BARRE — Five tractor-trailer trucks loaded with furniture destined for the upper floors of City Place are almost ready to roll as a construction crew puts the finishing touches on the newest addition to downtown Barre’s streetscape.
Though the impact of the massive redevelopment project won’t be felt overnight, work on all but the first floor of the four-story structure is scheduled to be finished in two weeks, setting the stage for the phased occupancy of a building that is expected to house nearly 250 workers — most of them state employees — by the end of March.
Steve Morton, vice president of City Place developer DEW Properties LLC, said Friday the building will be ready by the Feb. 1 target date that was announced during a ceremonial groundbreaking that was held on the then-vacant lot a year ago this month.
Morton said two tenants, Rehab Gym and Central Vermont Medical Center, are expected to occupy space they have leased on the building’s first and second floors by the middle of next month. Rehab Gym, which operates physical therapy and athletic training centers in Burlington, Colchester and Williston, has leased the back third of the first floor for a new Barre location that is expected to open later this year.
CVMC, based in Berlin, has leased roughly half of the second floor in the downtown Barre building to create administrative offices for approximately 45 employees.
Meanwhile, Morton said two state agencies, including the entire Agency of Education, are scheduled to be moved into City Place on three successive Saturdays in March. The education agency will occupy the building’s top two floors, while a portion of the state Agency of Human Services — about 50 employees — will essentially split the second floor with CVMC.
While it will likely be several weeks before all the new office space is occupied, Morton said furniture will begin being delivered later this month as construction is finished.
Mayor Thomas Lauzon said Friday that provides a welcome window of opportunity for the city to come up with a coordinated plan to address “confusion and concerns” about parking that have started to surface as the anticipated opening of City Place has approached.
“You only get one chance for a first impression,” said Lauzon, who has begun to hear from merchants and others concerned about a potential parking shortage.
Lauzon, who has agreed to lease DEW Properties much of the parking it will need for tenants of City Place on land he owns on Metro Way, said the project will place some pressure on municipal parking and he believes the city should be ready to respond.
Lauzon said he planned to meet with City Manager Steve Mackenzie to discuss the possibility of hiring a temporary “parking czar” who could swiftly and consistently respond to parking-related questions as City Place begins to fill up.
“This is too important,” he said. “If it costs the city a little bit more to make a fantastic first impression, I’m OK with that.”
Lauzon said he hoped to bring a proposal to the City Council for its consideration Tuesday night.
“It’s a great problem to have, but we need to be ready for it,” he said.
While Lauzon explores the potential for creating a temporary parking resource, Morton said DEW representatives are negotiating with one potential first-floor tenant, and have attracted the interest of another. If they are able to land both, all but 2,500 square feet of an 82,500-square-foot building will be spoken for.
For the moment there is roughly 10,000 square feet of available space on the first floor of the building facing North Main Street. Assuming DEW is able to land what, for now, is the most promising prospect, Morton estimated it would take up to eight weeks to tailor the space to the needs of the tenant.
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