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Town of Rockingham will use VNRC grant toward revitalizing buildings in Bellows Falls

The Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) awarded a Small Grant for Smart Growth to the Town of Rockingham to promote small-scale development in the village of Bellows Falls. The $1,000 grant will help fund targeted technical assistance toward the goal of preserving, revitalizing, or repurposing vacant or underutilized buildings.

The Incremental Development Alliance (IDA) is a consultancy that helps residents strengthen their communities through small-scale real estate projects nationwide. The firm will engage 30-60 diverse stakeholders for a period of three months in the Town of Rockingham in an intensive training and education program to develop a strategic plan for downtown revitalization.

Small-scale development, also called “incremental development,” prioritizes small projects, by small developers, over a long period of time. Gary Fox, Development Director for the Town of Rockingham, said the Town made the choice to explore this approach after a Community Visit by the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD):

“Initially, 38 community members and stakeholders expressed interest in the Building Redevelopment Task Force, one of the three task forces that came out of the Community Visit process. After one meeting, there was an assignment that required some level of technical work. Fewer than a handful of responses came back, with technical expertise expressed as a limiting factor,” Fox explained.

“One goal of the IDA technical assistance is an effort to provide community members and stakeholders with the knowledge and skill to accomplish this task force’s projects,” he added.

Technical assistance will include identifying gaps in the development ecosystem; evaluating the knowledge, tools, processes, and relationships that either help or hinder, small-scale development in the community; determining tangible steps stakeholders can take to encourage small-scale development in the community; and more.

Photos of Bellows Falls by Bob LoCicero

“We are happy to fund Rockingham’s efforts to revitalize Bellows Falls with targeted technical assistance – particularly because the incremental approach to development makes so much sense for how we build and revitalize in Vermont’s communities. Bringing together as many stakeholders as possible will be vital to ensure that this is a constructive approach to promote development at a workable scale,” said Kate McCarthy, Sustainable Communities Program Director at VNRC, who administers the Small Grants for Smart Growth program.

“We’re hopeful that the gains from this technical assistance will help us better formulate and streamline desirable redevelopment and revitalization in our VT Designated Downtown and that Bellows Falls will achieve more smart and sustainable growth goals,” added Fox. The Introductory Lecture by IDA faculty will be held on January 21, 2021 at 6 pm. Those who are interested can register here: https://brattleborodevelopment.com/public-events/ida-town-of-rockingham-introductory-lecture-on-small-development/ 

This Small Grant provides a match to enable this program, which is partially funded and staffed through the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation’s Southern Vermont Economy Project, made possible through the USDA Rural Community Development Initiative.

Small Grants for Smart Growth, launched in 2018, provide seed money for community-based initiatives related to smart growth, encompassing advocacy for better land use; advancing transportation choice; supporting housing choice and affordability; promoting downtown or village revitalization; promoting conservation of natural resources; and more.

Apply for a Small Grant by Feb 1, 2021 for a chance to win up to $3,000 for your project. Smaller awards are given year-round, on a rolling basis. Learn more at https://vnrc.org/small-grants-for-smart-growth/.

The Small Grants for Smart Growth program is made possible with assistance from Beth Humstone, co-founder of the Vermont Forum on Sprawl and former VNRC board chair, and her son, Chris Gignoux.