by Cheryl Luther Michaels, Community Journalist
HARDWICK – The Hardwick Downtown Partnership Inc. has announced that on January 23, Hardwick’s downtown business area was awarded the Designated Downtown title under Vermont’s Downtown Development Act.
The Downtown Designation Program supports local revitalization efforts by providing technical assistance and state funding to help municipalities build stronger communities. Designated Downtowns become eligible for several types of tax credits, access to capital funds for transportation and related projects, and priority consideration for various state services and grants. The program is administered by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD), which monitors compliance with requirements for the designation.
In late 2021 the Hardwick Select Board established a Downtown Development Commission, charged with investigating the feasibility of obtaining the designation and following through with the various requirements of ACCD. In the ensuing 15 months the commissioners, along with a consultant, developed plans and prepared the necessary documentation. This included defining the proposed boundaries of the Designated Downtown district, obtaining the support of the businesses in the proposed district, developing a five-year plan, a Community Reinvestment Agreement, and a municipal resolution to apply for designation. Once this work was completed and approved by the select board, the commission was dissolved and its members became directors of the Hardwick Downtown Partnership Inc. (HDP), a new non-profit corporation separate from the town.
The committee’s process culminated in a January 23 presentation to the Downtown Development board of ACCD, which approved Hardwick’s request for Downtown Designation. In recommending approval to the board, ACCD’s Program Manager Gary Holloway lauded the committee’s work and its members’ deep commitment to Hardwick’s future. His recommendation was unanimously approved by the full Downtown Development board.
The former commissioners, now HDP board members, are Shari Cornish (president), Bethany Dunbar (vice president), Sandy Scott (secretary), Gary Michaels (treasurer) and board members Emily Hershberger, Tobin Porter, Katie Tandy and Nora Lakhani.
“This is a really great team” said Cornish on approval of the group’s application. “Everyone contributed to the process, and each of these people has a strong interest in working to achieve our mission to provide leadership to support the economic, social, recreational, and cultural vitality of downtown Hardwick.”