Keene 2008 Community Visioning Process

The Process   |   Contact Us   |   The Vision   |   Focus Areas   |   FAQ's   |   News & Events

The Process

In the spring of 2008, nearly 1,200 members of the greater Keene community gathered together in small group settings to discuss the future of Keene and develop a community vision. This vision and six vision focus areas provide an overview of nearly 1,000 pages of notes and information, indicating common ideas, themes, and concepts shared by participants. The result is Keene's vision for the future. Within the following webpages, you will find:

Keene's Vision for the Future
This part contains the general vision statement for the kind of place our community would like to become by the year 2028.

The Six Vision Focus Areas
This part discusses the six vision focus areas. The focus areas describe the community values that anchor the community vision. The focus areas were derived by grouping together common themes that arose throughout the visioning process.

Each focus area consists of sub-topics and is accompanied by statements of success that describes the future condition of Keene if we realize our vision for the future.

FAQ on Visioning
This page identifies common questions about community visioning and provides answers to those questions.

News and Events
Check this page for upcoming events and ways to participate in the planning process. This page also contains all the recorded notes from the visioning conversations.

Contact Us
Feel free to contact us and let us know what you think!

Overall, this website will serve as a resource for the community and local leadership as Keene moves forward in developing its comprehensive master plan. Community members that participated in this process are the backbone of the development of the vision. Implementation of the vision will rely on collaboration between the community's civic leadership, businesses, institutions, organizations, and the citizens of Keene and the Monadnock Region.



Contact Us

For more information about the Vision or the upcoming Comprehensive Master Planner Process, contact City Planning Department at:

Planning Department
City Hall, 4th Floor
3 Washington Street
Keene, New Hampshire 03431

Phone: 603.352.5474
Fax: 866.690.8364


The Vision

*Endorsed by the Keene City Council adn adopted by the Planning Board on November 2008*

Keene, in 2028, is the best community in America. Our city is vibrant, dynamic, beautiful, and functional. Our community consists of engaged, diverse, multi-cultural, dedicated, caring, and respectful citizenry supported by a strong and clear vision for the future, open and accessible leadership, collaborative relationships, and ongoing civic dialogue.

In 2028, we have strategically managed our community's physical growth, maintaining its small-town character and friendly and inviting atmosphere, while simultaneously fostering our cultural and artistic identity. By successfully managing our physical growth we have created a city that is livable and accessible to all residents. Our built environment consists of mixed-use development and appropriate density within the city limits; public gathering spaces that allow for interaction between people; well-designed, safe, and maintained neighborhoods with affordable housing and neighborhood amenities; clean and efficient public transportation that connects us to our community, the region, and beyond; pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure that is present throughout our community and places import on people rather than automobiles; and a well-developed trail system that provides connections between neighborhoods, open spaces, and other communities while simultaneously supporting a healthy lifestyle.

In 2028, people that live in and visit Keene are drawn to our affability and the personable interactions that our community nurtures. We enjoy abundant opportunities to partake in community and cultural events and support our arts and heritage. We enjoy our natural areas, parks, and open spaces that are characteristic of the spirit and landscape of the Monadnock Region. We recognize the role Keene plays in the continued success of the region and we welcome meaningful participation from everyone, including those in surrounding communities.

In 2028, our city continues to grow economically. Our dynamic economy is diversified, innovative, and entrepreneurial, producing abundant business opportunities and living wage jobs. We lead the region in environmental protection, resource conservation, renewable energy, clean industry, and sustainable development. As such, our community is a destination for people from all over the world.

We understand our impacts upon, and responsibilities to, others. We have created a community that supports the health, safety and wellness of our citizenry. We have cultivated an ethic of life-long learning and provided a well-rounded, broad-based education from kindergarten through college. Our caring, combined with a strong sense of citizenship, creates positive change in our community, across the Monadnock Region, throughout the State of New Hampshire and around the world.


