Barre-Montpelier Road developer has lots of projects in works
BERLIN — For the moment it’s the status quo at one of developer Patrick Malone’s spring acquisitions on the Barre-Montpelier Road, and anything is possible at the other.
In recent months Malone’s Montpelier-based real estate investment and development company has snapped up two more properties along the busy commercial strip that runs between central Vermont’s two largest cities.
Malone said this week he is still toying with the idea of radically altering one of them even as work on the other is just getting under way.
Malone is keeping his options open when it comes to the vacant 20,000-square-foot cinder block building that once served as a regional headquarters for New England Telephone Co. and more recently was home to a string of small businesses that specialized in oil changes and automotive repairs.
Malone purchased the 2.1-acre property from R&G Properties for $700,000 in late March and followed it up with his mid-May acquisition of the similar-sized Hooker Plaza, which is anchored by Newhouse Furniture. That 2-acre property, which is also home to Barre Electric Supply and an adjacent building that houses the party supply store Rubber Bubbles and a small business that specializes in countertops, was sold by the Newhouse family for $1.6 million – slightly more than its assessed value.
Giving the old telephone company building a new look — complete with new landscaping — is the first order of business, according to Malone, whose newly filed “multi-use” application with the town leaves the door open to everything from office to retail as he begins gutting a structure that will remain largely intact, but should soon be sporting new siding, a repaired roof and a renovated interior.
If Malone has a tenant or tenants in mind for the building he isn’t ready to talk about them. But given the recent revival of the Barre-Montpelier Road, where Panera Bread recently started selling soup-filled bread bowls and a new CVS Pharmacy is now under construction, he isn’t worried.
“I’ve got a couple of very good prospects. Why don’t we just leave it at that?” he said.
From where Malone sits you can never have enough strategically located square footage, whether it’s along the Barre-Montpelier Road in Berlin, the Shelburne Road in Shelburne, where one of his tenants is Newhouse Furniture, or Dorset Street in South Burlington, where he’s in the process of obtaining permits necessary to pave the way for construction of one of Trader Joe’s specialty foods stores.
Neither of the two new Berlin projects is on that scale, and Malone said one of them — what to do with the Hooker Plaza — hasn’t fully come into focus. He said he has flirted with the possibility of razing both structures and starting from scratch, but isn’t sure he wants incur the expense of flood-proofing whatever he builds.
That said, according to Malone, there aren’t many inexpensive fixes to a building with ceilings that are a few feet lower than is optimal when it comes to modern retail space.
“I can cure a lot of things, but I can’t cure low ceilings,” he said.
Malone said one option he has considered is building two new structures on the site, and having soon-to-be-renovated square footage available just up the road could come in handy if he needs to juggle tenants.
“We may have to offer part of that (old telephone building) up for replacement space, either short- or long-term,” he said.
According to Malone, phasing construction of the two new buildings — if he elects to go that route — could allow one or more of the existing tenants to remain where they are and then move into the new building once it is finished.
“We’ve got some options, but the idea is to accommodate the tenants that are there,” he said.
Malone said he hopes to complete both projects this year.
It isn’t the first time Malone has gone real estate shopping on the Barre-Montpelier Road. In 1998 his company acquired the rundown truck garage and storage facility that he transformed into the tasteful building that is now home to Harry’s Pharmacy, the Computer Barn and two other commercial spaces. He subsequently acquired the property that is home to Windshield World and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and last year he bought an old muffler repair shop and converted it into a spacious new home for Verizon Wireless.
Though Malone has purchased and redeveloped properties around the state, he said he particularly enjoys working in central Vermont.
“It’s close to home,” he said.
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