Recent commentaries have raised questions about aspects of the 1 Taylor St. development project. I’d like to address those issues.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources have approved a site-specific corrective action plan, which allows for the construction of either housing and/or office space in a multistory building. All work on this site will conform to the corrective action plan, and funds for this work are included in the overall project budget. The private developers will pay the portion of those costs related to the upper floor use.
The city purchased the property from Alan Carr in January. The property was valued at $75,000 before Mr. Carr undertook major environmental cleanup actions. Once cleanup happened, the site had commercial value as a parking lot. The purchase price of $1.4 million was based on the amortized value of that commercial lease. An initial $1 million was paid through the project grant funding. The remaining $400,000 is being financed over 20 years by the former owner. Current payments are being covered by the lease revenue for the present parking lot. Future payments will be covered by the tax value of the private development and by development rights revenue that may be available.
In order to present the most complete data to the council and the public, the city issued a request for quotes for an economic impact analysis of the three 1 Taylor St. development options as outlined in Redstone’s initial proposal. Northern Economic Consulting Inc. was selected and issued a report with no substantive input from the city or Redstone. The three alternatives analyzed by the economists were the use proposals presented in February by Redstone. As outlined in the proposals and discussed at several public meetings, the size of the buildings by use was determined by accommodating the parking demanded for each use.
Richard Heaps of Northern Economic Consulting explained to the council and public on Wednesday night that studio and one-bedroom apartments (as proposed by Redstone) are not conducive to family living. The economic models indicate that an average of 1.1 people live in one-bedroom apartments or condos. Therefore, with 41 such units, only three children would reside at this location.
Northern Economic Consulting was not asked to analyze the property tax impacts. However, the city assessor and I did this analysis, and it is linked, with the full report, on the city’s website (go to “1 Taylor Street redevelopment” and view the economic impact summary).
First and foremost this project is meant to revitalize an underutilized parcel in our core downtown and build a multimodal transit center. For a decade, we have also discussed the need for this to be more than a one-story bus shelter and therefore envisioned this being a private-public partnership with a developer building and owning the upper floors. One of the advantages of bringing on private sector expertise on such projects is that they are responsible for understanding the market, the needs, and bearing the cost burden of this development. As Redstone is putting its own money into the upper floors, it will build something that the market will support.
I encourage the public to review the wealth of information presented on the city’s website or watch the public meeting presentations and council meetings (also linked on the website) for accurate information. And, of course, my office is always available to answer questions. I can be reached at 223-9502.
William Fraser is the city manager of Montpelier.
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