Rutland Plans To Renovate Downtown Alley With Federal Money

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(Host) Community activists in Rutland got a huge boost in mid December when they found out their proposal to rehabilitate a large downtown alley will receive nearly one million dollars in federal funding.  

VPR’s Nina Keck has more.

(Keck)   The Center Street alley in downtown Rutland is not obvious to passersby.   But city officials say the quarter-acre space behind the Paramount Theater, Bardwell House and historic Service Building has loads of potential.   

The city first renovated the space in the 1980s, but the multi-level design they chose was choppy and hard to maintain.   So over the years, it’s fallen into disuse and disrepair.  

Tara Kelly is chair of Rutland’s Creative Economy, a community initiative that’s been working on projects to improve and update the downtown.   She says rehabilitating the alley has been one of their key initiatives.

(Kelly) "So somebody will say, ‘What are we going to do today? I know, you know that cool place behind the Paramount? Why don’t we go hang out there for awhile?’ And then, while they’re there, they go and eat lunch in downtown or they go shopping or they do other things while they’re there. But the idea is to pull people into the downtown and become a destination unto itself. So that there is something that really draws people in beyond the one business they’re thinking of going to visit."

(Keck) Two years ago, Kelly says, the city received planning money from the state to gather public input and come up with potential designs.   They include things like waterfalls, a public restroom, trees and planters, decorative fencing, outdoor furniture and a more visible entrance pavilion.  

Depending on what’s included, Kelly says the project’s estimated cost is between $1 million and $1.7 million. While Kelly says they’ll have to do additional fundraising, the $974,000 that’s been allocated for the project in the federal budget is huge.

(Kelly) "This is a really big deal because it’s really grown out of a community initiative.   Everyone in the community that came to the creative economy meetings saying what we really want is a space downtown where we can go out and see and be seen. And really create that ambiance, that atmosphere that public life. So it’s a really big deal that out of this that we’ve been able to attract these kinds of dollars to the downtown."

(Keck)  Kelly says they expect to receive the funds and finalize plans later next year.  

For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.

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