2018 Update #26

Construction Expands to Riverfront Park; Neighbors Together Invests in Middlebury

 

A fourth blast in Printer’s Alley took place as scheduled on Monday afternoon around 2 PM.  Traffic and pedestrians were held up longer than expected as the team worked through a last-minute glitch, but the issue was soon resolved and the blast achieved the planned results.

 

A fifth blast scheduled for 1 PM Tuesday will complete this initial round of blasting and will likely be the final blast of this week.

 

Over in Riverfront Park, the green space in Marble Works that overlooks Otter Creek Falls, work got underway Monday building a graveled temporary roadway for the construction team to use in accessing an area above Otter Creek that will house part of downtown’s new drainage system.  The photo below shows an excavator spreading gravel delivered by Bristol’s Heffernan Excavating.  Construction of the roadway will take place through the week.

 Right now the gravel pathway is a little uneven so please watch your footing if you’re out walking between Marble Works and Mill Street over the Otter Creek pedestrian bridge.

 

By the way, if you find yourself in Riverfront Park this week, I recommend taking a walk along the line of white roses now in full bloom along the upper walkway.

 

Investing in Middlebury:  The Neighbors Together Interview

Today we conclude our interview with Nancy Malcolm, co-chair of Neighbors Together, and Karen Duguay, marketing director for the Better Middlebury Partnership.  How do they plan to support the Middlebury business community during this major construction project and why is that important?

 

For more on Neighbors Together, you can read John Flowers’s profile of the group in Monday’s edition of The Addison Independent or online here.

 

Apart from Midd Money Match, the Shop Local rewards program we discussed yesterday, what other activities are planned for this year?

 

KD: We have a lot planned!

 

We’ll be launching a digital advertising campaign highlighting the “hidden gems” available to purchase in Middlebury.  You can follow us on Instagram at @experiencemiddlebury.  We’ll also be running  a multimedia campaign promoting shopping locally and a tourism-based campaign designed to draw visitors from around New England.

 

Town Hall Theater is organizing a public art campaign that will adorn the Triangle Park construction area with highly visual and distinctive chain link fence art.  Look for that to go up as soon as this week.

 

We’re putting planters and flower boxes in place to add color to central downtown and creating better signage to help visitors and locals navigate downtown during construction.

 

We’re creating a print brochure that features a listing of all Middlebury restaurants, retail stores, and inns to be distributed throughout Vermont.

 

We’re investing in a major redesign of the ExperienceMiddlebury.com website to focus exclusively on promoting Middlebury businesses.  A feature of the new site will be a town-wide events calendar that centralizes all activities in Middlebury day by day.

 

And finally , we’re holding several outdoor events this summer to draw people downtown, including Midd Summer Music and Movies, which features four free outdoor movies  in the new College Park and two free concerts in the Marble Works this summer, plus a downtown block party on Main Street in August.

 

Parking downtown can be a challenge.  Amazon offers quick delivery and good pricing.  Why should people shop local?  How can members of the community best support our downtown businesses?

 

KD:  Retailers across the country are taking hits from Internet sales.  Small retailers can’t compete with businesses like Amazon on price or convenience.  But Amazon can’t compete with small retailers when it comes to giving people experiences that can only be had in person.  I’m sure we’ve all seen how, when we patronize our local stores, it’s as much a social experience as a shopping one.  And that can’t be replicated through a screen.

 

I think it’s really important to mention that in a small community like Middlebury, everything is tied to everything else.  This isn’t just a downtown issue.  The health and vibrancy of our downtown impacts everything else in the community.

 

Here in Middlebury, our merchants are our neighbors and their success is our success as a community.  We all live here for a reason, and I think most of us really love living here.  If we want to preserve what we love, we need to prioritize our community over cost and convenience whenever possible.

 

NM:  I would add that our businesses help our community in countless ways, from Little League teams to ads for local productions and yearbooks to supplying prizes for special events.  We are fortunate to have this support, but it can’t sustain itself and it would be sorely missed if it were not here.

 

As for parking, we are locating hidden spots around town.  We hope to have an app developed to help us find the parking.  And stay tuned for some fun fitness challenges that will be rolled out next year that use these hidden parking places.

 

We’ve talked exclusively about 2018.  What’s planned for 2019 and 2020?

 

NM:  There were hundreds of ideas gleaned from the 2016 Neighbors Together forums.  Many of these ideas are being used this year as we build our program.  This is a work in progress, but we can say that we have a team looking at free Wi-Fi for downtown, bringing small conferences to Middlebury, and trying to obtain some tax-free days for Middlebury during the 10-week construction period in 2020. 

 

This has been a busy time to get things started.  In the Fall we will assess how the Summer has gone and determine our course for 2019 by building on what we have done and what has succeeded.

 

What happens after the project is over?

 

KD:  Our goal is the same for after the project as it is throughout:  a strong and vibrant Middlebury. We’re focused on building the foundation now for meaningful and successful revitalization efforts and we’re looking to other communities who have had upheaval in their centers to see how they’ve turned challenge into opportunity.

 

In recent weeks, we’ve seen Ben Franklin announce a going out of business sale, Clay’s leaving Main Street, Carol’s struggle to stay open, and The Diner sold to Town Hall Theater.  What do these changes tell you about the business environment in Middlebury?

 

KD:  I think there are always a number of factors that go into individual business’ financial decisions. Certainly, no one can argue that a large-scale construction project in the heart of downtown improves business.  That’s why so many of our leading institutions and leading citizens in this town are supporting Neighbors Together and the work we are doing.

 

NM:  The reality is that retail is tough and business during a major disruptive project is even tougher.  Many downtowns have struggled with the exodus of brick and mortar businesses leaving, and  Middlebury has not had to deal with this in the same manner as other communities.  It is a reminder that it is even more important to support our local businesses

 

If people have ideas to share, how can they get hold of you?

 

KD:  Email me!  It’s karen@bettermiddleburypartnership.org and I’m always happy to hear suggestions.  The entire 2018 plan was based on feedback from the dozens of individuals who took part in the Neighbors Together community forums so your opinions and ideas are directly tied to action.  Reach out!

 

That’s all for today.  See you downtown.

 

Please keep your comments and questions coming.  Send me an email at jgish@townofmiddlebury.org and I’ll try to cover it in my next update.

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