Known in Abenaki culture as the place of wild onions, Winooski is a small city with a rich history rooted in the mill industry. Evidence of this remains present today through the restoration of the downtown and surrounding mills, along with a dedicated community that continues to support efforts to boost Winooski’s identity.
Built on the banks of the Winooski River and close to Lake Champlain, Winooski was the Northeastern region’s major point of industry from the 1800’s up to 1954. As the U.S. economy evolved, the American Woolen Company closed its Winooski mills, leaving many residents jobless. The community came together during this tough time to provide meals and clothing to those most impacted by the economic downturn. This sense of community remains present today, particularly at the O’Brien Community Center which brings citizens together through various community events, after-school programs and a teen center that strengthens the city’s neighborhoods.
Winooski is currently in the process of completing the largest downtown redevelopment project in Vermont. Phase 1 of the project, Spinner Place, a mixed-use building containing 16,000 square feet of retail space at the ground level and 84 units of student housing, was completed in 2006 and honored with a Smart Growth Award. Today, Spinner Place houses students from two area colleges and interest in the retail space is increasing.
The Champlain Mill and Keen’s Crossing, also located in the downtown district, have been restored to include a mix of housing and retail space. The Champlain Mill has seen a rise in new businesses over the past year and apartments at Keen’s Crossing are nearly full. Additionally, a new market in the Keen’s Crossing space will open in August.
The overall revitalization plan is to create more than 500 units of housing, over 40,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and a boardwalk overlooking the river. The plan also calls for the protection of historic buildings and the conservation of 100 acres of open land.
Community members are doing their part to encourage foot traffic to the downtown by hosting the annual Winooski Riverwalk Festival and a farmers market runs during the spring and summer months. Other draws include restaurants such as Tiny Thai and Sneakers, which are popular destinations for residents in neighboring communities.