Winooski, Vermont Redevelops Downtown

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A very interesting article in today’s Burlington Freepress about Winooski’s on-going efforts to redevelop their downtown. I guess we should put this on a high-priority list to add to the town gallery before they make more changes 🙂

Here is an excerpt:

The city of Winooski, with its redeveloped downtown, has discovered that if you build it, they will come, just more slowly than anticipated.

More than six years have passed since Winooski broke ground on one of the most ambitious redevelopment projects in Vermont history. The city’s downtown has transformed from a moribund patch of dead and dying stores, tattered buildings and rutted parking lots to a gleaming collection of offices, residences and office space.

Although the redevelopment is viewed here as a success, the pace at which tenants and have moved into downtown has been slower than expected. Winooski City Manager Katherine “Deac” Decarreau said the pace of downtown population growth is largely a function of an economy that cratered in 2008. That was not an issue anticipated when redevelopment work began in 2004.

Generally “big-bang” types of redevelopment are not as preferable as organically grown redevelopment.  Jane Jacobs made an important point that a city needs a diversity of buildings varying by age which allows for a better cross-section of businesses–not all businesses can afford the top-end rents of new construction/redevelopment.

Having not been to Winooski personally, I don’t know if this is a problem or not.  Yet, the fact that there are still many empty storefronts suggest that high rents may be an issue.  Of course, it’s hard to separate that from the effects of the recession in general.  Although Vermont was not hit-hard by this recession, at least as measured by unemployment.

What are your thoughts?  Did Winooski engage in too much “big-bang” development and not enough organic development?

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