Rediscovering Chester: A Master Plan for Chester Village Center
About the Project
In early 2016, the Town of Chester presented an application to the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development and Agency of Transportation as part of their “Strong Communities, Better Connections” or SCBC grant program. The SCBC program was established to “align state and local investments to increase transportation options and build resilience and economic vitality in Vermont’s community centers”. In applying to this grant program, the Town of Chester recognized that its existing Village Center had challenges of connectivity and sought to complete a plan to envision changes that would improve pedestrian accommodation and movement, support and nurture local business and establish a solid foundation on which future community (including town, private-sector and state) investments could be made to maximize their effect. In February the Town was notified it had received an award for $70,000 to be used to develop a specific master plan for the Village Center. In late spring of 2016 the Town released a Request for Proposals (RFP) and received a number of qualified responses from local and regional planning firms with experience in community master planning. At the conclusion of the review of proposal, the Town selected a team led by Burlington-based SE Group. SE Group will provide the day-to-day coordination for the project team that includes experts in transportation issues, economics, land use and community planning. SE Group outlined in its proposal a series of specific community engagement efforts that will seek to get public input from a variety of venues to help inform the work.
The latest version of the Town Plan and the efforts of everyone involved in this vision can be found here:
In addition to the broad goals for addressing transportation options, enhancing community resilience and supporting economic vitality, the RFP and SE Group’s proposal indicated some other supportive goals to meet the needs of the Chester Village Center Master Plan.
Promoting strong community engagement - Both the RFP and the workplan prepared by SE Group advocate for a strong public engagement process. That process will include three major public meetings (including interactive “workshop” style events), focus groups on a wide variety of topics including retail business, lodging, arts and culture, etc., and a retail customer survey (to help better understand visitors and the influence they play). The Project’s web site and comment board will also be an important tool to get community input and thoughts on elements of the Project as they are crafted. Everything created or collected for the Project will be available via this webpage.
Defining a vision – A key to any master plan is to establish a “vision”; a broad view of how the Village Center remains an essential part of Chester, including its year-round and seasonal residents and visitor alike.
Using analysis to help define the market challenges and opportunities – One of the important elements of the workplan for the project is to use data, collected through local sources and through available state and national datasets, to help analyze existing economic and market conditions for Chester Village. Using both a quantitative and qualitative approach, the analysis will help define the starting point for long-range economic development thinking.
Exploring specific ideas – Thinking about and analyzing conceptual ideas related to a vision is important, but often it takes some more detailed exploration and visualization to help fine tune these concepts into something more real that people can understand. The Project calls for graphics and illustrations to help communicate ideas, based on community input and vetted with appropriate analysis. Interactive workshops will provide another venue for participants to engage in exploring ideas.
At the end of the work, the objective is to have a working Chester Village Center Master Plan that thoughtfully articulates community inputs, presents the opportunities and challenges, articulates a vision and explores the ideas that might support it. In essence it is a process to help “Rediscover Chester”; to take stock in what the community knows and loves about the Village Center and find ways to help it endure and thrive.
As part of the process of developing the Master Plan for Chester Village Center, the project consulting team has been collecting background data from a variety of sources to help better understand existing conditions and the “foundation” on which the long-term vision for Chester can rest. During this initial set of steps, the project consulting team has considered the physical conditions of the community (roads, sidewalks, and existing infrastructure), history, land use, natural terrain and market/demographic factors. In addition, in the first three months of this process, the consulting team has met members of the Chester community at the Chester-on-the-Green event, conducted a visitor survey and held a full-day “focus group” workshop (on October 22nd).
The following information is a summary of this background data collection. This is still draft materials and will, as the project continues into 2017, be further refined and clarified. Please note that some of these files (PDF) might be quite large and take a few moments to download. A complete bibliography of background materials to be used will be posted in the coming weeks.
The project consulting team welcomes any feedback and input on this background data as we move into the next phase; exploring the vision. Please use the contact form here- Contact Us
A community planning process is only as good as you make it. The active participation and engagement of the public is vital to its development and success as a tool to shape future decisions. The Project website will be an important hub for information and interaction and you are strongly encouraged to visit often. The Project will also be communicating through local print media and via posters at area stores, school, post office to let you know about events and activities.