WILMINGTON-Now that the VT Downtown Program has approved Wilmington Village for downtown designation, Wilmington Works, the Wilmington Fund VT-sponsored committee charged with the revitalization of the downtown can get to work. Their first task is to put together a board of advisors, and choose members for subcommittees in charge of design, promotion, economic restructuring, and organization.
The board of advisors is currently under construction, requiring two members from the selectboard, two members from the Wilmington Fund VT board, and one member from the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce. Once those five members are determined, they will select four to six downtown business and property owners to serve with them.
At last week’s selectboard meeting, board members Susan Haughwout and Diane Chapman were appointed. The Wilmington Fund will be choosing their advisors to the board at their meeting on April 13.
The property and business owners will be selected from letters of interest that town economic development specialist Gretchen Havreluk has been receiving. Havreluk, who helped construct the application for downtown designation with town manager Scott Murphy, says that so far interest in board positions has been high, as has interest for positions on the board’s four subcommittees. The advisory board will also appoint someone to the volunteer position of program coordinator, who will be tasked with obtaining financial contributions from companies that provide services to the town.
According to Havreluk, the four subcommittees will bring together efforts by many groups in town, and let them work as a cohesive unit. “There’s many committees that are working in silos and that’s just how they’ve always worked,” said Havreluk. “Now everyone will be able to come together and work together to improve the downtown.”
Creating a theme for the downtown as well as the entire town is something Havreluk sees this cooperation accomplishing. “Through conversation by the committees about creating themes, making the downtown look like one thing and not many different things, these groups would become partners in the downtown process. Even things out of the downtown vicinity should look like the center of town in terms of planning.
“People will be working in unison, duplication of work won’t happen, and there will be partnership by businesses.”
Havreluk says that while most downtown programs charge businesses to be included in a program like Wilmington Works, she insisted that because of the devastation of Tropical Storm Irene funding needed to come from outside sources and private contributions, rather than a financial burden on business and property owners.
Once the committees are created, Havreluk says the program will focus on sprucing up the appearance of the downtown, working with businesses to apply for grants and tax credits, and, a top priority, filling the empty buildings that dot the downtown. The Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation will be assisting in putting together plans for buildings downtown that include tax credit and grant information for prospective buyers.
Wilmington Works will use the Main Street Four Point Approach to form the subcommittees: organization, economic restructuring, design, and promotion. While Wilmington Works organization is under way, the economic restructuring is intended to, among other projects, make improvements to Memorial Hall, rebuild a village playground area at Buzzy Towne Park, and collaborate with community organizations to improve broadband and cellular services. This committee will also work to create incentives for current business owners as well as opportunities for new industry in the downtown.
The design subcommittee is charged with working with volunteers and FEMA’s long-term recovery group to develop uniform design for beautification, signage, parking, and sidewalks. The promotion team will work to promote the downtown through marketing, creating brochures, working to retain a younger population, and promoting buy-local campaigns.
While it seems like a lot of work, its division will ease the burden and make cooperation easier.
For Havreluk, there is a lot of hard work ahead and “everything” is a top priority in the downtown. But she feels this plan is a road map to success. “I feel that everything is at the top of the list. It’s all a priority because it’s hard to get people to buy these buildings if you have holes in your sidewalks, or if they see fire hydrants not painted. I feel like we also have design work to do, but I feel like I want the buildings filled yesterday, but the purpose is not for people to buy them up and leave them empty, it’s about bringing in business.”