by Ashley Witzenberger
The lot on Main Street next to Splash Naturals has been an eyesore for Montpelier’s historic and quaint downtown for some time, but that is about to change. If you haven’t already seen the beginnings of the makeover, a new pocket park and public gathering space is coming together and the project is a true community partnership. The owners of the lot, the Jacobs family along with Vermont Technical College students who designed the pocket park, have come together with support from Montpelier Alive and the City of Montpelier to work out all the details. These include permitting, insurance and other particulars that are being put in place to ensure the success of the project this summer.
Professor Ward Joyce and students from the college were the designers of Montpelier’s first parklet located on the Rialto Bridge last summer. This year, Joyce wanted to try something new and had the idea of moving the parklet to Main Street. After speaking with Jesse Jacobs about the unused lot on Main Street, Joyce and his architecture students designed a park around the idea of a deconstructed and expanded parklet that will also include a bike parking structure for 10 or more bikes. “It was a pleasure to work with Joyce and his architecture students at VTC to bring this pop-up park to life. The temporary activation of our space is going to be an exciting addition to downtown Montpelier this summer,” said Jacobs.
After circulating the design in the community, securing permit approvals from the city planning office, touching base with the bike and pedestrian committees and the Montpelier City Council — and then after succeeding with a Kickstarter campaign — the project was ready to go ahead and Joyce wasted no time. The morning after the city Council meeting there was heavy equipment and a half dozen people working at the site, creating quite a buzz in downtown Montpelier. Since then, the community feedback has been very positive; Sheri Rockcastle posted to Facebook, “So glad for this continued and greatly expanded opportunity to enjoy alfresco gatherings to eat/chat in the middle of our downtown.”
Over the Memorial Day weekend, 10 people will load the pre-built pieces on two flat bed trucks at Vermont Technical College to transport them to Montpelier. They will arrive in town around 11 a.m. to unload and construct. That is when they need community help for chapter two of the collaboration. “It will be even more fun than last year as this park is much bigger and off the road. I have at least 10 distinct projects that can all get done at the same time: lighting, post caps, ropes on bollards, pergola construction, planting, bench assembly, bike platform, water catchment, and more,” said Joyce.
Sunday will be another community work day, with more of a concentration on plantings. Kelly Ogrodnik is spearheading the planting which includes about five times as many flowers as last year’s parklet, as well as the green wall and probably four trees. People are welcome to help with plantings and final details of the construction. Community members should feel free to come downtown to volunteer or just to cheer on the workers.
The entire community is invited to a ribbon cutting celebration on Tuesday, May 26, 4-6 p.m. to mark the opening of the park. At 5:15 p.m., Mayor John Hollar, Joyce and Vermont Technical College President Dan Smith will cut the ribbon. There will be music and other fun things planned by the Montpelier Alive Design Committee. “This is a great project that seems to be generating a lot of support. It will be a nice addition to our downtown,” said Hollar.
This summer Joyce and Montpelier Alive hope to host a few community events in the space including live music and maybe even a movie, and they hope that others will plan to use the space for their own gatherings. To stay informed about happenings in the pocket park and downtown Montpelier, visit Montpelier Alive’s Facebook page.
The writer is the executive director of Montpelier Alive.