By Emily Kaminsky.
Thanks to a $1 million grant from the state’s Agency of Commerce & Community Development, and $600,000 in brownfield remediation grants from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Barre City now has the final piece of the funding puzzle in place to clean up and redevelop Enterprise Alley, which runs behind a row of North Main Street businesses from Granite Street to Depot Square.
“These grants are really what I call the capstone pieces of funding that we needed to make the project viable,” says City Manager Steve Mackenzie. The project will complement and continue ongoing downtown redevelopment. “It will have every bit of the impact visually as North Main Street reconstruction did,” Mackenzie continues. Most of the Enterprise Alley project’s $2.8 million in total funding will go towards the underground work required to clean up a hazardous area around Depot Square that was contaminated by a dry cleaning business that once occupied the site. Roughly $300,000 will be spent on improvements above ground.
The impact to the area will be significant. “The area will be much more pedestrian-and user-friendly. You’ll see a rational layout of that area, improved streets, two-way traffic, and a doubling of parking spaces from roughly 40 to 80,” Mackenzie says.
The Enterprise Alley redevelopment is possible in part because of the integral role that the granite museum has played in preserving and stewarding the Pinsley Depot building and adjacent land, says museum chairwoman Patty Merriam. The museum owns the depot building, which houses a bank drive-thru and Ellie and Shirl’s Simply Delicious, and adjacent parking. The museum sold some of the parking spaces to the city to accommodate the Enterprise Alley project’s design constraints, and is considering whether to lease or sell more spaces to the city to further the remediation and redevelopment effort.
“We’ve done a lot for that part of Barre,” says Merriam. “The museum has preserved a historic building—on the historic register—and we’ve restored it according to the [U.S.] Department of Interior standards. It’s really a gemstone in Barre and a focal point for that square. It was falling apart before.”
Currently working on the fifth version of the Enterprise Alley site plan, the city will convene a meeting of the design team and abutting property owners on August 8 to continue working out the details. The city got a jump on the design effort by using $125,000 of the $2.2-million tax increment financing bond approved by Barre City voters last November. “The design is halfway complete and construction documents will be prepared by December 1,” says Mackenzie. “It will go out to bid by February 2015, with construction starting in May and project completion by September 2015.”
One part of the project that excites Pat McDonald, who chairs the Barre City Bike Path Committee, is the plan’s incorporation of a segment of a 14.5-mile bike-and-pedestrian path from Montpelier to Barre Town. The Depot Square to Granite Street portion of the path will be built as part of the Enterprise Alley undertaking. McDonald and her committee just submitted a joint Barre City-Barre Town proposal to the Vermont Agency of Transportation for a $1.4-million local transportation facility grant. If awarded, those funds will leverage $1 million in funds from the late business owner and former Barre resident Charlie Semprebon to build a portion of the path along Smith Street between Blackwell and Berlin streets.
“It’s all about money,” McDonald says of the bike path plans. “If we can get all or some of what we requested, Barre City can move forward immediately.”