The Six Vision Focus Areas

*Endorsed by the Keene City Council adn adopted by the Planning Board on November 2008*

Focus Area 1: A Quality Built Environment

The built environment addresses the physical and structural parts of our city, including what our City looks like, where we live, how we get around, and how we live. For our future, achieving a quality built environment means:

Providing Quality Housing
Our residents will have access to housing that is within their economic means, conserves energy, reduces our community contribution to climate change, and accommodates different lifestyles. Our community will:

  • Have a variety of housing options available that is affordable, accessible, eco-efficient and supportive of varied lifestyles.
  • Have housing that is located in proximity to basic services and transportation options and is adaptable, over time, to changes in technology, climate, and demographics.
  • Have housing that uses innovative technologies and green building standards that improve energy efficiency and conserves resources.
  • Have a majority of rental housing be locally owned and maintained.
  • Increase owner-occupied housing.
  • Have achieved, with the support of our institutions of higher education, a balanced ratio between student and citizen housing in our neighborhoods that surround these institutions. Working together, we will have improved student rental housing stock in surrounding neighborhoods so that they are well maintained and a benefit to neighborhood quality of life.

Sustaining a Vibrant Downtown
We will maintain the distinctive, historic and scenic character of our downtown while ensuring that it remains the heart of our community and the region. Our community will:

  • Have a downtown that is the social hub of our community, where citizens can walk, bicycle, and ride public transportation to various services, amenities, and activities for all ages, including our youth and elders.
  • Have a downtown that is a destination for visitors.
  • Have a downtown that offers a variety of year-round events, activities, and retail that creates a vibrant city core.
  • Have a downtown that consists of a mix of uses where people can socialize, have access to services and educational opportunities, live comfortably and affordably, and find meaningful work.
  • Have a downtown that preserves and protects the qualities that make our community unique and distinctive from the rest of the country.
  • Have a downtown that reflects our history in its architecture and public spaces.
  • Have a downtown where new development upholds the architectural character of the city and is built to support the human scale.
  • Complement the historic building pattern and character of downtown buildings and streetscapes that support a mix of uses in the redevelopment of West Street, Gilbo Avenue, Water Street, and other areas as the downtown expands and connects to surrounding neighborhoods.

Maintaining Neighborhoods
We will have neighborhoods that are safe and provide multi-modal transportation options, with a supportive environment for the diverse people who live there. Our community will:

  • Have neighborhoods that include a mix of ages and incomes, where people feel safe, enjoy interacting with each other, and take personal responsibility in keeping their neighborhoods clean and well-maintained.
  • Have neighborhoods that are their own hubs of social activity where residents can walk, bicycle, and ride public transportation to various services and amenities, such as neighborhood markets and schools.
  • Have neighborhoods that will exist in relationship with, and support, a thriving downtown.
  • Focus new development and redevelopment within or near existing neighborhoods in order to protect our remaining open spaces.
  • Have neighborhood community gardens that promote sustainable practices, provide healthy food, and are a source of beauty.

Preserving and Celebrating Architectural History
Our history will be preserved and celebrated in our architecture, both new and historic. Our community will:

  • Innovatively reuse existing buildings and infill development will occur.
  • Integrate old and new buildings into our existing built environment by providing incentives to protect historical architecture while encouraging creative design for new structures that respect our architectural heritage.
  • Provide public spaces for recreation, socialization and appreciation of our natural environment.

Balancing Growth and the Provision of Infrastructure
We will balance growth with the availability of community infrastructure and public services to ensure our city's continued financial health and sustainability. Our community will:

  • Have well maintained roadways, sidewalks, and streetscapes.
  • Balance the provision of services and infrastructure with the ability to pay for those services and infrastructure.
  • Seek creative financing mechanisms to pay for maintenance and new infrastructure without placing excessive financial burden upon our residents.
  • Have an infrastructure that supports the collective health, safety and well-being of our residents.

A Complete Transportation System
We will create a transportation system that connects people and goods locally, regionally and globally, will allow people to be less dependent on their cars, and will promote alternatives to the use of fossil fuels. Our community will:

  • Ensure that our city is compact and built to support the human scale.
  • Have a transportation system that serves the access and mobility needs of all people through a choice of convenient, comfortable, affordable, and efficient transportation modes.
  • Have a safe, efficient network of sidewalks, footpaths, bicycle paths, and other pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure.
  • Have city roads that are designed to calm traffic and prioritize pedestrians and bicycles over automobiles.
  • Have public transportation options that connect the City and the region in an affordable and convenient way.
  • Have innovative and multi-modal transportation alternatives that do not depend on fossil fuels (both public and private).

