by Carla Occaso
MONTPELIER — With a flourish of the pen, Eileen Peltier of Downstreet Housing & Community Development signed an option agreement with the City of Montpelier — a move that brought the highly touted One Taylor Street multi-modal transportation center one step closer to ground breaking. Peltier performed this act July 27 behind a podium in city council’s wood-paneled chambers flanked by a backdrop of officials and participants in the project. The signing forms a partnership between Peltier’s affordable housing organization and the city.
City Manager William Fraser noted that the moment held extra significance since it occurred during National Housing Week. Further, Fraser said the project will make downtown a more vibrant place. He praised Don Wells, president of DEW Construction Corp., for stepping in to manage the project. The original general contractor, Redstone Commercial, had backed out earlier in the year.
Fraser also tipped his hat to U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, who helped secure funding.
Mayor John Hollar spoke next. He recognized Rep. Mary Hooper (also a former mayor), and Senator Francis Brooks, who stood in attendance. Furthermore, Hollar lauded Fraser for his efforts.
“This is a place people want to live,” Hollar said, describing the city as a community of the past and future. He indicated municipal officials are responsible for providing housing to keep up with demand.
In addition to providing housing, the One Taylor development involves a transportation hub for mass transportation such as rail and bus, as well as a bike path that would connect one side of town to the other. Plans for creating the path involve razing two buildings adjacent to Shaw’s and installing a bridge across the North Branch river.
Also, atop the transportation center would be an apartment building offering 30 new units.
Peltier spoke next. “What a great day for Montpelier and all of Central Vermont,” she said. “Montpelier is finally going to realize the dream of a great downtown center.”
Peltier went on to say that with her signature, the city is in line to get a mix of price points of housing units in which one third would be market rate and the rest would be affordable.
Others present included: Gregg Gossens, architect; Joy Spontak, Downstreet Housing resident; and three representatives from the Vermont delegation of the United States government. Delegation spokespeople were Kate Ash representing U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, Sheila Reed representing U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and George Twiss representing U.S. Congressman Peter Welch.
Ash noted that federal funding for housing is at risk under President Donald Trump’s administration. Reed alerted those present of the “housing crisis all over the country.” Twiss offered congratulations on Welch’s behalf, and went on to assert “housing is a basic human right. Shelter is a basic human right.”
“Housing has started to move in the city,” noted Fraser, adding that 50 units have been permitted, including 18 in the French Block.