September 05, 2018TILTON – Selectmen heard last week from Juliet Harvey-Bolia, a representative from the town's recently formed First Impressions Committee, which is working with the UNH Cooperative Extension on ways to improve the look and atmosphere of downtown Tilton. The committee, Harvey-Bolia told the board last Thursday, will be holding an update on their research on Sept. 27, and will open a conversation up to the public in hopes of getting not only feedback on their findings but fresh ideas for the improvement of the downtown business district.
First Impressions is under the umbrella of the UNH Cooperative's Vibrant Community project, which seeks to assist communities in finding new ways to draw more people and more business to their downtown sectors.
"It's a tested and vetted national program that I think can really help our town," said Harvey-Bolia.
The Tilton committee, she said, was formed early this year and has been working hard over the past several months to gather as much information as they can.
In the initial phase of the First Impressions initiative, Tilton was to be paired up with a similar local community. The Co-op determined that the Town of Pittsfield, which had also reached out to the Cooperative for assistance, was a suitable match due to size and other logistics. Each town's First Impressions committee then sent Secret Shoppers to the alternate community. While there, committee members recorded their thoughts and reactions to the experiences they had in the other town's business district.
"We each noted the strengths and weakness on the downtown area then submitted the data we collected," said Harvey-Bolia.
That data will be revealed at the upcoming Community Conversation and people in attendance will also be asked to express their own thoughts on downtown Tilton. Following the open discussions, smaller groups will then be formed to discuss how the town might improve a variety of the aspects of Main Street Tilton.
"This is open to anyone, whether they live in Tilton or not. If they live here, shop here, work here or come here for any other reasons, we'd love to hear their thoughts and ideas," Harvey-Bolia said. "It all happens here (at the Community Conversation). If you have issues, if you have ideas, this is the place where it will all be recorded."
Town Planner Dari Sassan also attended the meeting with selectmen, and said his hope is that the Downtown Conversation will help the committee identify the next steps that need to be taken.
"This is also something we can talk to Jeanie Forrester about," he said.
Forrester is a former New Hampshire State Senator, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and on the local level, helped the towns of Meredith and Plymouth achieve a Main Street U.S.A. status. Next month she will take over the role of Town Administrator in Tilton.
"She'll be a great help to the town," Harvey-Bolia agreed after the meeting.
The First Impressions committee is made up of 12 local residents from all walks of life, she added. Among them are the Chief of Police, town staff members, three youth representatives and other residents.
The Downtown Tilton Update and Community Conversation is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 27 in the Tilton School Chapel on School Street. The event will begin at 5:30 for a valuable Networking/Greeting session while the meeting itself is scheduled to take place from 6-7:30 p.m. There will be complimentary refreshments and coffee served and people from all walks of life, from not only Tilton but surrounding communities, are encouraged to attend.