Downtowns and Village Centers

For most of Vermont’s history, our downtown and village centers have been the heart of our communities, housing much of our population and serving as civic and economic centers.  The state’s character and sense of place is defined by our urban/rural balance – the diversity of compact downtowns and village centers with easy access to nearby farms and the natural environment.

We have invested in these core areas with infrastructure such as sewer and water, public parking, sidewalks and bike lanes that allow for higher densities, a mixture of uses and diverse transportation options.  We have located our civic buildings, including town halls, schools and libraries, in these areas to be accessible to all members of the community, and to serve as prominent reminders of our shared values.  Should we continue to invest in our downtowns and village centers, or turn our attention to new centers of commerce and culture?

Smart Growth Vermont asked the same question in the 1990’s.  We did not just ask that question of ourselves; we brought together a diverse group of stakeholders – developers, conservationists, business leaders, municipal officials, concerned citizens, and state legislators – to determine if there was value in revitalizing, investing and promoting our downtowns and villages. For more information, view the complete conference report.

The answer from all sides was a resounding YES!  As a result, Smart Growth Vermont, together with other non-profits, government agencies and many stakeholders, worked to create the Vermont Downtown Program.  To learn more about our work promoting, expanding and strengthening that program, visit our State Policy page.  You can also find more information about downtown revitalization on our Resources page.

The results of this combined energy and efforts have been a huge success.  Throughout Vermont, in communities large and small, historic buildings are seeing new life and uses, once-boarded businesses are being re-opened and new homes are being built.  There are currently 23 designated downtown development districts and 95 designated village centers.  Visit the State’s Downtown Program to learn more about these designated downtowns and village centers.  Smart Growth Vermont has begun to highlight the wonderful  places and activities in these communities as part of our Community Spotlights.