Fostering Renewable Energy and Efficient use of Resources
We will achieve energy independence and waste reduction, both to decrease costs and to reduce our contribution to climate change. Our community will:

  • Derive the energy used by citizens and government from a diverse portfolio of renewable energy resources.
  • Steer public and private investment towards locally renewable energy sources that contribute to the positive development of our community and economy and that contribute to our community's energy independence.
  • Have new and existing development that meets green building and energy efficiency standards.
  • Have citizens that work toward zero waste by composting and actively practicing the three R's: reduce, reuse, and recycle.
  • Have recycling service required for both commercial and residential uses.

Focus Area 2: A Unique Natural Environment
The natural environment addresses the natural areas (green spaces, plants and animals, hillsides and waterways) within and around our city, as well as the man-made areas (green infrastructure, parks, agriculture, and gardens). For our future, achieving a unique natural environment means:

Achieving Community Sustainability
We will be a leader in promoting and supporting initiatives that work toward community sustainability. Our community will:

  • Have achieved success in reducing our community greenhouse gas emissions thereby meeting our climate action plan target, and moving us towards a carbon neutral community.
  • Be prepared and able to seize new opportunities that result from a changing climate. We will also be able to adapt to, prepare for, and reduce our vulnerabilities that result from a changing climate. This will make Keene resilient to climate change.
  • Have air, water, and land free from pollution by fostering stewardship of our natural resources.
  • Have integrated the principles of sustainability into the fabric of our community and civic decision-making processes, policies, and regulations so that our actions will conserve and promote our natural environment and the community's goal to achieve a sustainable Keene.

Creating Green Infrastructure
We will develop our City's green infrastructure and support efforts to preserve and connect these areas. Our community will:

  • Have small and large parks throughout the city that are connected by a system of trails that create recreational opportunities and provide transportation options, connecting citizens to both the built and natural environment.
  • Have turned the Ashuelot River into a community focal point, thereby providing recreational, cultural, and economic opportunities.
  • Have tree-lined streets that reflect our historical legacy as an "Elm City" and contribute to our goal of reducing community greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Have connected green corridors that support native wildlife habitat, animal movement, and provide recreational opportunities.
  • Have a strong network of farms, a permanent farmers' market, food co-op, and public gardens that promote sustainable practices, provide value-added economic opportunities, and supply our community with high quality, healthy, and affordable food.
  • Have city stormwater standards applied to land development (or re-development) that work with nature to manage stormwater as close to its source as possible.

Focus Area 3: A Vibrant Economy
A vibrant economy addresses the issues of opportunity, prosperity, livability, and availability of meaningful work for citizens. For our future, achieving a vibrant economy means:

A Balanced Local Economy
Our community will achieve a balanced and stable local economy that supports business innovation, promotes social responsibility and sustainability, and encourages entrepreneurship. Our community will:

  • Have a vibrant, resilient, environmentally sound and sustainable economy that fosters opportunity for individual economic well-being.
  • Provide investment programs for small business development, to allow them to grow and thrive.
  • Have an economy that offers a variety of locally produced products and services that residents can readily access for daily living.
  • Provide opportunities for all citizens to find work that provides a sufficient income and other resources to meet their needs and provide a healthy lifestyle.
  • Have a balanced mix of businesses of various sizes and ownership structures.
  • Have a business community that actively and regularly supports social and environmental responsibility and reinvests in our local community.
  • Have a strong, local food-based sector of our economy that connects local farms to businesses and the community in various ways, such as through a food co-op and farmers market.

Employment Opportunities
Our community will provide employment opportunities to keep talented people in Keene and to provide meaningful work for everyone. Our community will:

  • Attract, cultivate, and retain innovative, creative and entrepreneurial people.
  • Attract and retain young people that will work and live in Keene.
  • Have a strong commerce base that provides plentiful job opportunities for our diverse workforce and allows people to contribute in a meaningful way to their community through their work.

