Post-Industrial New England: Repairing the Voids

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Ryznic, Jaime
Millers Falls; Community Hub; revitalize; downtown; Other Architecture; Urban, Community and Regional Planning
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Decaying urban spaces are common in post-industrial New England. When manufacturing activities withdrew from New England they left holes in the urban fabric. Physical absence of these former economic drivers is easy to note in empty mill buildings, warehouses, and storefronts. Farther reaching impacts of this exodus are less apparent. Jobs went with manufacturing. Raw materials needed to be harvested and made available to manufacturers; the finished products needed to be distributed, sold, and moved; supporting businesses provided for these needs. Many other groups supported manufacturing; some through the management of the companies, some catered to workers’ needs, or the needs of workers’ children and families. This network of groups and individuals connected to industry made up vibrant communities in the heyday of manufacturing in New England. When manufacturing left many of the groups providing support functions collapsed. Many people moved away, or if they stayed they were left unemployed or underemployed. Whole communities were damaged when manufacturing left New England. Many have not yet fully recovered. The goal of this thesis is to propose a path toward the revitalization and repair of the urban fabric of depressed post-industrial communities in New England.Many post-industrial New England communities have lost their identity. These places have empty buildings, empty lots, and their main streets, former “downtowns,” are quiet. There is little to recommend these areas as a place to be. These depressed and decaying places need revitalization. They are no longer centers of manufacturing or industry; they need a new identity, one that reflects what they are now and what they would like to become in the future. Revitalization should be grounded in a study of the unique place it addresses. There are communities and inhabitants present in even the most depressed places. These groups need to be recognized and their needs identified before revitalization can be undertaken. Revitalization should be inclusive. Residents should feel encouraged to stay in, and be proud of, their community. Revitalization should be sustainable; socially, ecologically and economically. If revitalization of a depressed area calls for attracting more residents and businesses, those targeted to inhabit the revitalized space should fit into the existing community, not displace it. This thesis proposes a revitalization of a depressed post-industrial area of Millers Falls, Massachusetts in the vicinity of East Main and Bridge Streets. This revitalization proposal will be carried out within a framework of study of place, inclusivity, and holistic sustainability.