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OPINION: Carr Lot

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by Marge Garfield

For many years, all I read in The Bridge were articles about the terrible lack of parking in downtown Montpelier. This problem has never been solved. And yet, the town “fathers” are now somehow fixated on whether there should be a hotel in the new transportation complex planned for the Carr lot, among the many other possible uses to be shoehorned into this limited site. And, there is also concern that the hotel be a “national chain” brand.

I was glad to hear the Redstone plan had won the city’s approval as a starting point for planning the Carr lot. And I thought having a new hotel in town was a nifty idea—an aggressive bid for more tourism, and therefore more revenues for the city and area—a focal point for downtown. But when I heard Redstone insist the hotel “had to be” a national chain, I began to wonder—WHICH national chain? This chain would put a huge, visible stamp on the city, occupying such a central spot in town. The hotel would have an enormous, indelible impact on the city’s identity. So it had to be a very good “national chain.” I immediately thought, what if it’s Best Western? Uh-oh. That chain, in my experience, turned out to be “Worst Western” more than once. Then I wondered—which national chain is really good enough to reflect or enhance the very special character of Montpelier? Probably none of them. Or, even if there were a great chain brand appropriate to Montpelier, why would it bother to develop a very small property (relatively) in such a tiny market?

Then, amid my trepidations about the hotel, I finished reading the April 3–16 article “Carr Lot: Visions and Revisions” and got to the part at the end addressing parking. “With the state reportedly short 600 [yes, six hundred!] parking spaces for its needs.” And then I remembered, oh yes, the unresolved PARKING issue! Shouldn’t the Carr lot’s design address the city’s clearly stated priorities for the site: (1) transportation hub, (2) PARKING, (3) farmers’ market—in that order??? Why is having a hotel suddenly such an imperative?? It has never been introduced into the public debate until now! Is Montpelier as critically short of lodging as it is of parking? I don’t think so!

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For a limited site like the Carr lot, a hotel should not even be in the conversation. Put as much parking on the site as you can squeeze into it, build a big multi-story garage in the transportation hub, and give the farmers’ market a nice big, accessible space to operate in. In that way, the project will fill the city’s stated needs and not veer off to lame distractions. If there is space or funding left over, explore the other more “blue-sky” ideas. But address the top priorities first and fully. Stay focused!!!