How Sustainable is Your Community?
Newport. Genuine by Nature. “Genuine” refers to the people, experience, and unpretentiousness of the city. “By nature” references the beauty of the city’s natural surroundings – on a lake near the mountains. Being warm, personable and real comes naturally to the people of Newport – rare qualities that flow through their blood and are ingrained in their soul.
Newport, Vermont is located just south of the Canadian border on the international Lake Memphremagog, in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. The Northeast Kingdom, comprising of the three northeast counties, is the most remote rural area of Vermont.
Since July 2007, when Newport received its Vermont Downtown designation, the community has been on a roll, creating and sustaining momentum, producing key results with positive impact on its community and economic development.
In 2009, Newport received Vermont’s first American Institute of Architect’s (AIA) Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team (R/UDAT) grant that engaged over 500 community members at town hall meetings and workshops.
In 2010, Newport used an integrated community-based approach to develop Form Based Code – the first Vermont municipality to adopt this regulation plan.
Today, Newport, Vermont is on the cusp of several major economic development tipping points:
- 2011 – Newport receives Foreign Trade Zone status
- 2011 – Canadian manufacturing firm co-locates here
- 2011 – 2012 – Vermont biotech firm re-locates here
- 2012 – 2013 – South Korean biotech firm co-locates here
- 2012 – 2013 – Senior residential resort is built
- 2013 – 2 014 – Waterfront resort conference center opens
- 2013 – 2014 – Re-development of blighted block on Newport’s Main St
With all of this in mind, Newport City Renaissance Corporation (NCRC), an accredited National Main Street Program®, is operating with a work plan that addresses the design, economic restructuring and promotion of the community. Woven into the work plan is improving the quality of life for the city’s residents, people who work, play and visit Newport.
Members of the Design Committee and Newport’s Planning Commission worked together to develop Form Based Code, a zoning regulation that honors the fabric of the city’s downtown architecture. It’s a positive approach, there are no ‘set-backs’ but there are ‘build to’ lines.
There are regulations for the glazing of the storefronts (80% of the street level floor on Main Street) and doorway entrances (every 36 feet). Form Based Code encourages mixed use in buildings. And if the building is over 100,000 square feet, there must be 5% of public access green space included (e.g., pocket park) on Main Street and 40% green space where a waterfront resort may be located (currently a strip-mall).
Parking spaces are regulated to no surface parking only parking below or above the building and if there is an adjacent parking building it must have retail on the ground floor.
Form Based Code can be an incentive for development in Newport’s downtown because it streamlines the permitting process and thus is less costly in time and money.
Newport is currently working to secure Vermont Neighborhood status, which could also be an incentive for residential redevelopment, renovation and rehabilitation of current buildings.
This status will streamline the permitting process as well as Act 250 process.
One of the projects associated with this process is Grow A Newport City Neighborhood. A community garden has been established by the neighbors in one of the most economically challenged neighborhoods just off Main Street. The garden located in what was an extremely under utilized inner-block that was, six months ago, a haphazard, “left-over” parking area, is now a (organic compost amended) productive garden.
This is an inter-generational project with youngsters and seniors working together in the planting, growing and harvesting of vegetables; they are even growing herbs for downtown restaurants!
Healthy living also includes recreation and with Newport playing to its strengths, the Newport City Recreation Department has stepped up its programing and marketing of programs. The Department is responsible for managing Newport’s major parks providing downtown Newport’s greenspace. New programs include sailboat lessons on the lake, biking and cross-country skiing on the new recreation path that now connects downtown Newport with the Canadian border and the bike trail in Stanstead, Quebec.
Newport City Renaissance Corporation’s partners include the VT Department of Health, Northeast Kingdom Area Agency on Aging, HealthWorks ONE, Green Mountain Farm to School, Farm Direct, Newport City Planning & Zoning, Newport City Recreation Department, Northeast Kingdom Travel & Tourism, local merchants, farmers and restaurateurs. This coalition will be working on two new projects, ‘Complete Streets for Active Living’ and developing and implementing Taste. Table. Newport. Fresh by Nature®.
Complete Streets addresses accessibility by walking, bicycling and motoring with a keen eye on safety and pleasant experience. It will capitalize on Form Based Code, which promotes compact incremental growth patterns, pedestrian-scaled development, increased sidewalks, increased green space, decreased travel lane width and enhanced connectivity. This plan also promotes compact incremental development (walkable growth patterns), and prescribes new walking/biking paths.
The Complete Streets project will connect the assets to solutions for real connectivity that is safe, accessible and usable for Newport’s over-65 population as well as other generations.
Newport. Fresh by Nature®, funded by a USDA – Rural Development grant, will allow the Newport City Renaissance Corporation to provide the necessary outreach to local farms and restaurants located in downtown Newport and amplify cross-promotion that will allow them to enhance and expand their business and develop Newport into a hub for a fresh food network.
This project will establish Newport as a Farm to Table destination where people can eat here and visit farms. Taste. Table. Newport. Fresh by Nature® will coordinate the marketing message and marketing campaign for Newport as a farm fresh food destination.
Newport offers a quiet beauty, friendly faces and an abundance of opportunities for outdoor adventure. In other words, a unique and genuine small town experience that residents can be proud of and visitors can be charmed by.
Today, Newport sets the table, lays out the welcome mat, and throws another log on the fire welcoming old friends and new acquaintances with the promise of an experience close to home yet far from the ordinary.
Today, Newport opens the doors and sings the praises of this geographical treasure chest that sits at the crossroads of America and Canada, straddling the border between old values and new beginnings.
Learn more about Newport, Vermont at www.discovernewportvt.com
GET Aug2011 page 19