WCAX: Castleton University leasing dorm space in downtown Rutland
RUTLAND, Vt. - For years, Rutland has been working toward redeveloping its downtown. Now, Castleton University is jumping in with extended student housing.
The city of Rutland has faced some obstacles in the past trying to keep the downtown bustling, but recent work to make it a safe and better place to live seems to be paying off. The goal is now to keep this momentum going, and downtown housing for Castleton students is one aspect of that.
Beginning this fall, downtown Rutland will be home to nearly 50 new resident's young, driven students coming to the city hub from the Castleton University campus.
Development Corp.: "It's really going to be a, I think, state of the art facility, which should give these students a real picture of what they should expect as they transition away from college and into real life," said Mark Foley Jr., Rutland economist.
Foley, is also a developer in Rutland. He owns the downtown building where Castleton is leasing living space. He believes bringing in young people will add drive to what's already been revitalized in the city center.
"It's happening, it has happened over the last several years. Statistically, storefronts: we've gone from about 60 percent occupancy to about 95 percent occupancy in this downtown core," said Foley.
Congressman Peter Welch, D-Vermont, toured downtown Rutland Thursday with Foley. He says the area's potential with its historic buildings, low-cost housing and driven entrepreneurs serves as a solid foundation for even more development to take place.
"At the federal level, we've got to provide some incentives like the tax incentives for historical preservation, help on housing, they've allowed developers to make the numbers work, but that can work when you've got local people, a select board and developers, who are all in," said Welch.
"I think if you put it in perspective, Rutland is actually a safe place to live," said Michel Messiel, Rutland resident.
Messiel recognizes the city's problems with drugs and crime in the past could be a barrier to development, but believes these days after police department and other reforms, the good far outweighs the bad.
"We need to stay on the positive side of things, there has been substantial improvement, we have our challenges like any major city or metropolitan area, but it's improving, I know I feel safe, my family feels safe and secure in and around Rutland," said Messiel.
Castleton students are on board as well because downtown housing for them, could mean jobs.
"There are such great businesses downtown that will offer internship opportunities to these students," said Vanessa Robertson, Castleton junior.
Robertson is a life-long Rutland resident and a newly-appointed city alderman. Growing the downtown economy is one of her main interests.
"To go from college to living in Rutland and actually working for these businesses, and I think that's a great way to continue growing business in Rutland which is essential," said Robertson.
Welch made pit stops on his tour at new and old local businesses, and says it's exciting to see what's already been accomplished with cooperation to commit to the future of downtown Rutland.