Construction of a road through the site of the former M&M Bever- age store on Main Street has been halted for the winter as the city seeks to qualify for a state program that protects the property from any future liability re- lated to environmental hazards left by previous owners.
Despite the delay in road construction, the city intends to complete the shared use recreation path section of the property and open the new pedestrian bridge over the North Branch river by next month.
The city purchased the convenience store lot from the Mowatt Trust in 2018 as part of its acquisition of three properties located between Shaw’s and The Drawing Board and extending to the North Branch of the Winooski River. The other parcels were purchased from the Vermont Associ- ation for the Blind and Visually Impaired and TKS Properties.
The city initially applied for protection under the state’s Brownfields Reuse and Environmental Liability Limitation Pro- gram (BRELLA) for one of the parcels, believing it could add the others while construction was underway, City Man- ager Bill Fraser said. However, state offi- cials informed the city that no work could be done until the application was fully approved. The city elected to pause con- struction of the roadway until additional soil testing could be done and permanent liability protection is secured.
“In my mind, it’s worth it to have per- petual liability protection for the whole lot rather than the one parcel,” Fraser said. The site formerly housed a gas station and contamination of soils from years past has been prevalent throughout the downtown area. The BRELLA program was created to encourage cleanup and redevelopment of areas contaminated by historical use.
Soil samples from the entire site are currently being analyzed in accordance with the requirements of the BRELLA application, he said. If the application is approved, work on the road from Main Street through the city-owned parcel will resume in the spring. A parking lot and green space have also been proposed for the site, but the city is open to offers for private development as well.
A ribbon-cutting for the Taylor Street transit center is scheduled for Oct. 25, and the city is moving ahead with paving of the shared use path with the goal of opening the path and pedestrian bridge by November, he said.
Completion of the transit center portion of the path coincides with the extension of the existing bike path along the Winooski River from Granite Street east toward Gallison Hill. The remaining section, which will extend the transit center path across Main Street to Barre Street, will be pursued in the spring. Funding has not been secured for that project, but the City Council has endorsed a plan that would create (at least temporarily) a dedicated bike/pedestrian lane along Barre Street to the Recreation Center, which would eliminate 18 parking spaces on the south side of Barre Street.
The entire trail will be known as Si- boinebi Path, referencing the Abenaki word for river water. The bike path exten- sion will be celebrated with a bike ride and ribbon-cutting event on November 8 at Caledonia Spirits off Barre Street. The bike ride starts at 2:15 pm, and the event begins at 3:15 pm.