• Aerial view of downtown Farmington New Hampshire


Many communities in New Hampshire have traditional downtowns or village centers; places that are the heart of the city or town. These areas are defined by hubs of activity: businesses, public spaces, historical and cultural assets, and other aspects that provide a sense of community for residents. Smaller communities may have their “downtown” defined by anchors like a general store, library, post office, town hall, school, or natural assets like a public green, park, or river. The downtowns, villages, and community centers across New Hampshire are the key crossroads in a city or town, and allow people to connect, showcase values and community character, and contribute to the local economy.

The question is, what makes a downtown, village, or community center vibrant? A place’s overall vibrancy relies on several key components. Vibrancy refers to the overall health, vitality, and resilience of a community, encompassing factors such as social connections, economic opportunities, cultural richness, and environmental sustainability. Places that create a community that supports its residents and businesses, cultivates livability and health, fosters natural and cultural resources, and promotes community engagement are likely to be vibrant.

A community can take steps to understand its downtown vibrancy. These steps start with assessing the environment that makes up their downtown, village, or community center. Several key characteristics make a downtown vibrant, and a mix of these characteristics is key. Understanding what assets a place has helps define what opportunities exist to improve vibrancy. Engaging the community, reporting findings, and developing strategies and solutions together are critical throughout the process of improving a downtown’s vibrancy.

UNH Extension’s Community and Economic Development team recently hosted a webinar that provides an overview of what downtown vibrancy is and the key steps toward improving downtown vitality– assessment, analysis, strategy, and sustainability. Watch the webinar recording here.