Visioning Workshop Planned for White River’s Future

Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, June 23, 2018

White River Junction — With the downtown area a bustling hive of development, town and regional planners are trying to stay ahead of the revitalization curve by laying out a plan for the area between Town Hall and the White River School.

“We’re trying to say, ‘What could this area be?’ ” said Kevin Geiger, a senior planner with the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Planning Commission. The group has commissioned a roughly $20,000 effort to hone the community’s vision for the area, which is bounded by Maple Street, Pine Street and Route 5. A charrette — a visioning workshop for the public to brainstorm ideas — is scheduled for Thursday.

“There’s a bunch of businesses there,” Geiger said. “Things are one story. Can things be built up? Maybe there should be a second story.”

The area currently holds a hodgepodge of buildings, including the school, Town Hall, Stern’s Quality Produce, Co-op Food Stores, Morris Bros. Mountain Bikes and the Upper Valley Auto Mart, among others.

Marketing materials for the charrette, which is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall, tick off a wide range of ideas meant to stimulate the public discussion — food trucks, parks, playgrounds, restaurants, day care and office space all are in the conversation.

Geiger said that the two-hour meeting, which likely will include a stroll around the area under discussion, is the first of two public meetings. At the second, he said, consultants and staff will present a distillation of ideas and renderings that will provide an illustration of some of the ideas.

Geiger said the regional commission is partnering with the town on the effort, and that he anticipates the process will drive discussions about possible zoning changes for the district. The $20,000 is part of a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields program; the grant also is funding a similar process in downtown Randolph.

The study comes as the town of Hartford hosts a series of public meetings to inform a revision of the Town Plan; the next meeting in that series is scheduled to take place at 6:30 p.m. on Monday at VINS in Quechee, and will focus on energy and transportation.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at mhonghet@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.