I spent the day yesterday with members of the Architecture Institute of America planning the workshop that they will be giving in our town in the fall. Shelburne is a bucolic village just South of Burlington that hosts miles of Lake Champlain Shoreline, Olmstead designed Shelburne Farms, and other top tourist destinations. We have local shops, hiking trails, a first rate school system, and straight up the middle runs Shelburne Rd.
If you want to buy a car or a bed you have come to the right place. If you want to use your car as a bed (as you wait in traffic) that too might work out for you. If you want experience the lake, river, or large pond within a quarter mile of this corridor keep driving. Or waiting.
Shelburne’s neighbor to the North has done a good job of highlighting the convenience of such a commuting corridor. Bagels and coffee, supermarkets and covered gas stations, oil changes, and ammunition are all within an easy pull off.
Convenience aside the form of the structures in South Burlington are neither inspirational nor aspirational to me. Although the bagels place is local (and probably the guns and ammo shop?) the rest of the strip is known brands.
In my opionion Vermont overall and Shelburne in particular values the individual and the local. Perhaps your opinion differs? We need to debate what our core beliefs are, and figure out how can we reflect this vision with a road? How do we encourage attractive development? Support businesses that are already on the road? Turn the division in the divided highway into an asset? Show the way to our truly world class natural resources?
That is what we are going to learn. This AIA sponsored workshop together with a state grant is going to gather as many people as possible who are impacted by Shelburne Rd. Landowners, Shelburnites, commuters, business owners, and customers. First they will ask questions and listen to answers. They will offer visual prompts to help facilitate our ideas. The output of this workshop will be some big thinking and some small action items. Some things for right now, and others for future generations.
The team will include architects, economists, experts on code and transportation. There will be a minimum of 8 experts coming to town. Lets’ use them. Some of the greatest design and civic innovations come from solving problems. I want Shelburne Rd to be held up as a model of how a thru-way can work for commuting and a destination.
What do I want from you?
1. Examples of strips that shed the term strip and are aesthetically pleasing and economically viable.
2. Add your voice to this discussion. From Shelburne or not, an interdisciplinary approach to solving this problem is being offered, and I want to blow everyone away with our participation. Vermont is small. Lets show how small can be great!