Led by project manager Tripp Muldrow, of Arnett Muldrow & Associates, the Wilmington V-DAT is a group of consulting architects, landscapers, and economic development specialists charged with developing a design and marketing plan for the town. Muldrow and his team will give a presentation of their marketing and design plan for the town on Friday at noon at Memorial Hall, and also provide one-on-one consultations for businesses in the village.
Arnett Muldrow is a community planning firm based in Greenville, SC, that has worked with communities affected by Hurricane Katrina such as Gulfport, MS, and Bay St. Louis, MS, a town which Wilmington collected $14,000 to help after Katrina. Wilmington hired Arnett Muldrow after being named one of seven towns to receive a community development block grant through the state department of commerce and community development, for the purpose of hiring a firm to look at the specific needs of the community, in response to flood recovery efforts. Leanne Tingay, from the Vermont Downtown Program, applied for the CDBGs on behalf of the seven towns, and Wilmington interviewed five different consulting firms following a request for proposal. “What we wanted to do is put together a dream team and we have it,” said Tingay. “Fresh eyes from outside of Vermont with recovery expertise, and people from within Vermont to keep us grounded and make sure we don’t stray from the values we hold dear in Vermont.”
During an economic roundtable with local business owners, Muldrow pointed out that his goal was to “tip the hat in the right direction” but he also wanted to ensure that his team’s work wouldn’t impede or duplicate plans made by Southeastern Vermont Economic Strategies or the Conway School. “What we do is help come up with a plan in a short amount of time,” said Muldrow. “Taking it all in, distilling it, and spitting it out shortly to connect the dots, we can do a lot in a short time but also be respectful of all the initiatives already in place and make sure we’re not stepping on toes.”
Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Adam Grinold explained the chamber’s recent marketing initiatives, including applying for a USDA grant that would allow the valley to come together with a specific coalescing name for the area for marketing purposes. Grinold pointed out that the websites of many local businesses have the names Mount Snow, Deerfield Valley, Southern Vermont, and Haystack Mountain all located on their different elements of advertisement, and all these names can be found for businesses in the local phone book.
A big issue in Wilmington, the existence of empty buildings in the downtown, was a hot topic during the meetings, coming up at multiple points of discussion. Economic development specialist Gretchen Havreluk explained that there were four potential business owners currently thinking about opening shops in town, including a sporting goods store, a Vermont goods store, a business co-working space, and a coffee and tea room with a bakery.
Grinold also pointed out the positives, such as $13 million invested in local schools, the development of Haystack, and a larger budget in the 1% tax fund. Grinold also mentioned the chamber’s comprehensive economic development strategy project request, which includes a plan for buying and restoring the empty buildings. “Always pivot on the positive,” said Muldrow.
At a community meeting held in Memorial Hall, Muldrow asked for public input for V-DAT’s plan, including the “dos and do nots” for the downtown, and what residents would put as the picture on a Wilmington postcard. Cliff Duncan said the diversity of architecture downtown is an underlying factor of the town’s attraction, while Nicki Steel pointed out the view from the top of Whites Road provided a view of the town, farms, and mountains. Other images that came to mind were the new walking bridge, and the array of quality local food.
Muldrow also asked the audience what’s one thing they would do to the town with a magic wand. Ann Manwaring said that the Vermont House on West Main Street was a premier architectural spectacle and needs to be fixed, while others mentioned a walking route connecting businesses with trails, better use of Lake Whitingham, and a community center with a fitness facility and elderly services.