Archive | March, 2013

Wilmington receives downtown designation • 28 March story in the Deerfield Valley News

30 Mar
by Jack Deming
2 days ago | 522 views | 1 1 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print

 

WILMINGTON- After an 18-month-long application process, the VT Downtown program has given its stamp of approval, awarding Wilmington village downtown designation.

This paves the way for implementing Wilmington Works, a committee that will work to enhance the business and economic environment of the downtown. Wilmington Works will be a committee of the Wilmington Fund VT, which serves as the committee’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt financial sponsor, as required by the program. The Wilmington Selectboard has also committed funds to Wilmington Works for this, and next year’s, fiscal years, using matching grant funds.

After Tropical Storm Irene, FEMA worked with the town to establish a long-term community recovery plan, and identified approximately two dozen projects that could have positive impacts and help the town most in achieving recovery goals.

Downtown designation was chosen as a high priority by the town, and former selectboard chair Tom Consolino was named project champion. Consolino, town manager Scott Murphy, economic development specialist Gretchen Havreluk, and Wilmington Fund VT member John Gannon spent 18 months putting together the plan, and applying.

According to Murphy, Wilmington Works will provide structure and support for downtown businesses, and organize efforts to improve the town’s economy. This will be accomplished through four subcommittees that report to a board of nine to 11 volunteers. Those subcommittees will consist of organization, economic development, promotion, and design.

For business owners, Murphy says Wilmington Works will provide multiple benefits by consolidating the efforts of the many existing committees in town, which, he says, with time might evolve into parts of the subcommittees. “The one benefit they’re (business owners) going to see first and foremost is the organizational affect,” said Murphy. “Right now we have various committees that work randomly and not in conjunction with each other and this will pull them all together.”

Murphy also noted the financial impact of the program, which opens the town up to apply for more 50-50 match grants that are easily accessible, and were not available under the town’s former status as a village. “Now that we’re a designated downtown, when we apply for other state grants, they can look at that and it will help us get extra credit points toward getting more grants.

“This would also be an asset to someone looking to move into our downtown, and will help to create a vibrant downtown.”

Part of the program’s criteria was proper mapping of the proposed downtown, and with help from the Windham Regional Commission, the town was able to create maps for the application, a process which Murphy says was easy due to Wilmington’s well-defined downtown business area. The program requires that the proposed downtown area not stretch unreasonably past the downtown businesses in any direction.

The Wilmington Works board will be composed of two members designated by the Wilmington Fund VT, two designated by the selectboard, two property owners in the district, two business owners in the district, and a member of the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce, as well as other community members. The majority of Wilmington Works board members must also be residents of the town. Each position will be a three-year term, and Murphy says there has already been a great deal of interest.

The program application was supported by nearly 60 signatures from downtown business and property owners alike.

Read more: Deerfield Valley News – Wilmington receives downtown designation

 

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Vermont B/A: Wilmington Pulls Together to bring its Historic Downtown Back to Life

17 Mar

Although there is not a digital copy available, if you see the current issue of Vermont B/A (formerly Builder Architect), there is a very nice article on The Wilmington Fund VT with photos by Carolyn Bates & Barker Willard including the two below.

Irene at Work, photo by Barker Willard

Irene at Work, photo by Barker Willard

Wilmington One Year Later, photo by Carolyn Bates

Wilmington One Year Later, photo by Carolyn Bates

 

Cracker Barrel Winter/Spring 2013 A part of Irene’s aftermath: The Wilmington Fund VT

9 Mar

One Part of Irene’s Economic Aftermath:  The Wilmington Fund VT

Two months ago Hurricane Sandy slammed through the Northeast.  Those of us in the Deerfield Valley had a true understanding of damage that can be left behind.  Our thoughts and prayers were with everyone harmed by the climactic event.

Nearly a year and a half ago (28 August 2011), Tropical Storm Irene ravaged many Vermont towns, including Wilmington.  By January, The Wilmington Fund VT was established and hard at work.

Founding:

Tamara and Dan Kilmurray, longtime Wimington second homeowners felt the losses and destruction of Wilmington’s village viscerally.  Throughout the clean up process in which they physically contributed, they discussed what could be done on a long term basis.  Dan communicated with Deborah Emmet Pike, another second home owner who had introduced him to the valley over three decades ago.  Deborah put Dan in touch with local business owner Julie Lineberger as someone who could assist him in gathering a group of people to create a long term difference.

By February 2012 the full Board was established including Dan as President, State House Representative Ann Manwaring as Vice President, financial planner Bruce Mullen as Treasurer and Julie as Secretary of the Board.  Rounding out the group were Tamara Kilmurray, Deborah Emmet Pike, attorney Robert Fisher, business owner John Gannon and innkeeper John Pilcher who, reluctantly, resigned from the Board in November.

