BRATTLEBORO -- A downtown economic development group that is going to issue a report outlining Brattleboro's potential for recovery and growth spent all day Monday meeting with town officials and property owners.

At 5 p.m. about 50 people showed up at the Latchis Theater to talk about their visions for the town's future.

The Downtown Action Team, a group made up of architects, economic development and housing specialists and planners, was assembled by the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development using U.S. Housing and Urban Development funds that were awarded to the town to rebuild after Tropical Storm Irene.

The Downtown Action Team is also holding meetings in towns such as Barre, Wilmington, Waterbury and Brandon.

Similar groups worked with communities around the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina.

The group plans to issue a final report this week to give the town short- and long-term project ideas, and at the meeting Monday evening an enthusiastic group talked about their ideas for the town.

Project Manager Tripp Muldrow led the meeting and he asked people what they would include if they had one image to portray that told Brattleboro's story.

The answers ranged from restoring the "Little Liver Pills" mural on Elliot Street, to the Main Street clock, the River Garden, Brooks House, Municipal Building and Wells Fountain.

Muldrow said the group was going to take notes during the meeting and use that information, along with the input gathered at meetings held all day Monday and Tuesday, for the final report.

Muldrow also asked the group members what they would change in Brattleboro if they could.

If there was a magic wand, like Muldrow suggested, members of the audience would open up Brattleboro's riverside, get large trucks off of Main Street, create 1,500 well-paying jobs, fix malfunction junction, lower the sales tax and upgrade the substandard housing.

Muldrow promised that the final report would offer realistic ideas for the town to begin to tackle, as well as longer-range projects that would take more resources to complete.

In the final segment of Monday's community meeting Muldrow asked the crowd to explain Brattleboro as a person.

Brattleboro, the Latchis group decided, would be a man, possibly who cross dressed.

He would be fiercely independent, he would love local food and he would be old, and not as open-minded as he thinks he is.

Brattleboro, the man, would also be spiritual but not religious, never satisfied, over-educated and under-employed and he would be friendly but not receptive to change.

The downtown group met with members of the Selectboard and town officials Monday morning.

"The Department of Housing and Community Development, working together with Building a Better Brattleboro wanted to gather information from interested stakeholders in the health of our downtown," said Selectboard Chairman David Gartenstein. "It was a productive sharing of information on the strengths of the downtown and of the challenges we face. We look forward to their report and recommendations."
The group plans to tour downtown on Tuesday and meet with business owners.

The downtown team will present its final report Wednesday, Sept. 11, at 10 a.m. at the Latchis Theater.

The Downtown Action Team is accepting comments and suggestions on Brattleboro's ongoing recovery and growth at francis@southcoastconsulting.org.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.