City Of Norwich Nearly Ready To Begin Placemaking Efforts
Published: February 16th, 2024
By: Sarah Genter

City of Norwich nearly ready to begin placemaking efforts The City of Norwich is preparing to begin work on the placemaking initiative, which will use smaller improvement projects to tie together the larger projects included in the DRI. (Photo by Sarah Genter)

NORWICH — The City of Norwich is gearing up to begin developing a strategic plan that will guide future placemaking in the downtown area.

The city received a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) grant in December of 2021 to transform downtown Norwich, draw in tourism, and spark increased investment in the area with several individual revitalization projects.

As project sponsors prepare to design and implement their renovations, the city is working on creating a placemaking action plan.

Placemaking is the concept of creating destinations where people want to work, play, and live. Examples of possible placemaking projects in the City of Norwich could be wayfinding to help direct visitors through the city, providing opportunities for public art and seating, turning pieces of Broad Street into public spaces, and updating intersections with pedestrian safety measures.

City of Norwich Community Development Director Erik Scrivener said the city's placemaking initiative will be used as a way to tie the DRI projects together to create a more cohesive downtown.

"The thing about the DRI is, it’s great that it gives us $10 million, but there’s really no connectedness about this project," Scrivener explained. "How does one project affect the other businesses here? How does everything connect and how do we maximize this investment into more investment? That’s what we’re looking at is to keep the ball rolling and keep revitalizing downtown."

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The city recently put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to find a contractor to help the city assess the area and create an action plan to help them implement placemaking efforts in a deliberate way.

A group of individuals from the Norwich Business Improvement District (BID), the City of Norwich Common Council, and other community members explored the four RFPs received, and decided on EDR as the contractor for the job.

"EDR brings a ton of experience: they’ve done DRI and other programs in Utica, Rome, and other local areas. That’s what really set them apart. We felt it was their work in similar communities to Norwich and the success they’ve had," Scrivener explained.

He said the project will cost the city $88,810. The city contributed HUD funds, and they also received funding from the Greater Norwich Foundation, the Roger Follett Foundation, and the Norwich BID to support the initiative.

The decision to contract with EDR must still be approved by the City of Norwich Common Council, and they will make their final vote at the common council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 20 at 6:30 p.m.

If approved, Scrivener said the contract with EDR will include project management, an existing conditions assessment, a market study, branding, public engagement, looking at economic development opportunities, and creating an action plan.

EDR will also be working with MRB Group for economic development efforts, and a group called Alleyway on branding.

Once the final action plan is completed, the city can use that information to implement placemaking projects around the city.

"What is the City of Norwich brand? What is the downtown brand?" said Scrivener. "We don’t have a good concept of what that is. We have a lot of ideas, but part of this is going to be developing a marketable brand for the city and something that we can work with into the future."

He said they hope to begin working with EDR this March, and estimates the total project time to take about nine to 12 months.

Scrivener said work on the placemaking initiative will also coincide with the initial work on the DRI projects, which will help placemaking projects fit better and connect all the revitalized areas.

The overall goal is not just to revitalize downtown, but leverage these projects into further investment in the City of Norwich in the future.

"The timing is right, we’ll get this plan in place as the investment is going in the DRI, and then now looking for our next pools of funding for what we want to do as far as a downtown idea and concept," said Scrivener. "We have this investment, $10 million, how do we not just have this as a one time thing? We want to take this and turn it into multiple investments over the years, bringing in more public and private funding to the city."

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After implementing the placemaking projects, Scrivener said he hopes to expand placemaking efforts outside of the DRI area as well.

"As we complete this, we’re looking to expand outside of the downtown area to other parts of the city for also additional investment. We want to get this completed first, and build on the success of our downtown plan to now the other areas," he said. "You know, getting down East Main, further down North and South Broad, and other areas. We could see some development or other types of things being done."