Housing accord seals the deal

Eileen Peltier, executive director of Downstreet Housing & Community Development, and Montpelier City Manager Bill Fraser sign a housing option agreement Thursday to build a mix of 30 market rate and affordable apartments at One Taylor Street. JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR / STAFF PHOTO

MONTPELIER— Almost 20 years after the project was first envisioned, the long-awaited Taylor Street transit center in the Capital City got the green light with the signing of a housing option agreement amid much fanfare on Thursday. City and state officials and housing and community leaders packed into council chambers at City Hall to witness the signing of a housing option agreement between Downstreet Housing and Community Development, Inc., of Barre, and the city of Montpelier. The agreement calls for 30 market-rate and affordable apartments to be built above the transit center at an estimated cost of $7.5 million. The total estimated price tag for the project is $12.5 million. The project also calls for a road and bike path connecting Taylor Street to Main Street that is still subject to the signing of a draft agreement with the state, to realign an existing railroad, and with the Mowatt Trust to allow for the purchase and demolition of the Montpelier Beverage Center on Main Street. Work on the transit center is expected to begin in the fall and be completed in the spring of 2018. The transit center is regarded as a flagship project in the city’s effort to promote growth and development in Montpelier. There was some concern earlier this year when developer Redstone Inc., said the housing component of the project was no longer viable because of delays in the project and rising costs over the years. The city subsequently joined forces with DEW Construction Corp., of Williston, and partnered with Downstreet Housing to work on federal funding to support the project. City leaders and housing advocates were clearly elated at Thursday’s signing ceremony. Mayor John Hollar hailed the signing agreement. “This is really going to have a significant impact on our downtown and make our community a more vibrant, interesting place,” Hollar said. “Montpelier residents have spoken really loudly and clearly about their support for housing and the need for more housing across the board, affordable housing, market-rate housing and high-end housing.” Hollar also thanked representatives of Vermont’s congressional and legislative delegations, state housing officials and advocates, and city staff for their support and work. City Manager Bill Fraser introduced Eileen Peltier, executive director of Downstreet Housing, which is also involved in an 18-apartment project at the French Block on Main Street that will begin construction this fall and be completed next fall. “What a great day for Montpelier and all of central Vermont,” said Peltier, who also credited housing partners like the group Housing Vermont. “Because of the determination and hard work of so many over so many years, Montpelier is finally going to realize the dream of a transit center with housing above at a great downtown site.” She said Downstreet Housing was planning “a mix of units that are available to people of all income levels. Likely about a third will be market-rate and the rest affordable to lower-income individuals and families.” Downstreet Housing resident Joy Spontak, who lives in the River Station Apartments on Barre Street in Montpelier, thanked the organization for providing her with an affordable home. “This example of affordable housing is, in my opinion, a model for Vermont and the rest of the United States,” Spontak said. “I am glad to learn that Downstreet is building another affordable housing unit in Montpelier.” Kate Ash, a representative for Sen. Patrick Leahy, said, “It’s exciting to see, especially now, how this type of project has continued to evolve over the years and involved what is one of central Vermont’s strongest partners in Vermont, Housing Vermont and Downstreet,” Ash said. stephen.mills@timesargus

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