Middlebury seeks to flesh out downtown project with NexBridge
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury selectboard members on Tuesday agreed to form a new, five-member committee to plan the next steps in mixed-use development for Middlebury’s so-called “Economic Development Initiative” property off Bakery Lane.
NexBridge Partners — a team made up of some local businesspeople — has emerged from a short list of interested parties as the developer of the site. The selectboard is now looking to forge an official development agreement with NexBridge that will map out specific components of a project expected to include retail, office and residential uses. That final agreement would then need approval from the selectboard.
Representing the town in the development agreement talks will be a committee made up of selectboard members Nick Artim, Brian Carpenter and Donna Donahue; Jamie Gaucher, Middlebury’s director of business development and innovation; and Jennifer Murray, director of planning and zoning.
“Now we are going to get into the real nuts and bolts,” Artim said of the next phase of talks with NexBridge.
Gaucher told the selectboard there is no specific timetable at this point for drafting an agreement with NexBridge.
Also on Tuesday, the selectboard heard about a new dog park in town (see story, Page 1A) and reviewed some proposed revisions to two municipal ordinances — one relating to bicycles and the other involving restrictions to consumption of alcoholic beverages on town property.
The selectboard was also updated on recent correspondence between the town and Vermont Agency of Transportation regarding replacement of the rail bridges on Merchants Row and Main Street. As previously reported in the Independent, VTrans officials have stated that the rail bridges can’t be built at their current height that allows 17 feet, 9 inches of clearance, but must instead provide a minimum clearance of 21 feet. Selectboard members had hoped that replacing the bridges at their current height might lead to a shorter-duration project.
George said town officials are now preparing a list of items to present to VTrans that, if implemented, could minimize the impact of the rail bridges project on Middlebury. That list includes:
• requests for a complete cost/benefit analysis of the currently proposed 20-hour work shifts, versus work shifts of no more than 12 hours per day;
• funding for business interruption insurance, grants or loans;
• full funding for a temporary parking garage for a duration specified by the town to coordinate with other planned downtown construction projects;
• assurance that Amtrak passenger rail service will stop in Middlebury, and there would be financial support for a multi-modal station;
• funding for undergrounding of utilities on Main Street and Merchants Row;
• improving drainage and sanitary sewer lines on the town green;
• and funding for “public engagement” opportunities associated with the project, such as construction viewing areas, public art displays, meetings with the contractor and educational activities for children.
The selectboard also heard that construction of the new municipal recreation facility on Creek Road is ahead of schedule, and could be ready for occupancy in January. Meanwhile, work on the new municipal building on Main Street has also been progressing at a steady clip, according to Artim, who said the new structure could be completed by the end of February. An April 2016 completion was originally forecast for the two new buildings.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].