Many were caught off guard when in 2011 Tropical Storm Irene travelled up the coastline and reached far inland to the mountains of Vermont. The flooding that followed left many small town communities devastated after the flood water ripped through steep waterways and valleys that are often at the heart of town. Mahan Rykiel Associates, led by long-standing collaborator Arnett Muldrow Associates, joined a diverse team of experts in planning, design, economic development, organizational structure, and preservation to envision a more resilient path forward to rebuilding their communities for a safer future. Together, the Vermont Downtown Action Team (V-DAT) created a tailored set of strategies for each community that addressed physical planning, economic development, marketing, and implementation. Mahan Rykiel’s focus included public realm enhancements and development/redevelopment strategies to protect and enhance the physical appearance, function of the community, and resiliency in the face of disaster.
As with other planning efforts at Mahan Rykiel Associates, the V-DAT planning charrettes utilized an asset-based planning approach the builds upon the unique assets and qualities of each community. This approach allowed the V-DAT team to understand the community’s long-term vision of the future and strengths that can be celebrated through design and planning. This allows the planning process to build from within the community and create a plan that is authentic in nature and rooted in ‘place.’
We understand that the best ideas are also practical and grounded in economic and implementation realities. The Team was sensitive to build upon, rather than reinvent, initiatives that the communities already had underway and assisted them in consensus building and prioritizing. A significant component of the effort included developing implementation plans for each community. With the roadmap in hand, we then worked with the community in securing grant funding for initial projects.