Focus Area 4: A Strong Citizenship and Proactive Leadership
Strong citizenship and proactive leadership focuses on the way our city is lead and how community members are engaged in civic opportunities. For our future, achieving a strong citizenship and proactive leadership means:

Transparent and Responsive Leadership
Our leadership is efficient, open, transparent, and responsive to the community. Our community will:

  • Have consistent communication between civic leadership and the community.
  • Have greater cooperation, communication, and collaboration between civic leadership, the community, and the public school system to work collectively for the common good and education of our citizens.
  • Provide community members with access to public information through a variety of means, including use of the internet.
  • Have community-based long range planning that will enable our civic leadership to be proactive and not reactive to growth and change.
  • Have a variety of ways for the public to become engaged in civic matters in a meaningful way.
  • Have leadership that values and promotes diversity.
  • Have leadership that brings the community together to act towards common goals.
  • Have leadership that provides responsive and effective community services.

Collaborative Community Planning
We are a national leader in land use planning and practice. We coordinate planning through proactive civic involvement and collaborative local and regional dialogue. Our community will:

  • Collaboratively promote an open dialogue and a coordinated planning approach that embraces various stakeholders and community groups for transportation, natural resource management, land use, energy, water use and economic development in our community and the region.
  • Consistently engage in open and thoughtful dialogue with the community and key stakeholder groups to address growth challenges such as defining areas for growth and change, redevelopment within existing developed areas, density, and mix of uses within our downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.
  • Create a future land use plan that reflects the values of the community, supports smart growth, and creates a sustainable community.
  • Have successfully updated our regulations, policies and procedures to empower our Land Use Boards to make decisions that are consistent with our vision for the future and to guide growth and change.

Engaged Citizenry
Our community promotes strong citizenship through civic engagement and volunteerism for all ages, including youth and our elders. Our community will:

  • Have collaboration amongst our community groups to work together to maximize limited resources for the good of the community.
  • Have a coordinated volunteer network to match our citizens with the many volunteer organizations in our community and region.
  • Consistently engage in open, thoughtful dialogue with our leadership in the decision making process.
  • Have citizens that have not been engaged with civic matters in the past become engaged and lead efforts to achieve our community's vision for the future.

Focus Area 5: A Creative, Learning Culture
A creative, learning culture considers individual and community health and well-being, education, and interpersonal relationships. For our future, achieving a creative, learning culture means:

A Thriving Arts and Culture
We will have a thriving and active arts and cultural community that enriches all of our lives. Our community will:

  • Have a variety of outdoor and indoor venues that allow public gatherings for viewing of art and sculpture, as well as musical and theatrical performances.
  • Have public art that is incorporated into our built environment.
  • Provide small and large scale music, cultural, and artistic events that attract visitors to the region.
  • Have more affordable and local cultural and artistic activities, venues, and artistic spaces.
  • Have thriving, successful programs and businesses centered on arts and culture.
  • Be the home to world class art, music, and cultural organizations and festivals.
  • Have created a place where arts and culture flourish.

Educational Opportunities for All
We will be a community that provides a variety of learning opportunities for all ages and supports a high quality of public education for our children. Our community will:

  • Have continued cultural and educational enrichment provided by our institutions of higher learning.
  • Have coordination, cooperation, and communication between civic and school leadership so that our community goals are balanced with our educational goals.
  • Have a range of educational choices for all learning abilities and ages.
  • Actively practice an ethic of lifelong education.

We will have a community that is diverse. Our community will:

  • Be comprised of people that represent a diversity of interests, ages, races, cultures, incomes, religious preferences, and educational backgrounds, country of origin and family types.
  • Honor and celebrate diversity.
  • Be grounded in a strong sense of belonging, friendship and identity within the context of our civic groups, neighborhoods, and region.

