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Rutland, What Would You Like To See Fill The Space In Downtown?

A view of a downtown.
Nina Keck
VPR file
An acre-and-a-half block is available in downtown Rutland, and that got us thinking: What would people in the area like to see fill the space?

It’s not often an-acre-and-a-half of contiguous downtown real estate is available all at one time. But that’s exactly what’s happened in Rutland.

Last week, the former owners of the Rutland Herald announced that the century-old building that had housed the newspaper for more than 80 years and several other parcels would be sold at auction later this month.

Two separate neighboring properties are also for sale. That makes for a large chunk of downtown Rutland.

Here's a closer look at that acre-and-a-half:

The Wales Street block from West to Center streets in downtown Rutland is for sale, including the building that previously housed the 'Rutland Herald.'
Credit Map: Google Maps, Illustration: Emily Alfin Johnson, VPR
The Wales Street block from West to Center streets in downtown Rutland is for sale, including the building that previously housed the 'Rutland Herald.'

So we put it to folks on Facebook to find out what they'd like to see fill this space.

Here's some of what they had to say:

Susan Dana Bassett thinks tiny condos are the way to go; small, affordable, super-efficient housing to get young people and empty-nesters to live downtown.

Several others suggested art centers or performance spaces that would complement the Paramount Theatre.

Julia Quimby-Cohen says considering the multi-story parking deck nearby, she thinks the site is perfect for a downtown hotel: “The ground level open to shops and cafes and it would become the entire block. Where what they call 'the Pit' is, years ago there was a hotel that burned down there or something.”

She’s right — the Berwick Hotel had been on the corner of Center and Wales streets in Rutland for more than 100 years until it burned down in 1973.

That corner lot, known as "the Pit," is still empty and is often used for parking by Herald employees.

City leaders have talked about the need for a new downtown hotel or convention center for years.

Quimby-Cohen is crossing her fingers.

“And even if they wanted to keep the old facade of the Rutland Herald and keep it part of the draw of the architecture," Quimby-Cohen suggests. "But I think it would be a great place for people to stay when they were going to see a show at the Paramount.”

We even got some ideas from north of the border. Art Hodges, of southern Quebec, said: "I think the old Herald headquarters would be a great place to put together a small museum about the history of the small town newspaper in the United States of America.”

Several people on Facebook suggested something for teens, like laser tag, roller skating, a billiards club, a live music venue or, as Melissa Shanholtzer of West Rutland suggested, boxing.

"There’s no place to actually go boxing, but there’s a lot of bored kids in the streets and there’s a lot of places in the big cities that have boxing rings," she explains. "You go in there you, you get your frustrations out, you get your exercise, and I just think it would be a positive spin on things.”

Brewpubs, restaurants, antique malls and health food stores were also popular Facebook suggestions.

What would you like to see fill the space? Share your ideas below!

Then there’s Stu Lindberg, a history lover from Cavendish who has a different vision for what he’d like in downtown Rutland: "I would love to see a Greek or Roman amphitheater."

Why not, says Lindberg — it would be grand, unique and help bring people in to Rutland, plus he says there are lots of nearby quarries for building supplies.

The Herald properties will be auctioned off on Oct. 27. Til then, all ideas are welcome.

One in five Vermonters is considered elderly. But what does being elderly even mean — and what do Vermonters need to know as they age? I’m looking into how aging in Vermont impacts living essentials such as jobs, health care and housing. And also how aging impacts the stuff of life: marriage, loss, dating and sex.
Emily Alfin Johnson was a senior producer for Vermont Public Radio.
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