Home News and Features Barre Agrees to Sell Two Lots for $1

Barre Agrees to Sell Two Lots for $1

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Two lots in Barre City may soon have a new owner and could become housing developments, even though they are in a floodplain. But nothing is certain, yet.

“We are still trying to figure out (if) this project works,” Angie Harbin, chief executive officer of Barre-based Downstreet Housing & Community Development told The Bridge. Downstreet has a mission of “creating permanently affordable homes” and helping people with financing as well as being one of the organizations involved in the project. 

The Barre City Council approved the sale of the two flood-damaged Seminary Street lots during its April 23 meeting. 

“The City Council approved a letter of intent with DEW to sell two adjacent parking lots for $1. Williston-based DEW Construction is partnering with Downstreet and Evernorth to create 28–30 housing units on the site,” City Manager Nicolas Storellicastro said in an email to The Bridge. Evernorth is a New England organization focused on affordable housing development. The city put out a request for development on the properties on Dec. 13, 2023, with a February deadline, according to a record from Storellicastro’s office.

Harbin said the project is in its “infancy,” but her organization is very interested in making it work. Downstreet previously partnered with DEW Construction to build residential units on the upper floors of the Montpelier Transit Center. Harbin pointed out how, during the flood in July 2023, the Taylor Street structure was completely surrounded by water but had no damage to the building systems because it was built to flood codes.

“We definitely need housing in Barre and we are happy the council is making it feasible,” Harbin added. As for the other properties Barre City has also recently put out to bid, Harbin said her organization doesn’t want to take on more than it can handle.

On that note, Storellicastro’s office recently sent out a press release describing additional city-owned properties they would like to see become affordable housing developments, including one at Wobby Park, a “cluster of lots” along Merchant and Cleary streets, and a parking lot on Plain Street. Letters of interest are due May 10.

“The lots will be sold at a significantly reduced price to compelling projects,” the release states. 

All three properties are in Barre’s north end. Wobby Park sits outside the floodplain adjacent to the public safety building and is now used as a playground. At 0.41 acres, it’s considered suitable for building. It is zoned for civic use but could be rezoned for the right project, according to a document issued from the city. If the plot is developed into housing, the park will be relocated somewhere else in the neighborhood. 

The cluster of lots between Merchant and Cleary streets measures 0.54 combined acres and is in a residential neighborhood. It would be offered at a significantly reduced price. Interested parties are asked to respond by Friday, May 24, at 4:30 p.m.

The Plain Street property is a vacant lot and measures 0.20 acres. Like the other properties, city officials state they will consider a significantly reduced price for an applicant who presents a plan that develops the parcel for residential use. The deadline for applications is also Friday, May 24, at 4:30 p.m. Letters of interest will be reviewed by a committee that will include members of the Barre City Council, staff, and other parties as determined by the council.

“It is more urgent than ever to creatively address our housing shortage,” said Storellicastro. “We will leave no stone unturned in our effort to find partners to build safe, affordable, and comfortable housing options in our city — including seeking to develop a beloved neighborhood playground. The housing needs in Barre are extensive — from people who lost housing as a result of the July 2023 flood, to people looking for pathways out of homelessness, and to professionals seeking to relocate here to work in our health care and education sectors. We look forward to hearing from interested developers who want to help shape Barre’s future.”