By all counts, Barre City Place has exceeded expectations.
With tenants in place since March, except for the first-floor retail spot facing Main Street, the city is feeling a positive economic ripple. The hundreds of jobs at City Place, on the heels of the new campus for Central Vermont Community Action Council at Gable Place and the ongoing development of the Blanchard Block, are pumping dollars into the downtown economy.
In kind, merchants are discussing extending hours and offering deals. Restaurants have been updating menus. Venues have started booking music and performances.
City and state leaders point to City Place as an example of persistence, cooperation and success. DEW Properties LLC, working with the state and city, forged a private-public partnership that further solidifies Barre’s renaissance, which began with the three-year Big Dig, or North Main Street reconstruction project.
City Manager Steve Mackenzie and Mayor Thomas Lauzon say City Place is a key component to the city’s redevelopment, but by no means does it suggest it is finished. Projects are pending along Summer Street, Enterprise Alley, Merchants Row and the city section of the bike path.
Local developers are eyeing other properties around the city for improvement, and there is that constant murmur of hope that the final empty storefronts downtown will get tenants soon.
All of the buzz is good for Barre. There’s an energy that is both diminishing oft-repeated stereotypes held against Barre and attracting people to it.
None of the redevelopment would be possible without both vision and attention to detail. City staff and elected officials have pushed ahead, and even overcome some hefty obstacles to keep the momentum going. Part of that has included carving out office space made available for much less than in neighboring communities.
Today, in a special section titled “Barre City Place: From the Ground Up,” we recount how one project brought together a unique cast of characters (most of them local) to build a unique deal that resulted in employing hundreds of local workers and construction companies around Vermont. You will meet the architect, a Barre native, and the president of the construction company, a Montpelier native. You will learn the behind-the-scenes financing, and get an insider’s glimpse into one of the most state-of-the-art buildings in the state — designed with Barre’s Main Street in mind.
That’s a lot of vision and attention to detail. The city is very fortunate to have so many people seizing opportunities and pulling in the same direction. Barre already has its celebrated heritage, aptly centered on the granite industry. It has the Vermont History Center, Studio Place Arts, the Barre Opera House, the Old Labor Hall, the Vermont Granite Museum and a thriving historic downtown. Housing prices are offering first-time buyers more opportunities, and more businesses are setting up shop here.
Now, amid the most productive economic development the city has seen in more than 50 years, the Granite City is charting a new course for what appears to be another heyday.
There are still kinks to be worked out and a few details that need attention, but Barre, its citizens, its businesses and its guests should all feel pretty good about the place that is being created for today.
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