By Brett Yates
Rutlanders who enjoyed the colorful, pedestrian-friendly reconfiguration of Center Street last summer may find a similar sight downtown in 2021, if the city finds a way to pay for it.
The Rutland Redevelopment Authority (RRA) applied last week for a “placemaking” grant from the Vermont Dept. of Housing & Community Development, which, with the support of the Vermont Community Foundation and other private partners, will award recipients with $5,000 to $20,000 for civic improvements in downtowns and village centers.
The state’s Better Places program, which doesn’t require matching funds from municipalities, intends to assist local economic and social recovery efforts in the wake of Covid-19 by funding pop-up markets, community gardens, bike lanes, and other projects.
RRA Executive Director Brennan Duffy explained at the Jan. 19 Board of Aldermen meeting that Rutland City, if selected, will use the money to expand upon last year’s pilot program on Center Street, when the city spent $18,000 in June to add parklets for outdoor dining, sidewalk art, planters, and bicycle parking.
Duffy, who views 2020’s Center Street makeover as a success, thinks Rutland can outdo itself in 2021. “We have some ideas for some better materials for some of those hardwood decks the restaurants were operating on,” he noted.
While the coronavirus and its associated restrictions prompted Center Street’s initial transformation, Duffy believes that the changes, if reimposed, will draw bigger crowds once the pandemic has receded. “We’re all hoping that this summer we’ll see some lifting of the Covid mandates and gathering restrictions,” he said.
The announcement of grant recipients will take place during the week of Feb. 15.