By Bill Moore
These are heady days in Montpelier. The long-awaited Taylor Street project has begun. The French Block apartment renovation project is well underway. The steel is already going up on the Caledonia Spirits complex on Barre Street. The Bashara family has presented a proposal for a new 84-room downtown hotel. That hotel project includes something that Montpelier has been crying for — more downtown parking. Not just a few new slots, but a $10 million, 348-space parking garage.
The proposed hotel and parking garage are currently under simultaneous review by the Montpelier City Council and the Design Review Committee. The parking garage is slated to be built next to the proposed Hampton Inn and Suites and owned, operated and financed by the city of Montpelier. The project will add 160 desperately needed parking slots to downtown Montpelier. It will service the hotel, affordable housing, workers, residents and visitors.
The $10 million project will be financed by a $10 million bond, subject to voter approval. Thanks to a recently approved Tax Increment Finance District in Montpelier, the project will virtually pay for itself through the collection of permits, fees and TIF revenue. Together, the revenue stream more than supports the project and allows the parking garage to be built at no cost to Montpelier taxpayers.
This is clearly a win-win-win scenario. Montpelier gets a 26 percent needed increase in parking in the downtown. The hotel will generate additional economic activity for the area. Montpelier residents will get the value of the additional parking with no increase to their property taxes. As an added bonus, the city does not have to pay to acquire the land for the parking garage as the Bashara family is donating it to the city, an approximate $500,000 value.
The construction of the parking garage was earlier identified as a critical infrastructure need, and the preferred spot downtown. In fact, both the hotel and parking garage are consistent with the City Master Plan and the city’s Economic Development Strategic Plan.
The hotel itself will have an important, positive impact on Montpelier. First and foremost, the new hotel will add handsomely to the city’s grand list. Next, think of the additional spending that will occur downtown by the visitors and business travelers.
Whether they are stopping for a bite at Julio’s or relaxing with an 802 brew at Capitol Grounds or stopping into Capitol Stationers for a purchase, those are new dollars for downtown. Think of additional ticket sales at Lost Nation Theater or watching a game at the Langdon Street Tavern. Think of the visitors to area attractions and the spending on purchases throughout the region. The influx of new negotiable federal reserve notes will be a benefit to Montpelier — and all of Central Vermont.
The new projects will be a definite economic driver for Montpelier. It is for that reason that the Central Vermont Chamber supports the proposed Hampton Inn Hotel and the new parking garage.
Bill Moore is president and CEO of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce.