June 8 – Plans continue to progress for Keene town center to get a new swathe of color, as a recently released report for the long-awaited Arts Core project details areas teeming with opportunity for murals, the greenery and even a new market.
The Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design, based in Washington, D.C., sent a final design book to non-profit Arts Alive Keene on Saturday, visualizing the concepts for the project, which aims to encourage Main Street pedestrian traffic on the streets side streets and alleys, along the city center’s east-west axis. With the report published, Arts Alive enters the outreach phase of the project.
“We are looking for downtown partners willing to get involved and help promote the idea of building a more vibrant Keene,” said Jessica Gelter, CEO of Arts Alive.
The initiative is timely, Gelter said, as it would provide a commercial and cultural hotspot as Keene prepares for a multimillion-dollar downtown infrastructure overhaul to improve systems that were built at the late 19th and early 20th century.
Gelter said Arts Alive plans to apply for grants and conduct local fundraising to cover Arts Core costs, but does not expect financial assistance from the city.
Arts Alive’s mission is to build a community that values the arts and sees them as an integral part of the economy.
In 2021, the organization was selected from a pool of applicants to receive technical assistance for CIRD’s Arts Core, which was created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the non-profit Housing Assistance Council. In March, CIRD Architects visited Keene and met with Arts Alive to present sketches of what a revitalized downtown corridor might look like and brainstorm ideas.
In the recently released report, CIRD said the goal of the project is to build a community in Keene that values arts and culture, which it believes are important contributors to a thriving society and economy.
According to the report, the Arts Core’s primary focus is the area surrounding Gilbo Avenue and Emerald Street.
Proposed renovations include extending the sidewalk to the street on Avenue Gilbo near Cafe Yolo and moving existing parking spaces forward, to improve street boundaries and increase pedestrian safety . This would narrow the street in this area and make room for a proposed market structure with roof covering to accommodate events such as farmers’ markets and to make room for vendors, without removing parking spaces, said Craig Stockwell, a local Arts Core artist. Committee.
According to the report, CIRD project team members noticed the potential for a stronger connection across Main Street where the bike path crosses near Railroad Street and Gilbo Avenue. They conceptualized a revitalized pathway with a painted crosswalk, sidewalk and bike path, awash in vibrant colors. Accompanying the pathway, hanging lights would illuminate the walkway between the Margaritas Mexican restaurant and the adjacent Yolo cafe.
Stockwell said the area around Gilbo Avenue is in dire need of a fresh coat of paint.
“Gilbo is kind of a wasteland,” he said. “There are huge parking lots, and it takes something to bring it to life.
He added that because Gilbo Avenue is adjacent to Main Street, which is a busy area, it is the perfect location for the focal point of the project.
Other project concepts include constructing islands and bumps in parking lots, to accommodate landscaping and adding a sidewalk along Emerald Street near the Brewbakers Cafe.
The Keene Arts Core project has been in the works since at least 2018, beginning as an “arts corridor” initiated by the Monadnock Economic Development Corp. But plans stalled amid the pandemic when MEDC ran into financial difficulties.
Arts Alive breathes new life into the idea after taking the reins last year.
Stockwell said it was great to see the plans moving forward.
“Our dream is to make it an attractive place for young people and to make it a better community,” he said.
Hunter Oberst can be reached at 355-8585, or [email protected]