You may have read the news already in John Flowers’ article in Monday’s edition of The Addison Independent. But if not, I wanted to let you know that late last week the Vermont Agency of Transportation confirmed that it would be awarding the Town of Middlebury a grant of $228,750 to support Middlebury’s downtown in 2019 and 2020.
The purpose of the grant is to fund a range of marketing programs and events developed by Neighbors Together and its lead partner, the Better Middlebury Partnership.
The goal of those programs is to maintain the short-term and long-term vitality of our downtown in what is already a challenging retail environment. That means convincing you—and your family and friends and neighbors—of the importance of making the effort to overcome the obstacles that will come with construction over the next two years and keeping our retail stores and restaurants alive and well with your support.
If we can pull that off, it will be a real tribute to the spirit of our community and a story worth telling.
While Nancy Malcolm, co-chair of Neighbors Together, and Karen Duguay, executive director of the Better Middlebury Partnership, were instrumental in presenting the case for the grant to VTrans, they would be the first to point out that they represent the efforts and determination of dozens of members of our community who have been working behind the scenes for many months to develop the grant proposal.
That level of involvement has not gone unnoticed by VTrans. In making the award, VTrans Project Manager Jon Griffin, whom many of you met at last week’s public meeting, cited a key Neighbors Together statistic: in 2018, some 650 volunteers donated over 2,400 hours of volunteer time in support of our downtown. That’s more than 10% of the town's population.
Now, with the grant in hand, as Nancy and Karen said this week, the real work begins.
Rise & Walk, Middlebury
Among the many initiatives devised by Neighbors Together is a Health and Wellness Program developed in collaboration with UVM Health Network-Porter Medical Center, RiseVT, and Come Alive Outside (the same folks who donated the sod for last year’s downtown block party).
The goal of this program is twofold: 1) to promote wellness through walking; and 2) to create greater awareness of the many opportunities for parking that are within a short walk of central downtown, leaving parking closer to downtown (like the Ilsley Library lot) for those who truly need it. This will be particularly important during next summer’s 10-week closure of Main Street and Merchants Row and the loss of most parking on those two roadways.
Rise & Walk Middlebury gets underway July 16 at Mary Hogan at 5:15 PM and every Tuesday thereafter for 14 weeks. Each Tuesday will kick off with a brief talk from a Porter medical professional (see below). Michele Butler at RiseVT is developing the walking routes and expects to have maps of those routes available soon.
In addition to the opportunity to engage with your community and improve your well-being, Neighbors Together will be offering Middlebury Money as rewards for participants. Middlebury Money is redeemable at virtually every retail and hospitality business in Middlebury.
So dust off your walking shoes and see you next month on the sidewalks of Middlebury.
Your Outdoor Gallery
Have you noticed the new “fence art” on the chain-link fence surrounding Triangle Park downtown?
The “quilt artwork” featured in the photo below was designed by Susan Anderson-Ray and constructed, in record time, by the able hands of Susan, Jane Schoenfeld, Pat Horn, Glenna Emilo, Ann Crumb, and Nancy Malcolm.
I’ll feature additional artwork in future updates.
Return of the Water Brigade
As I mentioned recently, the Neighbors Together flower boxes on the pedestrian bridge and the several large planters around downtown have returned for a third season. Amy Hastings has taken over from Nancy Malcolm the essential job of coordinating volunteers to water the flowers this summer.
Volunteers from St. Stephen's, including Nancy Malcolm, Ann LaFiandra, Marge Drexler, Larry Yarbrough, and Amy Hastings, have handled the first few weeks of watering when Mother Nature missed a day. Next up are volunteers from the Memorial Baptist Church led by Pat Colander.
Amy reminded me that volunteers are delighted when they get an impromptu thank you from a passerby! And, again, many thanks to Agway for getting this year’s floral fest off to such a great start.
Your Weekly Construction Update
No construction activity is planned downtown until later in July. I’m working with VTrans and Kubricky to get detailed timelines for the support of excavation and town infrastructure work that will dominate this year’s construction activity and will report those out when I have them in hand.
That’s all for today. See you downtown.
Please keep your comments and questions coming. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try to cover it in my next update.