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Windsor Improvement Corp. Has High Hopes for Grant



Valley News Correspondent
Sunday, April 16, 2017

Windsor — The recent awarding of a $64,000 state grant to the Windsor Improvement Corp. represents an opportunity to put a strategy in place and build on the successes of the last five years, not create another planning document.

That’s the view of Windsor architect Bob Haight, a consultant with the Windsor Improvement Corp., who said in an interview last week that the “Better Connections” grant will help the town “take all of these pieces that we have done individually and show how they work together to create a better vision of what is out there.”

At a forum last week, Haight told participants that Windsor is beyond just talk about how to improve downtown and is now taking action, as evidenced by the work around the Windsor Station restaurant and Welcome Center, behind the Windsor Diner, and along Main, Depot and River streets, with new sidewalks and lighting. He said the recent accomplishments set the town up to be a model for the state.

“This town has the potential to be the poster child for downtowns in Vermont,” he told the forum.

A good example of fitting the improvement pieces together can be seen in the area around the Windsor Station, where an investor group that included Haight bought about 4 acres on either side of the railroad tracks, named it Windsor Railyards Inc., and did some cleanup.

“It has been a pretty symbiotic thing,” Haight said during the interview. “The Welcome Center got going, we got cleaning that up (Railyards Inc. property), the Station got going, and while it is not a huge thriving metropolis, I think the image of Windsor the last four or five years is dramatically different than it was 10 years ago.

“It has really been finding all the little pieces you can put together,” he said “We already had a grant to do the streetscapes around this one little block (Main, Depot, Railroad and River streets) and that made a big difference.”

Haight, who is also the town’s part-time zoning administrator, gave a slide presentation at the forum that highlighted many of the improvements and had the added impact of both before and after pictures.

Kris Garnjost, a 19-year resident of town, said it is good to see things actually happening. “I feel good about what has happened the last five years because you can see it,” Garnjost said. “I feel like we are headed in the right direction and you can see it. You can feel it.”

Town Manager Tom Marsh said another important reason for the progress is finding the right fit for available properties, such as SD Associates in the old firehouse on Main Street and K&W Tire near the former Seldon Technology site. This is what can happen “when we have good alignment with entrepreneurs, property owners and a cooperative regulatory sector,” he said.

Haight points to a grant the town received about five years go to develop a downtown master plan that kickstarted infrastructure and other improvements.

The money brought together interested parties that would meet weekly over two months with the theme of “imagine what you could do,” recalled Haight, whose office is in a renovated building on River Street.

John Tansey, president of the Windsor Improvement Corp., said he believes having all stakeholders working together like they haven’t in the past, getting the right management in place and aggressively pursuing grants have made a big difference in the approach and outcomes for the downtown.

“We have moved to a stronger foundation, didn’t overextend ourselves and are ready to take the next step, not only with economic development but community development,” Tansey said.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached pogclmt@gmail.com.