the attractiveness of the downtown not only as
a place to shop but also as a place to live.

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RECOMMENDATIONS F OR THE D OWNTOWN

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The downtown area must meet the needs of a d ynamic constituency i ncluding shoppers, professionals, employees, residents,
and visitors. These recommendations should be viewed as the
initial phase of a process, to facilitate p ublic policy formulation and implementation rather than to pay "lip-service"
to long recognized problems. Therefore, policy in this sense
is defined as "an agreed upon course of action."


The following recommendations operate from the premise that
downtown Danbury should be preserved as an urban center where
the diversity of land uses -- commercial, industrial, residential,
municipal, civic, and cultural — is most abundant. The future
of the downtown area should be guided by policies which will
maintain this complex interaction and foster desirable social,
economic, and physical•diversity.

"THE FUTURE OF THE DOWNTOWN AREA SHOULD BE G UIDED BY P OLICIES
WHICH W ILL M AINTAIN T HE COMPLEX INTERACTION O F LAND USES EXISTING I N THE CBD AND W HICH WILL FOSTER DESIRABLE SOCIAL, ECONOMIC A ND P HYSICAL DIVERSITY,"
A variety of zoning districts and, therefore, land uses currently exist in the downtown study area and should be continued.
This promotes physical diversity and facilitates various community segments coming together and interacting. Such a
zoning and, therefore, land use pattern reinforces the downtown
area as the hub of the community. The current zoning designations provided for appropriate land uses in the CBD, i.e., retail,
professional and business offices, cultural, a variety of residential types and densities, and provision of parking. However,
since the present zoning designation CL-CBD incorporates by
reference all the permitted uses in both the RH-3 and CL-10
zones, a separate classification of uses for the CL-CBD zone
should be developed to insure proper control over development in
this respective zone. Future land use patterns in the downtown
should not only enhance the area's existing development but also
encourage those uses which will increase the downtown's role as
a major tax base and the urban center of the community. Therefore revisions to the Zoning Ordinance to provide for strict
sign control, to encourage higher density development in the
CBD through use and provisions such as increased building height,
as w ell as emphasis on the provision of off-street parking and
site landscaping will serve to strengthen present and future
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development in the downtown. However, extension of the
CL-CBD Zone should be permitted only in response to market
demands and after the existing CBD block (between White and
Keeler Streets) has been developed.

An item of highest priority among the recommendations for the
downtown area is to provide for the improvement of through
traffic movement , i.e. traffic not originating or terminating
in the downtown. This was one of the major proposals of the
1967
Plan of Development and the construction of Patriot Drive
and the relocation of Liberty Street are the first steps toward
providing a circumferential route for non-CBD traffic.
Additional road improvements which will be required to accomplish this include: 1) construction of an Osborne-Franklin
Street connector; 2) provision of a through route parallel to
Main Street using a Maple Street-Thorpe Street Extension connection; 3) provision .of an alternate east-west route p arallel
to White Street; 4) provision of an alternate north-south route
parallel to Main Street south of Liberty Street by improving
Town Hill Avenue; 5) increasing the capacity of White Street
through various physical improvements which may also include
the elimination of on-street parking; 6) improvement of Wildman Street particularly at the intersection with White Street;
7) provision for left turn capability and synchronization of
traffic signals on M ain, North and White Streets. These
improvements will also improve access to the CBD and are ineluded in the City's proposed Circulation Plan which is discussed in Chapter 10. Cost and scheduling of improvements
are also discussed in that chapter.

"THE IMPROVEMENTS NEEDED IN THE DOWNTOWN R ANGE FROM MAJOR
TRANSPORTATION A ND P ARKING I MPROVEMENTS T O THE A ESTHETICS
OF S TREETSCAPING AND C OSMETIC I MPROVEMENTS TO B UILDING
EXTERIORS,"
Parking in the downtown has repeatedly been cited as the area's
major problem: it affects shoppers, workers, residents and
students. Several types of action will be required to improve
the situation. Improvement of the retail CBD parking situation should be two-pronged: 1) On a short-term basis, it is
recommended that the present policy of issuing monthly permits
for parking spaces be changed and an automatic or manned
ticket gate which levies a uniform charge on a per time basis •
be i nstalled; 2) On a long-range basis, construction of a parking structure to accommodate the d aily, b asically commercial
oriented vehicular traffic which frequents the downtown area
is recommended.
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One of the principal parking problems within the City at
this time occurs at Western Connecticut State College. This
major traffic generator is presently located on White Street,
the main east-west roadway in the City of Danbury. A totally
inadequate provision for parking by the State of Connecticut
has resulted in on-street parking on both sides of White
Street leaving two lanes available for traffic flow. This
is inadequate for the volume of traffic travelling this
roadway. In addition, the capacity of these lanes is effectively reduced by delays resulting from parking maneuvers.
The State of Connecticut must be approached to correct this
situation. Additional off-street student parking is essential
to efficient traffic circulation on White Street.

