MONTPELIER — After the successful election vote for a $10.5 million bond to build a public parking garage in the Capital City, leaders are working out the details of what happens next with the project.
In Tuesday’s midterm election, city voters approved the bond vote 2,459-1,877.
The vote paved the way for hotel owner Fred Bashara II to close a deal with Hilton Hotels to build a Hampton Inn & Suites franchise hotel and garage behind the Capitol Plaza Hotel on State Street. Bashara asked the city to partner with the garage. The city agreed but increase the size of the garage from 230 to 358 spaces.
After the successful vote, city and hotel officials will be busy moving both projects forward.
“We’re very excited, very relieved and happy that the local residents voted in the affirmative for this,” Bashara said. “The new hotel can’t be built without the city parking garage and the parking garage can’t be built and paid for without the new hotel.”
The Bashara family will lease 200 spaces in the parking garage for its two hotels. Another 100 spaces will be permitted, and 30 spaces will be leased to tenants of a proposed affordable housing project by nearby Christ Episcopal Church. The leases are expected to pay for much of the construction and maintenance costs over the length of the loan for the project. Additional funding will come from additional Tax Incremental Finance district revenues that help pay for infrastructure costs, such as sewer and water, roads and sidewalks and electrical utilities.
“So, it’s truly a public-private partnership,” Bashara said. “We’re grateful for the positive vote and excited about the opportunity (this) will create for our downtown,” he added.
Bashara said the hope is to break ground on the project soon, possibly next month.
“The project will continue and we’re going to be meeting with the contractors and see what we have to do to move forward but we want to start it this year,” he said.
Bashara said there would be ongoing discussions about the management of displaced parking on the Capitol Plaza parking lot during construction of both the hotel and the garage, which are each expected to take a year to complete.
“Right now, we’re working the city and other private landowners around the city to be able to use some parking, but we have nothing definite yet,” Bashara said. “We’ll have to let our tenants and our guests know. We should have enough parking for our hotel guests, but our tenants may have to relocate, or shuttle or whatever we have to do.”
At City Hall, officials said they would also be working on coordinating construction schedules and alternative parking arrangements.
“We will be meeting with the contractors and hotel folks very soon and will issue detailed schedules as they are available,” City Manager Bill Fraser said in an email Wednesday.
“The next immediate steps are to complete the permitting processes,” Fraser continued. “ ... the Development Review Board is considering the garage application in deliberative session. When/if they issue a favorable decision, we will need to assess any conditions and adjust designs accordingly.”
After closing the public hearing this week on the design of the garage, the DRB is scheduled to deliberate at its Nov. 19 meeting when a vote on the final design is expected.
The DRB will also have to consider a petition filed by a group of city residents, seeking party status to the city’s application to build the garage, in the hopes of mounting a legal challenge, alleging the project would “not be in accord” with the city’s master plan and zoning regulations.
Fraser also noted that the city awaits the determination of its Act 250 application for an expedited review of the garage because it would be built in a designated downtown.
The Act 250 District 5 Environmental Commission has also been asked by resident Alan Goldman for a jurisdictional opinion on whether 10 current or prospective projects on more than 10 acres within the city’s Tax Incremental Finance district should trigger review under the land use law.
“The city has filed our Act 250 application for the garage under the (state statute) 6068b process,” Fraser said. “We, of course, need a decision on Alan Goldman’s claim that the project requires full review.”
Work on both projects is still subject to an environmental review of the site that is known to have been contaminated by motor oil lubricants, leaking gas and heating oil from underground storage tanks, and contamination from a dry-cleaning business. To lower the grade of the garage project to match the adjacent Heney lot on which part of the garage would be built, it will require the removal of 4,300 tons of soil that may require remediation if contaminated. Disturbance of the contaminated soil on the hotel site is expected to be minimal, except to place building foundation footings.
“We are also completing the environmental assessment process at this same time,” Fraser said. “That will tell us what, if any, remediation needs to be included in the project and allow us to review funding requirements for any needed work.
“The finalization of permit work will determine the construction schedule. The actual construction schedule will determine the amount and nature of dislocated parking, construction impact and the like,” Fraser added.