August 17, 2022

Acqua NYC

Fit And Go Forward

Stamford Downtown’s pivots through the pandemic

Achieving resilience is the gold standard following any disaster. Resilience is when we recover in a way that applies what we’ve learned from past calamity to make our community stronger and better prepared for what we’ll face in the future.

During and emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to ensure that relief is afforded to those who need it, recovery puts us on a path back to normal, and resilience makes our community stronger than how we stood together before.

Relief sets the foundation for recovery.

After disaster, folks’ immediate needs must be met. Providing temporary shelter after a fire, disbursing healthy food staples after a storm, or distributing PPE during a pandemic are crucial to stabilize the situation and provide the breathing room for a conversation about what should happen next.

The positive effects of last spring’s stimulus bill have long since waned and, even in our community, many are still struggling with the economic fallout of the necessary public health restrictions. Our public and civic sectors are stretched thin, working to support our population.

In lieu of this year’s Parade Spectacular, with generous support from ShopRite and other sponsors (, Stamford Downtown did our small part to coordinate a Giving Float, providing Thanksgiving meals and a little holiday cheer to 500 families in partnership with Person-to-Person, and we donated grocery gift cards to Inspirica and the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County.

We must also provide relief to the businesses that employ our families and friends. The restaurants and retailers that make downtown special are still struggling. We all need to advocate to our elected officials at the state and federal levels that more aid is needed as the economic impacts of the pandemic have dragged on. Restaurants have been hit particularly hard. Our local establishments are holding on so that they’re there for us in the future, let’s support the aid they need today.

Recovery gets us back on track.

During COVID-19, we’ve had to work toward recovery even though relief efforts remain unfinished. Stamford Downtown has served a crucial role for the small businesses in our district — helping them understand evolving state and local regulations, and helping their customers know how to access their food and goods. We worked with the city to offer free parking last spring, facilitating pick-ups.

In June, Stamford Downtown launched StrEATeries, working with multiple city departments to close down some on-street parking, portions of municipal lots, and even some travel lanes to expand outdoor dining. The Bedford Piazza was a highlight. We created the space for 1,000 seats beyond those on the sidewalk in a typical summer. Good weather and community demand have kept our restaurants open.

Now that winter has taken its hold, outdoor dining is largely paused until next spring. We’re shifting to a focus on indoor dining and takeout. Know that our establishments have become expert in meeting the protocols necessary to ensure that patrons are safe when entering their four walls. For readers not yet comfortable dining in, try and pick up your own takeout so restaurants don’t have to pay the exorbitant 30 percent cut that the delivery services exact. Eat! Festive Holiday Offerings is running until Dec. 21 and downtown restaurants have curated special offers that shouldn’t be missed.

Resilience prepares us for the future.

As we support our local establishments to aid in our community’s recovery, we need to think about those institutional changes that will make us more resilient.

Cities dedicate too much of their public space to moving and storing vehicles and Stamford is no exception. Demand for walking, biking, and outdoor dining has been unprecedented; and this lifestyle will not end with the pandemic. We need complete streets that expand transportation alternatives and make outdoor cafes easy to replicate year after year.

Concentration of retail power in a handful of corporations, heavily dependent on a vulnerable global supply chain bleeds money from the community. We need to support locally owned businesses and businesses that source materials locally. Community support for downtown businesses through the winter months is critical to ensuring that they comprise our unique community character in the future. We are launching the Stamford Downtown Card so you can gift a card that works at multiple restaurants and stores (

Think about other steps that you and we can take to bring our community back from this pandemic, stronger in the face of our next challenge.

David M. Kooris is president of Stamford Downtown.

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