Recently the Board created an Advisory Council to assist in with the mission through brainstorming fundraising ideas, acting as ambassadors to The Wilmington Fund VT.  This group includes Mount Snow Partner Dick Deutsch, West Dover second homeowner Bob Kaufman, Halifax second homeowner Walter Jones, local active volunteer Alice Greenspan, and Wilmington second homeowner Sophie Ackert who raised a significant amount of money for The Wilmington Fund VT through her Bat Mitzvah project.

Grant Process

The primary mission of The Wilmington Fund VT is to contribute to the the economic vitality in the area by encouraging established pre-Irene businesses to reopen, help new businesses launch and create jobs in Wilmington’s historic village center.  This includes shrinking the number of empty storefronts in the village.  Steadily, albeit slowly, we are advancing towards these goals.

In order to accomplish the above goals, The Wilmington Fund VT established parameters and protocols for grant applications and approval.  Each project is evaluated on its own particular set of circumstances by our general requirements that include submission of a complete business plan to establish, or reestablish, a business in the Village.  Part of the requirement is that any submission must include a substantial financial investment on the part of the applicant business owner.

Once a letter requesting funds accompanied by a completed business plan is submitted, a small group of our Board vets the project through interview and other due diligence measures.  When approved by the small group, the project is brought to the full Board of Directors for discussion.

So far, the Wilmington Fund VT invested $145,000 in the approval and distribution of  and distribution six grants.  The recipient business owners are on target to invest in excess of $1 million in their respective projects.  This multiplier effect is a key requirement for any grant application and approval of The Wilmington Fund VT.

Progress

The grants distributed include five businesses and an infrastructural project to support all village businesses.  The businesses that either opened, or are in the process of reopening, are well funded and have solid articulated business plans.  The Wilmington Fund VT is highly confident of their success and believe that a total of 30 local jobs will be created.

North Star Bowl – REOPENED. The center for local activity offering both bowling and informal food is owned by Steve Butler and Bev Lemaire.  Over 75% of this structure was destroyed in the storm.  Although not technically in Wilmington’s Village Center, we felt this business to be a significant contributor to the economic vitality of the area.

• Dot’s Restaurant – REOPENING SOON.  The iconic breakfast to dinner restaurant is owned by Patty and John Reagan.  http://www.rebuilddots.com

Note:  Funding and elbow grease from many individuals and many groups, most notably the Friends of the Valley, is what enabled both North Star and Dot’s to even think of reopening.  The Wilmington Fund VT was but one aspect of the reestablishment of these businesses.

Beyond Imagination – OPENED. A beautifully designed women’s clothing and household furnishings boutique is owned by Melinda and Bill Coombs.  http://www.beyondimagination.com

Chapman’s InTown Antiques – OPENED. Diane and Len Chapman have been running an antique business on their Medburyville property just outside of town for many years.  Along with neighbors JoAnn and David Manning, they decided to open a store in the village.  With assistance from The Wilmington Fund VT, the team of four renovated a storm ravaged building and are offering both antiques and local Vermont crafts.

Restaurant in the historic Parmelee & Howe Building – OPENING SOON. The Wilmington Fund VT purchased and began renovating this anchor building on the corner of Routes 9 & 100.  Mid-way through we were approached by a local individual with a vision and an interest in purchasing the property.  Acknowledging the ample investment and undertaking by the purchaser, as a demonstration of support the accepted negotiated price was less than our investment. The Wilmington Fund VT is pleased to have accomplished its goal with the sale of the Historic Parmelee & Howe building and look forward to its success.

• Village Walkway – PARTIALLY COMPLETED.  Led by the Long Term Recovery Parking and Green space Committee of Carolyn Palmer, Lilias Hart and Sue Spengler, the project links a new parking lot with Main Street with a soon to be lit walkway.

Future Challenges:

Because of these early successes, morale in the village is recovering and the ambiance greatly improved.  The robust Village Stroll Committee is working diligently to create various events to entice people downtown.  In addition, the increase in tourist traffic this fall was very encouraging.

However, there remain numerous damaged and empty buildings requiring a great deal of work.  The scope of these future projects is larger than our accomplishments to date, and 80 or so jobs still need to be restored.  The Board is exploring various options, including the establishment of a revolving loan fund, to stimulate economic growth in the village.

The Wilmington Fund VT has been prudent stewards of donated capital.  Close to 100% of fund donations go to economic vitality efforts with a minimal amount used for insurance and accounting fees.  All Board Members work voluntarily, truly a tireless effort by a talented group of individuals.

To continue our work, The Wilmington Fund VT is in a constant mode of fundraising.  We are also establishing two annual fundraisers.  The Summer Event of 2012 was extremely successful.  This included an art show curated by Mary Wright of Gallery Wright, a Pig Roast Dinner at the home of the Kilmurrays, and a Memorial Hall concert produced with great support of Dale Doucette.  Plans for the 13 July 2013 Summer Event are in currently in the works.

The Wilmington Fund VT is also in the midst of working with Mount Snow to create an annual Winter Event.

The long term success of our cause will ultimately be determined by continued strong governance, solid decision making and, of course, successful fundraising.  All are invited to keep on top of our progress through http://www.TheWilmingtonFundVT.org