Town land sale could aid expansion of Middlebury gallery

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury officials have given their preliminary nod to the sale of a small strip of town-owned land that would allow the Edgewater Gallery building at 1 Mill St. to expand to perhaps include a new restaurant.
According to a proposed agreement between the town and Edgewood Property Holdings LLC, the town would sell a strip of land “at least 11 feet and no more than 14 feet wide” adjacent to the westerly boundary of the Edgewater building. The purchase price has been set at $30,000, money that would be held in escrow and used to pay for “all, or a portion” of landscaping improvements to the small, neighboring Jessica Swift Park that hugs the banks of the Otter Creek near the falls and pedestrian footbridge that links the Marble Works with Frog Hollow.
The landscaping improvements are to be detailed in a plan prepared by the town in consultation with Edgewood, according to a proposed arrangement between the two entities.
“The general idea is to have a pathway to the bridge, a pathway along the river trail, shrubs and trees, all in a manner consistent in appearance to recent improvements made on the other (Marble Works) side of the river,” the proposed agreement states.
Six years in the making, the Marble Works riverfront park improvements included extensive landscaping throughout the riverfront bank, clearly defined pedestrian pathways and a small “amphitheater” seating area for groups to congregate and perhaps stage small performances. The Marble Works plan also provides for four historic trestle markers with solar lighting, each of which will include interpretive signs; at least five oak and/or maple trees; river restoration plantings; and a rain garden located adjacent to the stone “Gas House” building at the foot of Printer’s Alley.
On the other side of Otter Creek, Edgewood will be responsible for the cost of surveying the new property line and the cost of relocating any private or public water or sewer lines affected by the landscaping and potential expansion of the Edgewater Gallery building.
George Dorsey, owner of the 1 Mill St. property, said it’s too soon to tell whether there will actually be an expansion of the Edgewater building. It was early last year that Edgewood considered an expansion and renovation project that called for the gallery building to grow upward and outward to the north and west. The project was to provide for two residential condos, improved gallery space, a restaurant, deck, patio and stone walkway. Plans also called for an additional dining area, lounge and bar to be located in the current basement space and old waterworks pump house, where there remain remnants of turbines and gears that would be showcased.
“That first plan, when estimated, was too expensive,” Dorsey said of why it was ultimately dropped.
So Edgewood has gone back to the drawing board to design a scaled-down, approximately 4,000-square-foot project that Dorsey said would improve the gallery and provide restaurant space. But he cautioned that this latest plan could also be derailed if cost estimates are too high.
Dorsey added he does not yet know what kind of restaurant would be sought for the Edgewater building.
“One of our objectives is to not create something that competes with everyone else,” he said, adding the view of the scenic falls will continue to be the property’s calling card.
Dorsey anticipates pursuing the landscaping improvements this year.
Town officials are looking forward to seeing those upgrades.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to enhance our waterfront,” Selectman Victor Nuovo said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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