Eight historic downtowns in Vermont, turned massive flooding into opportunities to improve their physical design, hone their marketing messages, and strengthen partnerships to achieve greater economic resilience and build back stronger than before the flood. State leadership and federal disaster funding empowered these eight communities to go beyond flood recovery and take steps to improve public safety and strengthen their economy while enhancing their ability to bounce back quickly from future floods.
Flooding Hits Vermont’s Downtowns
In 2011, Vermont was devastated by the worst flooding in 83 years. In May, torrential spring rains flooded several communities followed by Tropical Storm Irene in August, which washed out roads and bridges, left homes and business under water, and brought commerce to a halt in many communities. While the immediate response focused on a restoration of services, many communities lacked plan to restore flood damaged businesses and market the downtown as “open for business.”
State of Vermont’s Response
Vermont’s villages and downtowns are unique historic and cultural assets and their vitality is critical to the state’s economy and high quality of life. Recognizing the need to fast-track the economic recovery of communities impacted by floods, the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development used Federal Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds to assemble the Vermont Downtown Action Team (V-DAT). V-DAT brought together an interdisciplinary team of marketing, urban design, and planning experts that used the Main Street Four Point Approach to develop and implement community tailored economic recovery plans for eight of the hardest hit communities.
Results of the V-DAT in each community were summarized in a graphic-rich report and on a one-page poster that can easily be consumed at a glance.
- Barre – Community branding, streetscape and building improvements. Report & Poster
- Brandon – Community branding, intersection and town green improvements. Report & Poster
- Brattleboro – River connections, parking improvements and façade improvements. Report & Poster
- Northfield – Gateways, streetscape improvements and neighborhood park. Report & Poster
- Waitsfield – Community branding, pocket park and streetscape improvements. Report & Poster
- Warren – Traffic calming, infill development and village green improvements. Report & Poster
- Waterbury – Community branding and wayfinding, art in the alley and infill development. Report & Poster
- Wilmington – Community branding, pedestrian improvements and building redevelopment. Report & Poster
The Vermont Downtown Action Team was recognized as the 2014 Project of the Year by the Vermont Planners Association and featured in the Main Street America newsletter.