MONTPELIER — After two decades, the wait is over with the much-anticipated grand opening of the Taylor Street Transit Center and housing complex next week.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 9, followed by two hours of entertainment with bluegrass music from the Sky Blue Boys and tours of the transit center and the 30-unit housing complex. There will also be food truck choices from Pacquet’s Apple Shack, The Grub Wagon and Mo’s Backyard BBQ, and children’s games, including giant Jenga, Connect-4 and cornhole. The event is free and open to the public.
The project is a collaboration between the city, Housing Vermont and Downstreet Housing and Community Development, and contractors DEW Construction.
Funding for the $17 million project includes grants from the Federal Transit Administration ($1,967,357); Federal Highway Administration ($5,344,250); Vermont Agency of Transportation Surface Transportation Program ($1,250,000); Environmental Restoration Program ($250,000); Estimated Sales Tax Reallocation ($138,000); City of Montpelier funds, bond and Capital Improvement Project funds ($2,700,393); and Housing Vermont ($5,420,414).
The housing component features 30 apartments that include six studio units, 18 one-bedroom apartments and six two-bedroom apartments, 11 of which will be market-rate units and the remainder affordable housing, according to Alison Friedkin, director of real estate development for Downstreet.
Friedkin said the process of signing up residents for the new housing had already begun.
“We’ve been receiving applications for quite a bit now, and actually, we had three people sign leases today — our first three,” Friedkin said Tuesday. “We’re actively seeking new residents so anyone interested should contact our office for an application or they can go onto our website.”
Friedkin said the new housing follows on the heels of another Housing Vermont and Downstreet collaboration with the French Block project on Main Street, which opened in January and offers 18 studio and one-bedroom apartments — four market-rate rental units, nine affordable units based on income sensitivity and five units for homeless people.
The city asked Housing Vermont and Downstreet to partner on the transit center housing project after contractor Redstone Inc., withdrew from the project, saying that the housing component made the development financially unviable after delays and cost increases. DEW Construction was also contracted to build the project.
“It was a very positive experience and we would be happy to do it again,” said Friedkin, noting that the Montpelier Housing Trust Fund contributed $85,000 toward the project. “We really appreciate the support of the city.
“The opening of the Taylor Street project is an opportunity for us to engage with the community and show them what we do and have an opportunity to check it out, ask any questions and enjoy the success of the community, because really, it’s a community effort to do these projects,” she added.
Jon Moore, interim manager of Green Mountain Transit, said company officials would also be on hand to discuss the operations of the transit center, which is expected to begin operations in mid-November.
He said the opening of the transit center would involve the reorganization of some of its routes.
Specifically, he said that three city routes — the Capital Shuttle, Montpelier Circulator and Hospital Hill — would move its downtown pickup point to the transit center and no longer stop outside Shaw’s supermarket. Pickup for GMT commuter routes to Barre, Northfield and Waterbury would also move to the transit center, he said.
There is still some uncertainty about the city LINK buses to Burlington and St. Johnsbury. Once the transit center is complete, Moore said GMT will have to see if the long buses — which were built after the transit center was designed — would be able to turn around in the transit center. If not, it would require the buses to pull over on Taylor Street, opposite the transit center to allow people to board and disembark.
The Greyhound bus would also stop at the transit center, no longer stopping outside City Hall, Moore said.
Every effort is being made to avoid the commuter and Greyhound buses having to cross the Taylor Street bridge because their width would impede other traffic flow, he added.
Moore said GMT is currently working on hiring staff for the transit center, who would most likely be in the facility in the mornings and afternoons, and a vendor, such as a coffee shop, is also being sought. For security, people wishing to access the center’s restrooms may have to leave a bus pass or ID with customer service, which is the practice in Burlington, he added.
Mayor Anne Watson said she was excited at the transformation of the former Carr Lot — previously used for state parking, and in earlier years, was the site of a stone yard, rail yard and a scrap materials business — into a new transportation and housing facility.
“This is an entrance way to our city,” Watson said. “This may be where people take their first steps in our city, where we have a chance to make a first impression with visitors, and I think this lovely building is a great first impression.”
City Manager Bill Fraser added: “We are delighted that this long-awaited project is coming to completion. The addition of 30 units of housing and a modern transportation hub are keys to maintaining a vital downtown.”