New Middlebury municipal building and town gym take shape

MIDDLEBURY — Fifteen months ago, Middlebury’s municipal building and recreation facility projects were simply controversial lines on paper. It took a second public vote of 880 to 714 in May of 2014 to affirm the $6.5 million undertaking, which had stirred up more intense debate than the town had seen since a controversial Price Chopper Supermarket proposal two decades earlier.
Fast forward to this past Monday.
Work crews were toiling away through a pounding rain at both construction sites on buildings that have suddenly gone vertical and are on the verge of becoming weather-tight. Bread Loaf Corp. officials confirmed this week that both endeavors are on budget and on schedule to be ready for occupancy by next February.
“I’m extremely pleased,” Selectman Nick Artim, a member of the project steering committee, said of the progress on the new town office building at 77 Main St. and new recreation facility off Creek Road.
“It makes my job a lot easier as a board member overseeing the project.”
Bread Loaf officials led the Addison Independent on a tour of both works in progress on Monday, explaining the finished work while outlining what remains to be done.
A cacophony of sounds thrashed against the first-floor walls of the new municipal building, permeating some sizeable gaps that will soon be fitted with super energy-efficient windows that will adorn what Bread Loaf officials believe will be only the second net-zero town office structure in the country (the other is in New York state).
The pounding of hammers blended in with the dull roar of nearby Main Street and Cross Street traffic, coupled with the throb of classic rock from a worker’s boom box and the splatter of rainwater emanating from a ceiling fissure that will soon be permanently covered by a standing seam roof. The first floor, of course, will be a lot quieter and professional next spring when it becomes home to the town clerk’s office, treasurer’s office, municipal vault and two conference rooms.
Bread Loaf Project Architect John Dale pointed to the wooden framework of an elevator shaft. The elevator, combined with entrance/exit access ramps, will ensure that people with disabilities have no problem negotiating all levels of the new municipal building.
A plaza will front the 9,400-square-foot structure overlooking the Main Street roundabout. Windows — some of them enormous — will ensure maximum sun exposure for winter warmth, while solar shading will reduce glare and heat during the summer months.
The largest of the two first-floor conference rooms will comfortably seat more than 40 people for selectboard meetings, noted Chris Huston, project architect for Bread Loaf. If there is a larger crowd, the doors to the adjoining small conference room can be opened for additional seating. Large screens in both rooms, patched into Middlebury Community Television, will allow people to follow meeting proceedings even if they don’t have a great seat. A massive 17-foot-by-12-foot bay window will give Main Street traffic and pedestrians a first-hand glimpse of town affairs.
“When people drive by, they will easily see government in action (in the conference room),” Dale said.
It’s a window that will also afford a particularly splendid view of the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History.
Workers on Monday had completed the foundational work for a new, 400-square-foot vault that will give Town Clerk Ann Webster ample space for municipal records and historical documents.
“This more than replaced the two vaults (the town) has right now,” Dale said.
Public restrooms will be accessible without having to open the rest of the building, Huston noted, providing a long-sought-after amenity the downtown has been lacking.
Dale, Huston and project Manager Bob Eaton trumpeted the energy efficiency elements of the project.
Middlebury College contributed an additional $287,000 to make the municipal building a “net zero” energy project. Those features include a “super-insulated” building envelope, high-performance windows, air source heat pumps, passive solar and exterior sun shading, energy monitoring, and a community solar array in New Haven to offset energy consumption.
“The mechanical system is all electric,” Huston said. “No fossil fuels will be used.”
Eaton said a crew of up to 20 workers has been laboring regular shifts to get the work done. He, Dale and Huston also praised more than a dozen subcontractors — many of them local — who have been putting in a lot of hours tending to various electrical, masonry and other specialized tasks.
A 1,400-square-foot basement will provide substantial storage space, according to Bread Loaf officials.
A chain link fence currently separates the town offices construction site from the neighboring Ilsley Library. There will eventually be a permanent link between the two structures. But for now, the fence is serving as a temporary canvas for a “story walk” devised by Tricia Allen, youth services librarian at the Ilsley. The fence is appropriately adorned with pages from the Virginia Lee Burton story “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.” Readers young and old alike are invited to walk along the fence and read the construction-themed story. Mike Mulligan will soon be swapped out for “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site,” by Tom Lichtenheld.
“We are tying in the construction site with the library,” Allen said. “It adds extra value to the construction site. It also allows people to read a great book without having to check one out.”
If all proceeds according to plan, municipal workers will move into the new building in February — and it shouldn’t be an arduous move, according to Huston. That’s because the new town office building will include new furnishings to supplant the current worn desks, chairs, cabinets and other amenities.
“There won’t be a lot (of material) coming with them,” Huston said.
Current plans call for the March 2016 town meeting to be the last held at the current municipal gym. Per its agreement with the town, Middlebury College will demolish the gym and the old municipal building and transform the property into a public park. Bread Loaf officials expect that demolition will occur sometime next spring or early summer.
Meanwhile, on Creek Road, workers were making progress on the 13,800-square-foot recreation center, which includes a team rooms addition that was separately authorized by voters in the UD-3 school district.
Those driving by the facility these days have undoubtedly noticed a mustard-colored, rough surface on the front part of the building facing Creek Road. Rest assured, that’s just sprayed-on insulation that will eventually be covered by a brick veneer exterior.
MIDDLEBURY’S NEW RECREATION facility features a regulation-size basketball court that could also be set up for volleyball and gymnastic events.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Huston noted the gymnasium roof has now been installed, while other roofing continues on the wrap-around roof over the offices and team rooms addition. That shorter, 14-foot-high wrap-around roof is intended to break up the mass of the 28-foot-tall gym portion of the structure, Huston explained. Also breaking up the mass, according to Huston, will be three different colors of brick veneer: Red, “warm orange,” and a variety with a yellow accent.
Exterior brick installation has begun on the north elevation, metal stud framing is complete, and the concrete slab for the gym space — featuring a versatile, regulation-sized basketball court — was poured last week. The gym floor will have a hardwood maple surface. A divider curtain will allow for two events to occur simultaneously.
Windows have been placed primarily on the north side of the building to allow for decent natural light, but not in a way that will generate a glare for athletes.
Residents will see windows being installed after the masonry is completed and interior mechanical fit-up will get going.
Along with the gym and four team rooms, the recreation facility will host a multi-purpose room (that can be divided into two separate spaces), offices for the Middlebury Parks and Recreation Department, a concession stand, a large storage room, public restrooms that can be made available without opening the rest of the building, and a lobby.
The project site also includes the potential for future expansion of the building at its southwesterly corner, which abuts the playing fields and parking area for around 120 vehicles.
“We are confident with the project and confident in our schedule,” Huston said.
“We are in a very good place.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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