“Walking enhances and increases our opportunities for a face-to-face encounter with a fellow human being, a mural, an architectural detail, an abandoned factory and so on. In a world where everyone is increasingly obsessed with speeding up every process, exchange, or interaction, walking gives us a bit of a breather, if only for 15 or 20 minutes. And ultimately, any knowledge we can gain from taking in some quirk of urban geography or learning about the life of another person will enhance our understanding of our own place in the world.” -Max Grinnell, The Urbanologist
Littleton sits along the Ammonoosuc River with a population of approximately 6,000 and is considered to be in the center of commerce in the White Mountain Region. The town has a vibrant livable and walkable downtown. Recently, Littleton’s attributes were recognized by Parade Magazine in an article about what Main Streets across the nation were doing right. “‘I could list 100 criteria that make up a good downtown,’ says Donovan Rypkema, principal of PlaceEconomics, a real estate and economic development firm in Washington, D.C. ‘But if I were limited to one, it would be this: Are there people on the street?’ Littleton, N.H. (pop. 5,935), encourages walking with raised “bump-outs” in the road that slow car traffic, and with a covered pedestrian bridge that spans the Ammonoosuc River. The town has also worked to make strolling fun, by placing pianos on the street for anyone to play and creating an alleyway covered with hanging umbrellas. As a result, says National Main Street Center’s director of coordinating program services, Kathy La Plante, ‘Littleton is a community where you park once and spend hours walking.'”
Some examples of Littleton’s livable and walkable elements include:
• Cited as having a 98 percent score for walkable scale and features by Dan Burden of Walkable Communities Inc., leading expert on walkable communities
• Infill Development (chose to renovate old high school instead of moving it outside of town)
• Adaptive re-use
• Riverfront improvements (including covered walking bridge and Riverwalk loop)
• Mixed-use zoning in the area surrounding downtown (mostly residential with pockets of retail)
• Main Street Association founded in 1996)
• Lowered retail vacancy rate from 20% in 1992 to just 2% in 2011)
• Littleton received a Main Street Award in May of 2003. “Littleton has far exceeded the expectations of the New Hampshire Main Street Center,” said Kathy La Plante, director of the New Hampshire Main Street Center. “The community has a long list of accomplishments and highlights that make them a truly extraordinary community. It’s wonderful that Littleton’s efforts are being recognized nationally.”
• Attractions on Main Street )
• Downtown offers a nice variety of restaurants, an historic inn, a motel, a 100-year old renovated Opera House, dozens of specialty shops and numerous services, including a majestic post office, several local banks, a small microbrewery, the world’s longest candy counte
• Summer farmers market with local growers and community events such as the Taste, Tunes, & Craft Beer Festival, Littleton Annual Art Festival, and the Harvest Festival , that features local favorites.
With this in mind, the Littleton Area Chamber Board of Directors thought about what more they could be doing to promote “Walkability” in Downtown Littleton.