May 10, 2016

Taylor Street project delayed again

MONTPELIER — The One Taylor Street Redevelopment Project’s timeline is on hold until a right of way is obtained, and if it is cleared by September of this year, construction may begin by September 2017.

The timeline for the complex project has shifted several times since 2000, and there are still hurdles to be overcome.

“It has been a very significant frustration, and the cause of our project delay this year, that we’ve been unable to negotiate the acquisition of two very small parcels from two of the most successful business owners in Montpelier,” said Mayor John Hollar. “That has been a challenge.”

Last week, the city scheduled an eminent domain hearing for a parcel off State Street, which is approximately 20 square feet in size. It is owned by Jeff Jacobs of Overlake Park LLC. It is in the right of way for the proposed bike path, part of the Taylor Street Project.

This marks the third time that Montpelier has initiated eminent domain proceedings against a property owner for the project. The other two were with the Carr Lot and Montpelier Discount Beverage. In both cases, the city and the property owners came to agreements. Multiple eminent domain hearings were held for Montpelier Discount Beverage. The other small parcel that the city has been unable to negotiate with is owned by Capitol Plaza and the Bashara family.

It is not the first time the 1 Taylor Street Project has encountered challenges. Between 2002 and 2010 many circumstances altered and delayed the undertaking, including a parking garage idea that was eventually scrapped, a level of contamination on the Carr Lot and testing related to it, and the fact that FEMA placed the Carr Lot in the floodway after they revised maps. That would preclude construction of any new buildings although parking, a bike path, open space, etc. could still develop there. The city performed some river hydraulic analysis and has appealed the floodway determination. It took an additional year for that appeal to be approved.

But, Hollar says all of it will absolutely be worth it, in many respects.

“This is the most exciting project that the city has had in 20 years, so it has potential to really transform a part of Montpelier,” said Hollar. “It will add better pedestrian and biking access, better access to public transportation in Montpelier and out of the city, additional green space and it will create affordable housing that we desperately need in Montpelier.”

William Fraser, Montpelier’s city manager, attached a document to his weekly report on Friday breaking down the cost and timeline of the project. In it, he stated that taxpayers are currently paying $43,200.36 a year to Allan Carr for the purchase of the Carr Lot, which was above the appraised value. Before that payment was settled between Carr and the city, the city threatened him with eminent domain proceedings so that it could obtain the space for the Taylor Street redevelopment.

“It has been a very significant frustration, and the cause of our project delay this year, that we’ve been unable to negotiate the acquisition of two very small parcels from two of the most successful business owners in Montpelier,” said Mayor John Hollar. “That has been a challenge.”

For now, that space is being used as a state parking lot, and the city is collecting $78,500 in lease revenue from the state.

“All of this revenue is being assigned to the project account,” Fraser reported.

Taxpayers are paying for staff time to work on the project. Fraser estimates that the Taylor Street Project takes up 10 percent of his time, 20 percent of Assistant City Manager Jessie Baker’s time, 10 percent of DPW Project Manager Corey Line’s time and 5 percent of the finance accounting manager’s time.

Once the Taylor Street Project is constructed and operational, the site, green space, and parking will be owned by the city and Redstone, a Burlington-based real estate developer, will own the upper floors of the Transit Center. Redstone will cover costs related to their property, according to Fraser. The city will also have a lease agreement with Green Mountain Transit to operate the Transit Center. Fraser wrote that it is anticipated that this will not include a lease payment but rather GMT will cover all operating costs.

Fraser anticipates that the added cost to the municipal budget for maintenance of the new bike path, green space, and additional parking will be approximately $10,000 a year and there will be a bond payment of $65,000 for 20 years. Estimated tax revenue from the new apartments is approximately $50,000 per year.

“This is a complex project with multiple funding sources, requiring the acquisition of eight downtown parcels, and a great deal of city, state, and community involvement,” stated Fraser.

In the early 2000s, federal funding came from the Federal Transit Agency (FTA) and the Federal Highway Agency (FHWA). FTA provided $1,967,357 as part of an 80 percent-20 percent grant. FHWA provided $1,490,250 as part of a 100 percent grant and $3,680,000 as part of an 80 percent-20 percent grant.

In 2010, the cost estimate for the project was $4.4 million. In 2012 the estimate climbed to $6.3 million. In July 2015 the cost estimate rose to $6.5 million. At this point there was a $1.4 million budget gap. By early 2016, the funding gap was closed and the city was able to move forward with $850,000 in Community Development Block grant funds, $250,000 in Ecosystem Restoration Funds, and $128,000 in sales-tax reallocation funds.

In March 2016, the citizens of Montpelier voted in favor of a $710,000 bond, $350,000 of which will be used for the remaining Federal match needed for 1 Taylor Street. Another $250,000 had been set aside in capital reserve in prior years for this project, according to Fraser.

The project dates back to the late 1990s when the Conservation Commission took up the idea. The City-State Commission included the concept in the 2000 approved Capital District Master Plan.

 

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