Strategic Planning Areas
Though a small New England community, Keene has various components that, when growth and change occur, should have different foci than other areas. The characteristics of these areas and community amenities are described below. It is recommended that as the community moves forward, specific strategic area plans be developed for each.
West Keene Strategic Planning Area
Characterized by a mix of older, suburban neighborhoods that transition to Keene’s traditional agricultural and forested hillside areas. Focus should be on maintaining these neighborhoods, creating the ability for trail/pathway connections, and bolstering neighborhood/village activity centers that provide small-scale neighborhood goods and services to this area (e.g. hardware stores, veterinary offices, laundromats, small markets, etc.). As West Keene transitions eastward, densities should increase, which is consistent with the pattern established today, and the scale of streets and blocks should reflect a highly walkable community that blends seamlessly and transitions into the urban core commercial and neighborhood areas. In particular, sections of the 2002 Transportation Plan that reference Park Avenue and Maple Avenue should be referenced and implemented (pages 56-58).
Winchester/Marlboro Street Strategic Planning Area
This planning area and transportation corridor should be studied for its entire length within the urbanized core. There are opportunities for a mix of higher density housing and provision of retail and community services that transition to the Key Road commercial area along Winchester Street towards Keene State College and the Blake Street Neighborhood in the direction of Main Street. To the east side of Main Street, along Marlboro Street, there are similar opportunities to balance higher density housing with the existing single- and two-family residential neighborhoods. There is also the opportunity to extend light commercial uses from the Main Street roundabout to the Public Works Facility just before Optical Avenue. As this area transitions towards the Optical Avenue gateway into the community from Route 101, the inclusion of a higher density of industrial/manufacturing/business/office uses should be pursued with the provision of connections to adjacent neighborhoods, creating a walkable area. Pages 39-47 of the 2002 Transportation Plan should be referred to for this area as well.
South of 101 Strategic Planning Area
This area should receive a high level of planning and focus as it is an economic redevelopment area for commercial, manufacturing and industrial uses. Focus on the provision of high-quality, living-wage industries should prevail over expansion of low-wage retail and service development. The city and community should explore ways to create a mixed-use area for these industries, in conjunction with managing appropriate access and providing community connections via sidewalk, pathways, bridges and trails north towards downtown and south towards other regional trails or bicycle routes. A safe crossing for pedestrians and bicyclists at the intersection of Lower Main Street, Route 101 and Route 12 South is a high priority. A pedestrian or bicycle pathway within this strategic planning area is also planned for 2013 that will provide a safe crossing from the trail by the Keene State College fields across 101, to the other side of the regional trail. Preservation of an existing small neighborhood area for possible live/work development should also be considered. Balancing development of this area with natural environmental features is also a high priority.
West/Gilbo/Ralston/Emerald Street and Downtown Strategic Planning Area
This area is ripe for redevelopment and downtown expansion. Focus should be on providing mixed uses that include higher-density residential, retail, office, light commercial and manufacturing, arts and cultural uses as well as institutional uses. Opportunities for creative infill exist; in particular, attention should be paid to transitions between existing neighborhoods, proposed higher densities and the downtown core so that the built pattern functions well and supports a walkable, bikeable dense core area.
Downtown Neighborhood Strategic Planning Areas
As the community moves forward, specific core downtown neighborhoods should receive specific strategic planning because each deals with different issues, concerns and consists of different uses and built form. Focus should remain on walkability, bikeability and neighborhood vitality. The six neighborhoods identified (names are official or unofficial) through the planning process are:
1. Southeast Keene Neighborhood – Located roughly to the east of Main Street, South of Marlboro Street and North of Route 101, this neighborhood has an active association that is working with Keene State College and Keene Police to address neighborhood quality-of-life issues. This neighborhood should be the first to undergo a neighborhood strategic planning effort.
2. North Central Neighborhood – This neighborhood is located roughly in the triangle area between Court and Washington streets. It has seen a large amount of infrastructure investment in the last few years by property owners and through the city’s street and utility improvement program. This area has a neighborhood association and should also be among the first to undergo a neighborhood strategic planning effort.
3. East Side Neighborhood – Located roughly east of Washington Street, Roxbury Court, and Carpenter Street, down toward Eastern Avenue, this neighborhood consists of many of Keene’s older single, two- and multi-family homes. Several community amenities are located in this neighborhood, including the Carpenter Street Fields and Robin Hood Park.
4. West Side/Ashuelot Neighborhood – This neighborhood is nestled between the Ashuelot River, Court Street and north of West Street. It is comprised of a mix of office and commercial uses that transition to residential uses, combined with open space and trail amenities. This area traditionally provided housing for many of Keene’s millworkers.
5. Winchester Street/Blake Street/KSC Neighborhood – Another traditionally blue-collar neighborhood, this area has undergone dramatic change due to the influence and growth of Keene State College. Focus should be on maintaining neighborhood integrity, balancing the needs for high-quality affordable homeownership with the need for high-quality affordable rental housing that serves various portions of Keene’s population, including students and faculty. This area may be ideal for a neighborhood-watch program combined with a neighborhood association. This area is also ripe for redevelopment in areas, with the opportunity to provide higher density, privately managed student housing, creating neighborhood reinvestment while also creating incentives to promote energy-efficient and green building. This neighborhood has the potential to be a shining example for the community as a mixed-use, mixed-income and mixed-age, energy-efficient, well-maintained neighborhood that supports overall community vitality and strengthens campus-community relations.
6. Key Road Neighborhood – This neighborhood has potential to become a quality live/work community with connections to retail and commercial uses. Creating walkability and community connections is important for this neighborhood, especially as it is also an area where mixed-income and mixed-age housing could be located. City Express transit stops should be considered and incorporated. As redevelopment occurs here, increased density for both residential and commercial uses should be considered. Parking should also be addressed through creative means that will eliminate surface lots by providing structured, multi-use parking facilities combining retail, office and even residential uses.