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Groton City taking community planning outdoors this summer

Groton — The City of Groton is taking its community planning outside of City Hall.

The city Planning and Economic Development Department will host a series of community design workshops this summer and fall to learn what community members want for the main commercial areas.

The first workshop will focus on placemaking and streetscape designs for Thames Street on Thursday evening at Thames View Park, according to a city notice. That will be followed by a workshop in August on Bridge Street and another in October in the Five Corners neighborhood.

Placemaking is a "multi-faceted approach to plan and design public spaces" and "capitalizes on local community assets, inspiration and potential, creating public spaces that promote health, happiness and comfort in our neighborhoods," according to the notice.

The idea is for staff and the community to have discussions in advance about what redevelopment looks like in the three neighborhoods and create a shared vision, city economic development specialist Cierra Patrick said.

Staff members want to hear about the community's wants and needs and to discuss topics, including how to make Thames Street more walkable and bikeable, how to make use of underutilized areas — from vacant buildings to open space — and how to address parking challenges, she said.

"We want people to be involved, and we want them to feel ownership in the process, and to do that we need to find the best way for the community to engage with staff in the process," Patrick said.

The city will incorporate the community's feedback into plans and proposed infrastructure improvements the city is working on and determine how to start rolling out some of the initiatives, she said.

In doing so, the city will build on the previous community outreach and high-level planning work from the Thames River Reconnection project that looked at revitalizing Thames and Bridge streets, as well as take a new look at how people are using space after the COVID-19 pandemic, Patrick said.

The Planning and Economic Development Department, which is partnering with the city's Parks and Recreation Department, also is looking to hold a workshop in September to spotlight parks and open space.

In addition to the workshops, the city and consultants are taking a "deeper dive" into community resiliency planning and outlining a vision of Thames Center along Thames Street, Patrick said. The city received grants for both planning projects.

Dubbed "Visioning Thames Center," the Thames Street planning project calls for consultants and the Department of Planning and Economic Development "to engage community stakeholders to re-vision, plan and program underutilized space within the area. There is an opportunity to re-energize Thames Center through focused efforts that thoughtfully preserve cultural, economic and historic assets while enhancing the area's potential through a series of interventions," according to a city document.

k.drelich@theday.com

If you go

What: Community Design Workshop on Thames Street

When: 5-7 p.m. Thursday, July 15

Where: Thames View Park, 353 Thames St., Groton.

People are asked to bring a lawn chair.

The city also launched an online newsletter, which people can sign up for at bit.ly/grotonnws.

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