Community Revitalization in Rutland, Vermont
If you live in, or frequent, the Northwest neighborhood of Rutland, VT, you most likely know Mr. B (officially Donald Bedard, around here he is Mr. B).
In a neighborhood that has seen so much change, Mr. B and his wife are its faithful constants. The couple, who live right across the street from the store they have owned and operated for close to four decades, are familiar faces to most everyone in the neighborhood, be they old timers or new residents.
Mr. B’s Store (officially Bedard Cash Market, but don’t call it that unless you want to be pegged as an out-of-towner) maintains a predictable schedule, opening shop promptly at 9 am and closing, like clockwork, at 1 pm when Mr. B crosses the street to take his lunch at home.
At 3:00 PM, Mr. B is ready to meet the demand of his school-age clientele in search of a sweet reward for surviving another day of textbook and test turmoil, as well as the after work crowd needing to pick up a few convenience items.
Mr. B knows all the children by name, who their parents and caregivers are, who their friends are, and their favorite treats. Recently, in recognition of her longstanding presence and dedication to the neighborhood, Mrs. Bedard was honored with the task of cutting the ribbon for the Baxter Street Park located directly across from their store.
In recent years, residents have longed for the family-friendly atmosphere they used to observe in this corner of the city. This rebirth is rapidly coming to fruition with more children playing in the streets, more families walking their dogs, and more community events being organized.
No matter its hardships, all evidence shows that the spirit of this community is strong, and Neighborworks of Western Vermont is proud to begin the Community Revitalization Project in Rutland’s Northwest neighborhood, brick by brick helping it reclaim its reputation as a place where families can grow.
What’s in Store for the Northwest Neighborhood
As we all work towards our ultimate goal of strengthening this community and this neighborhood in Rutland, we want to highlight what NeighborWorks of Western Vermont is doing, how we are doing it, and what the people of Rutland can expect to see and experience in the near future.
Neighborworks of Western Vermont is focusing on key elements: infrastructure, amenities, and community engagement.
In order to improve infrastructure and the health and safety of the community, we will demolish four blighted properties that have become unsafe and unsightly. We do this work in partnership with the City of Rutland, which received a grant from the Vermont Community Development Program (VCDP) to improve the housing stock in the Northwest neighborhood of the city. The blighted structures will be replaced with parks, green spaces, or community gardens.
NeighborWorks will also purchase another seven houses in need of repair and renovate them so they are safe, healthy, efficient homes that are ready to be sold to owner-occupants.
We will provide home repair loans to homeowners who are willing to tackle deferred maintenance projects. We will also provide loans to responsible landlords willing to make improvements to ensure healthy and safe residential units.
We are very excited to be partnering with the city to repurpose vacant lots for productive use, for example,creating a park on a lot that once had an abandoned and blighted property.
“This is such a great opportunity to get rid of blight in this neighborhood and turn it into a beautiful and useful community asset for neighborhood residents.” – Mary Cohen, HomeOwnership Center Director at NeighborWorks
Community and Amenities
Any building that is removed by NeighborWorks must be replaced by a community space. This means safer and more beautiful areas in which to gather as a community.
Residents are invited to share ideas about what should be created out of this space, and what features they would like to see included in the final design.
The first project of this kind began just this past summer when the community collectively designed a new mini park being constructed in Rutland City. The City held a well-attended public meeting at the future site of the park to hear ideas from kids, families and neighbors. The top three desired features were bocce courts, a playground, and a gazebo or picnicking area.
We are thrilled to hear the voice of the community and to work with residents who want to play an active role in what is being built around them!
Increase Homeownership Rate and Owner-Occupied Dwellings
When people own a home, they invest in their community. By increasing homeownership rates and owner-occupied dwellings, we are creating stakeholders in the neighborhood, people who will build permanent roots and grow the health and vitality of the community for generations to come.
The good news is that many residents in this neighborhood who are currently renting, can actually afford homeownership, and many times, can afford it at a lower monthly cost than they are paying to rent. Interest rates are incredibly low – and with the programs available for down payment assistance, homeownership is within reach for many. Best of all, these programs can allow people to be investing their money in a long-term asset, rather than on rent.
We at NeighborWorks want to help people who are already in our community for the long-haul to be able to afford a home and feel that they have stock in their neighborhood, their homes, and in the vibrancy of their community. The majority of buildings in the Northwest neighborhood are not owner-occupied, but we are working to change that statistic over the next few years. Owner-occupied homes mean stable communities and healthy environments for kids and families!
The death of a seventeen-year-old girl in 2012, who was killed when an intoxicated driver crashed into her at high speed outside her workplace, left the community stunned, horrified, and determined to beat back the scourge of drugs in Rutland and the senseless destruction it was leaving in its wake. With an aim to strengthen communities by creating community leaders, as well as addressing the underlying issues of mental illness, family dysfunction, poverty, and substance abuse that contribute to criminal activity and blight within our neighborhoods, Project VISION was born. Over the next several years, through the platform of monthly meetings open to the public, Project VISION has grown and enlarged its scope. The spontaneous coalescing of forces from all major stakeholders in the City of Rutland from the Police Department, to mental health care providers, to educators, to Realtors, to Green Mountain Power, all focused on the goal of improving the lives and communities of the citizens of Rutland, has molded Project VISION into a truly comprehensive and city-wide approach to neighborhood revitalization. For our respective parts, NeighborWorks and the Rutland Redevelopment Authority are allied in working towards ambitious plans to replace and repair the community’s housing stock.
NeighborWorks Programs and Assistance
In addition to this community revitalization project, NeighborWorks continues its mission to offer programs and assistance for all local residents, be they current homeowners or renters who are working towards homeownership. We offer homebuyer education, real estate services, and Down Payment Assistance Loans. For current homeowners, our HEAT Squad will perform a low cost energy audit on your home and give you objective guidance about ways to save money on your heating and energy bills.
We will be posting more about community events and news on the project in the weeks to come as well as offering helpful information about homeownership. Please visit often and feel free to leave a comment, we love to hear from our neighbors!