Khuan-Yu Hall, Contributing Photographer

Two weeks ago, a few thousand New Haveners flooded onto Chapel Street for New Haven’s biannual Night Market in one of the city’s busiest events since the start of the pandemic.

The Night Market is just one of the many initiatives that the Town Green District holds to promote businesses in New Haven’s downtown area. Established in 1997 by property owners around the New Haven Green, The Town Green District focuses on beautifying the area and hosting events that give residents “reasons to linger” according to executive director Win Davis. Town Green is the largest of New Haven’s four total special business districts. 

Now, the district is leading the reemergence of the downtown area from pandemic-era restrictions and low foot traffic.

“I see the Town Green’s job as being a cheerleader for everybody around here,” Davis said. “And also giving people reasons to be proud and giving people those reasons to come down here. And then spend their time and their hard-earned money.”

Davis has been working with the District since 2000 and has helped manage the transformation and growth of the district’s services, like the Downtown Ambassador program. 

The Downtown Ambassador program employs and trains a staff of 25 who perform many of the District’s core functions, like upkeep and safety, and take on many roles traditionally performed by the city itself. Acting on behalf of the city, the employees of the District empty trash cans, remove graffiti and clean the streets and sidewalks.

On the safety side, in addition to providing staff to help give directions and assist patrons of the downtown businesses, the District also sponsors a police substation in collaboration with the Yale and New Haven Police Departments.

“Several police chiefs ago, we met and talked about ways to strengthen downtown safety and co-working together, the ambassador program and the downtown police, is one way that we have really succeeded in tightening our collective safety net,” Davis said. “Part of our job is that if we observe any negative or illegal behaviors, we act as eyes and ears for the police. We’re kind of a force multiplier out there in our district.”

In 2017, the District created a new long-term plan to invest in upgrades that would draw more residents to the area and keep them there for longer. According to Davis, this goal has entailed investing in downtown community spaces, like the Temple Street Plaza, and hiring more staff to host and manage promotional events, like the night market, or collaborate with groups on other community activities, like the Labor Day road race.

“I can’t say enough positive things about what Town Green District does,” said Kimberly Pederick, owner of the stores Idiom and Dwell and a new member of the District’s board.

Over her 17 years in the New Haven business scene, Pederick has been able to watch the District evolve. She appreciates the energy that it has helped cultivate in the downtown area through events like the night market and Flights of Fancy, a wine and food crawl that stops at restaurants throughout the district.

Pederick joined the board after being approached by Davis this year, hoping to help give back to the community and assist an organization that sees as crucial to supporting her businesses and others in the community. 

“From their ambassador program, to music, to getting restaurants involved, to keeping people hopefully downtown after work hours instead of going home, I think it is great and something that definitely is an asset to all of us business owners in the downtown area,” Pederick said. 

Erin Guild, a manager at Claire’s Corner Copia, echoed Pederick’s comments, highlighting events like the night market as ways in which the District has helped attract new customers and make downtown an exciting place for businesses and their patrons. 

The New Haven deputy economic director Carlos Eyzaguirre also praised the work the District has done in ushering in a new era for downtown business, especially the work it has done helping repopulate and grow the restaurant scene as the city has eased pandemic restrictions. 

“Things like the night market, I’m hearing over 6,000 people showed up,” Eyzguirre said. “6,000 people at one time downtown is a thing you don’t see everyday.”

Ezyaguirre also noted that Davis and the District have worked to ensure that area’s economic growth ripples out into the greater New Haven community. During the pandemic, Win and Ezyaguirre worked together to develop an online platform to allow businesses to sell their products even when their stores were closed, a service used by businesses all over the city.

“We have this kind of relationship where we can always call them,” Eyzaguirre said. “If we need assistance with a sort of broader business initiative city-wide, they’re always willing to share their resources and that sort of thing.”

The Town Green District’s office is located at 900 Chapel Street.

Khuan-Yu Hall is the City Editor at the News. He is a sophomore in Davenport, from Hartland, Vermont, double majoring in Statistics and Data Science and Ethics, Politics, and Economics.