SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – The Main Street Meet up at The Tavern of the Hartness House Inn was recently packed with people that seem to genuinely care about Springfield’s future.
A variety of age groups came to give ideas, ask questions and begin the process of making Springfield great once more with a long-range master plan for the community’s future.
The Town of Springfield, along with the Towns of Chester and Montpelier, received one of three grants given out each year to Vermont towns. The grants are funded through the Strong Communities, Better Connections program of the Vermont Agency of Transportation and Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
The $67,000 grant given to Springfield is to create a master plan that will help direct and guide the town in revitalization. A master plan will also position Springfield to be able to apply for future grants.
Carolyn Radisch, senior project manager at Grenman-Pedersen. Inc., the company working with the Town of Springfield on writing the master plan, gave a small speech.
“Things can change for the better,” she said. “The plan is looking to improve public places, make the downtown more attractive and increase pedestrian friendliness, and allow for people to engage with the Black River.”
The river was previously seen and utilized for manufacturing but now it can be a source of creating a better quality of life. A River Walk, beginning at 100 River St. near the Springfield Health Center and continuing downstream until the Senior Center, will lure more people downtown for an experience they will not forget, she said. She said the falls are beautiful, but not seen or able to be enjoyed.
Imagine sitting of a bench, eating a sandwich and listening to the roar of the falls; this is possible with a River Walk, Radisch said.
The Hanley Building is being considered for dining, a brewery, offices, or public art space. Big department stores are out; small local businesses are in.
Springfield does not have enough traffic volume to need the four lanes currently on Clinton Street, Radisch said. Another part of the plan is to convert this road from four lanes to three lanes, with two single direction lanes and a middle turning lane.
This controversial proposal would rebalance the excessive space being taken up by the extra lanes and reconfigure that for bikers and pedestrians, Radisch said. Trees would be planted along Clinton to create visual appeal for travelers coming into Springfield.
A single roundabout was proposed at the intersection of Clinton, Mineral, Main and South streets. This feature would slow down and steady the traffic allowing for better pedestrian crossing, Radisch said.
A simple public space improvement is the cinema plaza, where visibility is a problem. Remove the shrubs, put in some benches and create a focal point with a sculpture, Radisch said.
She said Springfield is already on its way with creative expression but the plan would emphasis more public art that strengthens Springfield’s identity.
Kathleen Marshall, who moved to Springfield in 2000, would like to see better curb appeal with the shops on Main Street, along with a candy shop, bakery and a higher-end clothing boutique.
Springfield doesn’t own many municipal parking spaces, which is another issue the master plan would resolve.
Building a downtown parking garage was received well many of those in attendance.
“The townspeople want Springfield to change,” resident David Hienckley said. “Many may not know, but Springfield has one of the fastest Internet speeds, (and) this is a big asset to the town, but it’s not being utilized. An asset like that would draw the remote workers, entrepreneurs, and programmers.
“Springfield was never a tourist town, it was manufacturing and it can still be, but in high tech manufacturing such as 3D printing,” he continued. “The structures are here waiting to be revived. “
Springfield Town Manager Tom Yenerell encouraged everyone to go to their website and give ideas, ask questions.
“We want to build something that the community is looking for,” he said. “Please provide your input.”
The website is www.springfieldmp.wixsite.com