One of the more far-reaching proposals to change Keene’s downtown has been the plan for an “arts and culture corridor” spearheaded by Monadnock Economic Development Corp.
The general idea is to create a corridor stretching from the Monadnock Food Co-op, through the former railroad land and across Main Street, down Gilbo Avenue to School Street. And the goal, as stated earlier this year by MEDC President Jack Dugan, is to bolster efforts to revitalize the downtown while also supporting the region’s already vibrant arts community.
Included in the initial planning have been such projects as a large, covered pavilion and a smaller performance space for concerts and events, a visitors’ welcome center, artists’ residences and work spaces, a pedestrian-only area and a new, larger skate park. Much of the estimated $30 million in funding, were the plan to fall into place, would be cobbled together from a variety of state and federal sources, Dugan has said.
As we observed when Dugan was unveiling the proposal, it’s an intriguing and promising plan that tries to build on some of Keene’s existing strengths, with the potential to make Keene and the region more attractive to young workers that might in turn spur growth. But the planning was then only in its early stages, and wisely MEDC anticipated seeking public input.
That time has now come. MEDC has been working with two Vermont-based consulting firms — Community Workshop and Stevens & Associates — and on Wednesday, Dec. 4, will be hosting a design charrette with the goal of putting design and conceptual meat on the proposal’s bones. In this workshop, teams of stakeholders and designers will first meet to brainstorm and prioritize design ideas. The public is then invited to a drop-in session from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. to watch the design team sketching elements of the project, and from 4 to 6 p.m., the draft designs will be on display for all to view and provide feedback on during an open house. Both the drop-in session and the open house will take place on the second floor of the former Cheshire County Courthouse at the corner of Court and Winter streets.
Even after Wednesday’s charrette there will be many more steps necessary before any plan for an arts and culture corridor can come to fruition. But Wednesday’s event provides the best chance to weigh in on its planning during the conceptual stage, and we urge all those eager to have a say in shaping this vision for downtown Keene to attend.