Focus Area 6: A Healthy Community
A healthy and safe community considers community and individual health and well-being, provides access to healthcare opportunities, and provides resources to lead safe, healthy lives. For our future, achieving a healthy community means:

Healthy Living
Our community will support healthy living that includes ways for people to stay active and fit throughout their lives and have access to excellent healthcare. Our community will:

  • Achieve coordination with our medical community to promote health and wellness and provide excellent healthcare for everyone.
  • Have preventative healthcare measures, including a diverse selection of active and passive recreational programs, and activities for all ages, incomes, and abilities.
  • Have indoor and outdoor athletic and fitness facilities that are easily accessed throughout the City as well as areas where people can be active as part of their daily routine.
  • Have a first-rate trail system that provides passive and active recreational opportunities that support our community's healthy lifestyle.
  • Provide youth with recreational activities in areas that are accessible to them and meet their recreational needs, such as an ice rink and a permanent, well-built skatepark.
  • Support our elders so they are active, visible, and integral members of our community and have access to healthcare and recreational programs suited to their needs.
  • Have residents that are among the healthiest citizens in the world.

Public Safety
Our community will be safe and clean. Our community will:

  • Be crime-free.
  • Be free of pollution.
  • Be prepared for emergencies.
  • Have strong community-based and public safety systems.
  • Be committed to maintaining public infrastructure.

Social Services
Our community will be a caring community that seeks to provide a network of social services that can support those in need of help or assistance. Our community will:

  • Foster collaboration between public and private entities to work toward common solutions that improve quality of life for all.
  • Have a strong comprehensive social services network.
  • Actively work together to address the root causes of poverty, hunger, homelessness in our community and the Monadnock Region.



FAQ on Visioning

Q: What is community "visioning"?
A: Community visioning is a planning process that engages the community in a dialogue to determine its vision for the future. Visioning allows citizens to come together to discuss significant trends and issues affecting our community in a collaborative, proactive way. By focusing on the future, community members can often find common ground for shared goals. Working "backward" from these goals, community members can develop new ideas and approaches for addressing challenges and solving problems. Visioning does not replace traditional forms of planning and decision-making, but it can make these activities better informed, more strategic and effective.

Q: What is a vision?
A: A vision represents a community's hopes and dreams for the future and identifies core community values to help guide the community as it makes decisions to achieve that vision. Think of a vision as a community's preferred "destination" - where it would like to be in the long-term future.

Q: How is vision Implemented?
A: Implementing our vision will take a combined effort and commitment amongst community members, businesses, institutions, and city leadership. Creating a specific action plan to achieve our vision will be developed in the Comprehensive Master Planning process, beginning in the end of 2008/early 2009.

Q: What is a Comprehensive Master Plan? How does it differ from a vision?
A:If a vision is Keene's preferred community destination, think of a Comprehensive Master plan as its "road map" - how our community plans to get there. A Comprehensive Master Plan is a strategic guide to achieving our vision in the near-, mid-, and long-term (e.g., 1-5, 5-10, 15-20 years). We will develop actions to achieve our community vision as part of our Comprehensive Master Planning process.

Q: How are a vision and Comprehensive Master Plan used?
A: The vision and Comprehensive Master Plan will be used to foster a shared sense of direction for Keene; to better manage community growth and change; to guide local government planning and decision-making; to inspire and motivate community involvement and action, and much more.

Q: What makes a visioning and comprehensive planning process succeed?
A: There are several key factors that will help ensure the success of this planning process: (1) sponsorship by major community institutions; (2) support from local leaders; (3) clearly defined objectives and outcomes; (4) a design that addresses community needs and resources; (5) strong community awareness and participation; and (6) follow-through.

Q: How will Keene ensure that the vision is actually implemented?
A: There are many possible responses to this question, but there is one simple answer: persistent, dedicated, committed action. The biggest criticism of visioning is that it does not lead to results. When visioning fails, it is often because a community did not plan to implement its vision once it was created. Follow-through is critical in achieving a vision over time.


News and Events


The Comprehensive Master Planning Process has begun! The first meeting of the Comprehensive Master Plan Steering Committee has been scheduled and the consultant is busy gathering and reviewing background data for this next phase. Please contact the Planning Department if you would like to be involved in the public process at 352-5474.

Press Releases / Articles


General Information