BARRE — A long-promised parking lot and nearby pedestrian plaza should finally be coming soon to downtown Barre.
It has been years from conception to construction, but city officials are eagerly awaiting bids for the two projects that have been bundled into one in hopes of getting a better price from pre-qualified contractors.
City Manager Steve Mackenzie said he will learn whether that strategy paid off when recently solicited bids are opened a week from Wednesday.
Mackenzie said he is cautiously optimistic, partly because six general contractors were among those in attendance at a mandatory pre-bid conference during which plans to construct a pedestrian way on Pearl Street and a new municipal parking lot between Pearl Street and Keith Avenue were outlined.
Though the two projects are technically separate, Mackenzie said they involve the same general work area and the thought was the city could benefit by bidding both together.
“We hope to see some construction savings,” he said, suggesting the “conservative estimate” for the combined projects was roughly $750,000.
At a minimum, Mackenzie said, hiring one contractor to complete both projects will alleviate potential conflicts associated with mobilizing two contractors in the same general area at the same time.
“We won’t have to worry about any of that,” he said.
Though it will be up to the chosen contractor to determine how to tackle the two projects, Mackenzie said there are separate schedules for each.
Barring any complications with the bid award, Mackenzie said the goal is to break ground on converting Pearl Street — a narrow alley off of North Main Street — into a pedestrian plaza that would extend to the proposed parking lot on June 24. The contract calls for that work to be substantially complete by July 19 — just before the Barre Heritage Festival.
Mackenzie said the ornamental walkway must be finished in four weeks, but the steel arch at the mouth of the plaza won’t be installed until mid-August. The work must be finished by Aug. 16.
Work on the 104-space parking lot that the city received a permit to construct five years ago will take a little longer.
Mackenzie said work is scheduled to start the same day, but active construction, which will include the excavation of 940 yards of contaminated soil, is expected to take 10 weeks. The parking lot must be substantially complete by Aug. 30, though some finishing work could stretch into September. The parking lot, which will include 42 spaces designated for Downstreet Housing and Community Development’s four-story building nearby, was delayed as the city sought to identify the extent of contamination linked to a long-defunct dry-cleaning operation that was once located on Pearl Street. Mackenzie said the contamination has been defined and a plan for dealing with it is in place and reflected in estimates for the work. Those estimates are higher than they were when the project was first conceived and required Mackenzie to include supplemental funding in a bond issue that was approved by Barre voters earlier this year.
Though the Pearl Street pedestrian way wasn’t hampered by environmental issues, plans to construct the decorative concrete walkway on a portion of the street that was ripped up in 2016 and has been closed to through traffic was postponed as Mackenzie sought to make sure funding for both the parking lot and the pedestrian way was available. Initially, the two projects were supposed to be paid for through a voter-approved Tax Increment Financing (TIF) bond. However, as the cost of the parking lot climbed, it became clear additional funding would be needed before either project could advance.
Mackenzie said he is comfortable that problem has been resolved and hopeful the city will receive multiple bids for the work by next week’s deadline.