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Post-Railroad Renaissance: Revitalization and Creative Capital in White River Junction, Vermont

Authors: Marco Van Gemeren*, Middlebury College
Topics: Rural Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: post-industrial, revitalization, creative class, creative capital, knowledge economy
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Following decades of decline as one of Vermont’s historically most active railroad hubs, the village of White River Junction has become a destination for artists, actors, and workers who comprise the “creative economy.” Trendy restaurants and minimalist apartments have appropriated spaces that once housed the village's industrial economy. Efforts to re-brand White River Junction—which have relied upon the village's post-industrial aesthetic—have only recently started to produce results, in the form of an influx of creative capital. This paper will investigate what has caused the creativity-driven boom of White River Junction's economy, how the village's business and retail environment has shifted in response, and why these changes occurred largely during the late 2000s and 2010s, despite significant investment and revitalization efforts beforehand. This paper will also examine White River Junction's revitalization within the context of its larger functional region—the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire—where the education and healthcare industries have been consistent drivers of economic growth. Comparative and contrasting cases will provide further explanation of White River Junction's unique circumstances, and consider whether the village can serve as a feasible model for other post-industrial towns looking to restructure their economic bases.

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