In early 2021, a team composed of engaged Northfield citizens and municipal employees submitted an application for the Better Places program, a initiative focused on improving the vitality of Vermont's public places. Northfield's Better Places grant team evaluated prior planning documents, such as the 2016 Area-Wide Plan and the Northfield Ridge and River Routes Master Plan, to understand the priorities of Northfield citizens. The feedback and participation that guided these earlier planning documents highlighted the need for a more welcoming, utilized, and accessible town common.
Despite the odds, Northfield's proposal was selected and fully funded. A Better Places steering committee was formed to execute the grant, and since the beginning of March, the committee has met weekly to plan and implement the project elements discussed below.
An important objective of the grant application was to increase the utility of the Common and catalyze economic development. Given the Common's proximity to local businesses and eateries, the grant team felt it was critical to increase the Common's capacity for safe and accessible outdoor seating.
While furniture will increase seating capacity during daylight hours, the grant committee felt it was also important to increase lighting infrastructure to extend the Common's useful hours and to make it an inviting place to socialize, eat and relax.
Street Pole Banners
The grant team felt that the Common would significantly benefit from local artwork in the form of street banners. Instead of a repeating image or a professional design, the grant team elected to take a more meaningful and participatory approach. Northfield High School students are taking photographs of iconic Northfield landscapes, and transposing them into simplified designs in the style of Sabra Field, a Vermont artist. The designs will then be traced onto the banner and hand painted. An example of the process is shown below.
The grant team felt that it would be valuable to install a permanent sculpture on the Common fabricated by a Northfield artist. Public art is an important facet of a vibrant community, inviting citizens and visitors to engage with the creative, contemplative facets of their being.