Barre’s pride returns; open house draws crowd
Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo The Step 'n' Time Line Dancers of Central Vermont perform on Main Street in Barre during a snow squall at the Barre Open House on Saturday.
BARRE — Those who live in and around the Granite City say they are happy with the improvements to downtown, and they want to see such positive changes continue.
Chris Riddell moved to Barre in the spring of 2011. He also moved his information technology consulting business to downtown Barre this past summer during the peak of seven-month North Main Street construction more commonly known as the “Big Dig.”
“It’s been great to see, little by little, how they’ve put Main Street back together. It is unrecognizable,” Riddell said during the city’s open house on Saturday.
He said he is excited about the upcoming developments, including City Place and the redevelopment of Blanchard Block, and the increased employment that will come with them.
“That’s going to make this place really turn the corner,” Riddell said.
While happy with the renovations, Riddell said he wishes there was a place downtown that could hold a farmers market. He wants to see Merchants Row redeveloped as he thinks there is plenty of open space there. The city does have plans in the works for Merchants Row, however, it does not include a permanent location for the farmers market there.
All in all, Riddell said he sees Barre slowly reclaiming, or at least sharing with Montpelier, the designation as the place to go in central Vermont. Riddell said Montpelier was not really much of a destination in the 1970s. According to Riddell, the combination of neighborhood schools shutting down in the 1980s and more people moving to Barre Town have taken away from Barre City.
He said the next focus of the city should be on what some may call the “bad element” in the city, such as those who are released on supervised release from the courthouse. Riddell said he wants officials to find a way to work with these people and help them feel like they are a part of the city, not act as some wish and push these “bad” people off of Main Street.
The idea is not a new one. In fact, last year, the city commissioned consultant Peter Mallory to study Barre’s problems and make recommendations to help remedy, or at least improve upon, them.
Hillary Montgomery said she moved to Barre a year and a half ago as well, and she said she loves the positive energy the city has been exuding lately. She said the recent renovations have made downtown much more vibrant with more stores and restaurants open.
Montgomery is involved with trying to bring a co-op grocery store to the city. She said the initiative has helped her feel more connected to the community.
Montgomery said the city still has plenty of possibilities to explore, and she said she wishes there were more opportunities for residents to give feedback to city officials about what residents want to see and what changes they would like made to give them a stronger voice in the revitalization.
She said the city could hold more family events, such as Saturday’s open house, that would help draw people to Barre and its new downtown.
Yesterday, hundreds of people were seen walking the length of the street, shopping, reveling and enjoying the $10.7 million renovations and decorated storefronts.
Berlin resident Joey Conner agrees.
He said the open house was “unbelievable,” and was really glad the city put all the work into downtown, which he characterized as “100 percent better.”
Conner said he was happy Barre had new restaurants like the Asian Gourmet and the Cornerstone Pub and Bistro. He said the new downtown also has given stores that have been downtown “forever” a breath of fresh air.
Conner said the new downtown has also given Barre a sense of community and pride, and he is glad he lives close enough to be able to experience events such as Saturday’s open house.
“It’s great to be able to bring the family down,” he said.
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