by Joshua Jerome
BARRE — The sap is running, the birds are out, vitamin D levels are increasing and with every passing day the melting snow reveals our four-legged friends’ travel patterns throughout this past winter. Spring is right around the corner and downtown Barre is starting to heat up already. The newly opened Positive Pie has been received by the community with much excitement. The space is inviting with high ceilings and a wide open floor plan. As with the other P-Pie locations, the food is prepared with care and with quality ingredients. And if you have to wait for a table, a unique lounge area provides a comfortable space for conversation and gazing throughout the restaurant.
Ellie & Shirl’s Simply Delicious along with Bag Ladies Café have moved out of the historic Tinsley Place in Depot Square and into the Blanchard Block. The new space incorporates delicious sweet confections, value added products, a deli shop and wine bar. The new space is impressive with original tin ceilings and columns with expansive large windows overlooking City Hall Park. The whole building has been renovated to keep its historic elements while taking advantage of current technology such as LED lighting and placement that highlight the restored architectural features.
Several other businesses have moved in to the restored Blanchard Block as well. Denise Palmer from Ameriprise Financial has moved her office from the Barre-Montpelier Road while Dr. Yorra from Central Vermont Medical Center has moved his practice from his longtime Keith Avenue location.
The Central Vermont Community Land Trust is weeks away from starting its $9 million renovation project that will create a mix of affordable housing units to make up for units lost in the City Place redevelopment. There are also plans to create green space in the downtown that will provide additional pedestrian enhancements. And of course, Granite City Grocery, the startup coop grocery store, continues to grow its member owners and is planning on a site selection sometime in 2015.
Meanwhile, the Vermont Granite Museum is preparing for some tremendous growth this year. The northern gateway to Barre, the museum is a 25,000-square-foot timber framed behemoth of a structure that was the largest manufacturing shed when built in 1895. Their collection of machinery, history and stories of the granite industry continues to grow while offering several unique working spaces for stone artists. The interior of the museum will be enhanced with a catering kitchen and conference room allowing the museum to provide expanded event services such as conferences, meetings, musical performances and even weddings.
In addition, exterior enhancements to the surrounding 12 acres will help set the stage for the full ecological plan. The location will include walking paths along the North Stevens Branch with granite sculptures and viewing areas that will all connect to the main granite courtyard and restored bocce ball court. The museum complex is a wonderful example of community vision, revitalization and economic development. Once completed, the granite park and accompanying museum will play an integral role in furthering the “Barre Gray” legacy as the granite center of the world while at the same time providing central Vermonters with a space for relaxation and admiration of the stone arts.
The Barre Farmers Market already enjoys its Saturday event at the museum, but will be adding Wednesday to the schedule. The mid-week farmers market helps to complement the Barre Summer Concert Series at Currier Park put on by the Barre Partnership and the Author’s at Aldrich Library series. The popular Rockfire event, named one of Vermont’s top 10 summer events by the Chamber of Commerce, will expand to include an additional evening at the museum that will highlight the historical significance of the granite industry.
Downtown Barre is poised to have yet again another transformative and exciting year.
Joshua Jerome is the executive director of the Barre Partnership