• Montpelier This Week: Carr Lot designs go to city council
    By Amy Ash Nixon
     | March 24,2014
     

    MONTPELIER — At this week’s city council meeting, Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., in the City Council chambers at City Hall, the council will consider the recommendation of the Carr Lot Design Committee, who last week reached a consensus to recommend Redstone, a Burlington commercial real estate developer, as the city’s partner in the major Taylor Street redevelopment project.

    The city has two substantial federal grants in hand for the former industrial site purchased earlier this year, and with additional city funding, a public-private multi-level building is planned which will host a multi-modal transit center and welcome center on the first level and several floors of privately-owned and managed space above that; Redstone has proposed several possible uses for that space, from office to residential to an ambitious and already somewhat divisive hotel use — which is Redstone’s preference in the development, its principals made clear the night the proposal was recently aired.

    In a letter issued in recent days to the city council, committee member and engineer Don Marsh wrote that the committee had come up with a rating system to consider the two proposals, the other from DEW Properties LLC, and that Redstone had scored much higher and was the committee’s clear choice to move forward with.

    “Based upon our thorough review of both of these excellent proposals, the Carr Lot Design Committee unanimously recommends the City Council enter into negotiations with Redstone as our development partner for the Taylor Street Transit Center,” Marsh stated in his letter for this week’s expected action on the plans.

    The council and city staff received many citizen emails in response to the two proposals, some supporting the DEW plans, some Redstone, the emails show. One citizen, Chuck Daghlian, wrote to City Manager William Fraser and Assistant City Manager Jessie Baker that he did not support DEW’s plans, noting, “The prospect of a hotel and an active center is just what Montpelier needs. Redstone is able to transition from the construction phase to management phase without any support from the city. That is a real positive.”

    Of the DEW plan, Daghlian wrote, “The last thing we need is another box building that will be empty at night.”

    An email from Andrew Keller, an architect and urban designer, was in support of the DEW proposal, which two of the Carr Lot committee members also favored, though those committee members quickly conceded to the majority to reach group consensus last week.

    Keller wrote to the city managers, “The DEW proposal smartly locates the new building closer to the river to help establish a clear and immediate sense of entry into Montpelier. This sense of entry will be further supported by the transit canopies defining both sides of the street in front of the building. In addition, locating the transit building immediately adjacent to the river may in fact allow for future infill development between the transit building and the downtown.” Keller also noted he believed the DEW proposal made more efficient use of outdoor space (the city hopes the farmers’ market will move there) and had a better building design concept.

    Carolyn Grodinsky, manager of the Capital City Farmers’ Market, wrote the mayor and a council member and said she was surprised to read in the paper that Redstone had been selected, noting that she had attended the meeting where the two proposals were presented, and felt “DEW Construction’s presentation was complete and thoughtfully proposed based on taking information back from a well-attended meeting of what Montpelier wanted to see. I thought their proposal was appropriate to the scale of the community and do not understand the need or desire for the larger Redstone structure or another hotel.”

    The use has not been determined as yet, and the committee last week stressed they were recommending a development partner at this juncture, not a design or the final use for the upper floors to be owned and managed by the partner. The owners of the city’s only downtown hotel have expressed concern about a hotel possibly coming into the center, as has the vice chairman of the city’s planning commission who runs an inn in the city.

    Many professionals including business owners submitted endorsements for Redstone, and it was noted at the committee meeting last week that Redstone had reached out for people to send in emails supporting their hopes for the project.

    One of the supporters for the Redstone plans, Beth Boutin of Montpelier, wrote, “Redstone is an experienced downtown development team. They have successfully developed many complex downtown projects. … The community-based approach offered by Redstone is very engaging and community-oriented. We (Montpelier residents) have waited a long time for this project and we want to see it done right and where our community is served by the project that makes the most sense and can be supported and used in the greatest sense.”

    Also on tap at Wednesday’s council meeting will be an appointment to the city’s conservation commission, to fill a slot being vacated by commission member Karen Freeman, who is moving and will step down from her seat which expires in January. Ben Eastman has submitted his willingness to serve and is expected to be appointed; he is an alternate on the commission at present and a former regular commissioner.

    The council is also expected to enter into a contract with Broadreach Planning & Design for the purpose of developing the “Montpelier in Motion” bicycle and pedestrian master plan for the city, the council agenda for this week notes. The work will be partially funded with a VTrans Transportation Alternatives Grant previously approved by the council.

    Other city meetings scheduled this week include: Monday, March 24, at 3:30 p.m., the parking committee in the city manager’s conference room; the planning commission, also today, Monday, at 5 p.m., in the City Council chambers; the design review committee meeting, 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 25, council chambers; also Tuesday, March 25, at 5:30 p.m., the pedestrian advisory committee will meet in the police station’s community room.

    amy.nixon@timesargus.com

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