The possibility of utilizing an adaptation of the autorestrictive zone technique to ease the parking deficiencies
present adjacent to the CBD, and to alleviate the traffic
congestion which occurs on White and Osborne Streets due to
the institutional uses located in the area should be investigated. Initiation of a shuttle service by the Danbury Hospital and Western Connecticut State College for their employees
between designated outlying parking areas and place of employment should be considered. The peak hour effect of this
technique on traffic flow along White Street, Osborne Street,
Locust Avenue and Balmforth Avenue could be significant.

Public transportation usage in Danbury and the surrounding
areas is not projected to reach a level where it will significantly reduce parking requirements and traffic in the
downtown. However, the transit system provides an important
service, particularly to certain population segments such
as the elderly, young," low and moderate income persons and
the handicapped. The public transportation system should
be considered a component of the downtown and improved, expanded or altered as appropriate. The use of mass transit
in the City of Danbury is most practical and will be most
efficient in the downtown and the densely developed adjacent
areas.

Several transportation-oriented problems existing in the CBD
and immediate area have been identified and corrective actions
have been recommended. However, it is beyond the scope of this

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report, to analyze the downtown traffic situation in the
depth which is required to develop a viable circulation
plan for the downtown area which maximizes traffic flow.
A detailed traffic count analysis of the CBD should be
undertaken to obtain current traffic volume data to which
projections can be added. These figures will determine
the extent and type of improvements required in the long
run. In conjunction with this, it is recommended that the
transportation function of city government be expanded.
The present volumes of traffic and the potential for
increases in the future indicate that Danbury has reached
a point in its development requiring expansion of the
Engineering Department staff to include a traffic engineer
with responsibility for traffic analysis, coordination of
development proposals with transportation planning (local
and regional) and recommendation of improvements required
for efficient traffic circulation.

The downtown's "image" can be further enhanced by attention
to aesthetics, both natural and man-made. Open space in
the downtown area should be preserved and maintained as
public open space wherever possible without impairing the
city's ability to generate revenues to provide municipal
services. This measure would provide convenient, directly
accessible areas for public use to those segments of the
community who are most in need of open space because of a
dearth of available land for such purposes. The social value
of such parcels of land are insurmountable and unfortunately,
not readily quantifiable. Consideration for the provision
of recreation/open space opportunities in the downtown are
the development of linear and/or pocket parks on small or
marginal pieces of land, and the development of bikeways
particularly where road improvements are occurring.

CBD open space would not only provide areas for passive or
active recreation but would also facilitate social integration
of various subgroups, e.g., neighborhood families, meeting
places for employees/businessmen during the lunch hour, etc.
A streetscaping program including curb and sidewalk improvements, tree planting, and the installation of flower beds will
also enchance the physical appearance of the CBD. As noted
previously, landscaping requirements should be an important
element of all future development proposals, particularly
in the CBD where the density of development would be enhanced.

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Cosmetic improvements to both the interior and exterior
of commercial buildings along Main Street should be encouraged.
This measure also has the potential to augment the economic
viability of the downtown area. Facade improvement creates
aesthetic improvements and physical diversity to the downtown's
silhouette. A tax incentive may be warranted to foster
private retailers to continue such action. As the residential
and office uses in the CBD expand increased consideration of
pedestrian traffic in terms of access and interaction of uses
will also be required.

A coordinated implementation program involving both the
public and private sectors will be required to accomplish
these goals. Municipal actions such as adoption of a downtown development strategy, zoning designations for desired
land use and density of development, provision of road and
utility improvements, and designation of areas for various
forms of Federal assistance will set the stage for private
actions. Federal programs which are appropriate for
utilization in the downtown area should be sought and coordinated in light of the strategy developed.

It is important to realize that all of these recommendations
are tangible (physical) and should be viewed as benefits to
the urban center. Their implementation would represent a
net positive change and would tend to strengthen the city's
tax base.

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Citation

“The Downtown.” WCSU Archives, 9 July 2019. Accessed on the Web: 22 July 2019.

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