According to chamber executive director Adam Grinold, the grant provides a win-win scenario for both the chamber and the Wilmington Fund, fulfilling their common goal of promoting commerce and business growth in town. “We only had a three-week window to apply,” said Grinold. “So we considered going to the town, but didn’t think they would be able to respond quick enough. I came to the Wilmington Fund out of nowhere, and they were willing to listen, and they immediately recognized it would double what they’re trying to do and what we’re trying to do.”
The money will be spent on two projects, beginning with the completion of the parking lot behind the businesses on the south side of West Main Street. The Wilmington Fund, which was established in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, earmarked the parking lot as a project they wanted their grant match to support. Grinold says the parking lot is in need of lighting, and the exploration of paving options.
Carolyn Palmer, owner of Roseate Creations on North Main Street and co-chair of the Wilmington Parking and Greenspace Committee, says the completion of the parking lot is imperative to the success of downtown Wilmington. “I’m fortunate to have off-street parking at my business, but most in town don’t,” said Palmer. “I don’t know how many times we hear people say there’s no parking, and after Irene, two building sales fell through because there was no parking. If we want Wilmington to recover we have to provide parking.”
The parking and greenspace committee has worked with volunteers and road crew, constructing a walkway, with mostly donated materials, from the lot to West Main Street along the side of Pickwell’s Barn, and plans to install an information kiosk where the walkway meets the lot. Railroad ties have been installed in the back of the lot to separate it from the Valley Trail, and plans for a walkway across the Deerfield River are in the works as well.
According to Palmer, lighting is a necessity to finishing the project, but may require an additional $10,000 to illuminate the lot, walkway, and the Valley Trail.
The other portion of the grant will be used to help facilitate new businesses moving to the area, including a database of business logistics, including traffic, sales, and lodging statistics. “If someone came to me now and said ‘I’m interested in a property on Route 100, how many cars drive by a day?’ we don’t have that answer by month or by season,” said Grinold. “So basically we lump that into business climate demographics, and all this information will be available for someone looking at a vacant building, and they can assess if there is the traffic and the potential business for their model to work.”
Grinold says the information will need to be collected first, citing the loss of any data the chamber had in Tropical Storm Irene’s flooding. It will be a time-consuming project, but one that Grinold says will facilitate the growth of valley commerce.
This strategy of attracting new business will include the production of videos that would provide a visual promotion of the area to prospective residents and business owners, to go along with business demographics. Grinold says the plan is aimed at helping every town in the valley succeed and continue recovering.
“There was a point in time after the flood, and from that point forward, that we had a sense of urgency,” said Grinold. “There may have been a need for this prior to the flood, but there is certainly a sense of urgency now, and I don’t think anyone doubts it’s there. Wilmington village is the gateway to the valley, and the village’s vibrancy in Wilmington is just as important to Dover and other towns.”