Stefan Hard / Staff Photo
Gov. Peter Shumlin manipulates a hose to pour concrete into forms Tuesday for the footing of the new state office complex in Waterbury, which will replace the complex that was devastated by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. Shumlin was joined by personnel from contractor PC Construction and architects Freeman French Freeman, plus a host of state and local officials, at the ceremony for the $125 million project.
WATERBURY — From the ruin of Tropical Storm Irene will rise the largest state construction project in Vermont’s history.
At a ceremony Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Peter Shumlin poured concrete for the foundation of what will be the $125 million Waterbury state office complex.
“It is with incredible pride that we all stand here — collectively, after Irene tried to take us out — to launch the biggest single capital construction project in the history of the state of Vermont, that’s going to assure Waterbury and everybody in Vermont that we have the most extraordinary green, clean, energy-efficient, beautiful, historic office of all the 50 states in America,” Shumlin said.
While Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 wreaked havoc up and down the state with flooding, landslides and infrastructure destruction, downtown Waterbury was particularly hard hit when the Winooski River crested its banks and left much of downtown under water.
Contractors of all stripes have been working on the site since August — two years to the month after the flood — and have, so far, removed 16 of the 19 buildings slated for demolition.
The buildings that will be left standing are being remodeled and will connect with the new 86,000-square-foot building through a series of bridges and walkways.
The new building was designed by Burlington architects Freeman French Freeman to meet LEED Gold standards for energy efficiency and will be heated with wood-fired boilers for hot water and cooled with electric-chilled water.
To keep the new construction above the 500-year flood plain, the entire structure will sit 7 feet higher than the buildings that had occupied the space before 2011.
The dispersal of state employees to temporary office spaces up and down Interstate 89 has been a hardship on downtown restaurants and business, which had to first manage recovery from the flood and now await the revival of the downtown economy.
“You think about when Irene blew through here in 2011 and the devastation it wrought on just this town, let alone the entire state of Vermont,” said Jay Fayette, senior vice president of South Burlington-based PC Construction, which is overseeing the project.
“It displaced some 1,500 workers in different areas of the community,” Fayette continued, “and to think that in a couple of years, they will start migrating back to this location and bring that energy and commerce back to the town of Waterbury is a monumental thing.”
The project is expected to be completed in about two years.
Chris Nordle, chairman of the Waterbury Select Board, discussed the project.
“Standing here today, it’s hard to believe that, three years ago, the site we’re on now was under water,” Nordle said. “It was really something new for Waterbury, and we all struggled, trying to figure out, ‘How are we going to get back to normal? How are we going to put it all back together?’”
“Looking around today, I cannot begin to say what an understatement that was, because this isn’t coming back to the way it used to be. It isn’t coming back to normal,” Nordle continued. “It’s something more incredible than any of us could have imagined three years ago.”
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