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Town of Middlebury to discuss acquisition of Lazarus building

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard on Monday, Sept. 9, will review a proposed agreement with Middlebury College that would culminate in the demolition of the Lazarus building at 20 Main St. and the consolidation of property off Bakery Lane that would then be marketed for an as-yet undefined economic development initiative.
Middlebury officials have for years — in the interest of having a more geographically cohesive downtown — supported the notion of someday removing the Lazarus building in order to widen the adjacent Printer’s Alley link from Main Street to the Marble Works complex. But a longstanding covenant has precluded the Lazarus Trust from selling the now-vacant building until 2015.
Selectboard members and college officials this past spring quietly began discussing how they could work together on a new municipal building and recreation center, and they also discussed the purchase of the Lazarus building. In June, a representative of the Lazarus Trust confirmed “an agreement in principle” had been forged regarding sale of the property, which sits on 0.15 of an acre and is assessed by the town at $287,000. Trust officials have said they are prepared to initiate action in Addison County Probate Court to allow for the sale of the building this year.
The proposed town-gown agreement the selectboard is slated to review next Monday calls for:
•  Middlebury College to acquire the Lazarus property and then convey it to the town. In return, the town would convey a small amount of land it owns off Bakery Lane behind the Ilsley Public Library. That land, when combined with contiguous property already owned by the college, would add up to roughly 1.5 acres. That parcel would be marketed “for new development of mixed use buildings designed to enhance the social and economic vitality of the historic downtown area,” according to the proposed agreement.
•  The town to remove the Lazarus building and use the site to widen and improve the existing access through Printer’s Alley to the Marble Works, making pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular safety enhancements. As part of this project, the town would initiate a study of improved ingress and egress to and from the Marble Works, including a potential second exit point.
•  The college to ensure that “any public parking that utilizes the economic development initiative land (behind the library) will be continued until the land is developed in compliance with the normal permitting process.”
The proposed purchase price for the Lazarus building is not disclosed in the agreement. Either party can withdraw from negotiations unless and until a formal agreement is signed. Monday’s selectboard meeting will be held in the municipal building conference room beginning at 7 p.m.
Separately, members of the public are invited to a progress report and listening session on the Town Offices and Recreation Facilities Project on Thursday, Sept. 12, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Russ Sholes Senior Center. The senior center is in the lower level of the Municipal Gymnasium; enter via the covered ramp off College Street.
The town’s Design/Build Team from Bread Loaf will review the work to date on the project and invite attendees to share their ideas, concerns and questions about the project. Town officials said that preliminary concept plans and project estimates will be developed in late September/early October and will not be available at the meeting. Background information, aerial photos and sketches of the sites and Town Offices & Recreation Facilities Steering Committee meeting minutes are available on the town’s website, www.middlebury.govoffice.com.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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