Demolition to begin at high-profile crossroads
Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo The vacant Friendly's restaurant building and The Vermonter motel behind it on the Barre-Montpelier Road are scheduled to be demolished beginning next week to make way for a CVS pharmacy.
BERLIN — Take one last look at the building that last housed Friendly’s and was originally home to a Howard Johnson’s, because demolition of the abandoned restaurant built in 1950 is slated to start Monday, and the vacant Vermonter Motel won’t be far behind.
Paperwork confirming that CVS Pharmacies has acquired both neighboring commercial properties was filed at the town offices Thursday — hours before Town Administrator Jeff Schulz signed a permit for construction of a 13,255-square-foot pharmacy on the Barre-Montpelier Road.
The project, which has been in the works for more than a year, should take less time to build, according to project superintendent Gary Neel.
Neel, who works for Ohio-based general contractor Fortney & Weygandt Inc., said Thursday if all goes as planned, construction will be finished by October and the CVS will open in time for the holiday shopping season.
Though there is a 15-day appeal period for the permit, Neel said that won’t hamper plans to start tearing down the two structures built on a former baseball field and originally owned and operated by Fernando “Firpo” Saldi.
Saldi, who made a name for himself as the welterweight boxing champion of New England, brought Howard Johnson’s to Berlin in 1950 and opened The Vermonter Motel behind the restaurant three years later.
In 1981 the Saldi family sold the restaurant, which eventually morphed into a Lum’s and most recently a Friendly’s, while continuing to operate the motel for several years.
A year ago CVS targeted both properties as part of its plan to break into the central Vermont market and, according to newly filed documents, acquired both of them at a collective cost of just over $2.1 million.
CVS bought the abandoned restaurant and the 0.84 acres on which it was built from Benoit Properties Inc. for $1.24 million, according to documents filed with the town.
In a separate but related transaction, CVS acquired the 27-unit motel and two acres from The Great Cedars LLC for $885,000.
CVS paid a premium for both properties. The restaurant, which features frontage on the Barre-Montpelier Road, was most recently assessed by the town at $969,200, and the fair market value of the neighboring motel was pegged at $542,700.
According to Neel, the first order of business will be to demolish the two 60-year-old structures to make room for a pharmacy, 75 parking spaces and a retention pond to handle stormwater runoff.
Neel said a crew from New Hampshire Demolition is scheduled to mobilize on the site Monday to start tearing down the restaurant. Demolition of the motel will likely have to wait at least a couple of weeks until asbestos-related permits are in hand.
According to Neel, site work should be underway before the motel demolition starts and work should progress swiftly once both buildings are gone.
Locking down the Berlin location represents CVS’ first foray into central Vermont and will be its fifth Vermont pharmacy. The company, which operates more than 7,500 pharmacies in 45 states, has stores in Bennington, Essex, Rutland and Williston.
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