Facilitating a Stakeholder Engagement Process to Revitalize Meriden, CT

CBI helps the Town of Meriden, CT create recommendations for downtown revitalization by conducting a stakeholder assessment and facilitating a public engagement process. CBI’s inclusive approach generates long-lasting support for redevelopment.

Background and Challenges

Meriden, Connecticut is a city of about 60,000 people in central Connecticut. In the early 2000s a group of developers, politicians, and others embarked on a project called “The Meriden City Center Initiative.” The goal of the project was to create a plan to revitalize the downtown. The Meriden Economic Resources Group (MERG) led the effort.

During Phase I of the project, the group identified four obstacles to downtown development: 

  • The lack of a sense of place
  • Flood control
  • Transportation barriers
  • Economic development

To investigate these obstacles, MERG asked CBI to conduct a stakeholder assessment to evaluate public opinion and concerns about redevelopment, and to design a public involvement plan.

The CBI Approach

CBI conducts a broad stakeholder assessment, recommends the formation of an representative Advisory Group, and helps the Advisory Group address obstacles to downtown development.

CBI conducted a stakeholder assessment with the Greater Meriden Chamber of Commerce, interviewing 43 stakeholders from relevant constituencies including:

  • State and local government
  • Local businesses, employers, and media
  • Public housing officials and social service agencies
  • Local families, clergy, arts advocates, and community activists
  • Black and Latino leaders

The results of these interviews were written up in the “Meriden City Center Initiative Phase II Planning Community Engagement Assessment Report”, which highlighted the overlapping interests between a range of constituencies as well as the stakeholders’ excitement around future development.

Responding to stakeholders’ requests for broad citizen engagement in the planning process, CBI recommended the formation of a multi-stakeholder Advisory Group to work with the planners. CBI identified 20 stakeholder groups within the Meriden community whose representation on the Group would help ensure a broad range of views. CBI also recommended that the meetings be well-advertised and open to the public.

CBI facilitated five three-hour meetings for the City Center Advisory Group (CGAG), which included between 22-24 members and represented 19 stakeholder group. CBI helped the group discuss solutions to the development obstacles identified in Phase I, including:

  • Creating a Sense of Place
  • Market Factors and Attracting Private Investment
  • Flood Control
  • Transportation, Traffic Control, and Phasing

At each of these three-hour meetings, expert presenters offered data and information about the main topics of discussion, followed by question-and-answer sessions, and discussion with the CCAG members; CBI facilitators captured themes and concerns. To maximize the opportunity for citizen engagement, each meeting concluded with time for public comment, and all meetings were recorded and broadcast on Meriden public access television. In addition, the public could access the presentations and meeting summaries on the Meriden City Center Initiative’s website.

Results

The Advisory Group’s recommendations shape the Final Phase II report. CBI’s broad stakeholder engagement and transparent approach generate long-lasting citizen support for redevelopment.

The CGAC’s recommendations on the four obstacles identified in Phase I were incorporated into the Final Phase II Report, with a particular effort made to generate public support for redeveloping the downtown in a structured and coherent way over time. The report was presented to the City of Meriden. CBI’s stakeholder assessment, broad public involvement, and transparent public process all helped to generate and maintain long-lasting support for downtown development in Meriden.

Photo credit: Flckr Creative Commons/dougkerr