• Stephen Mills, Times Argus

Caledonia Spirits starts work on capital distillery

MONTPELIER — Caledonia Spirits began work Thursday on a new 26,000-square-foot distillery in the Capital City.

The project by the Hardwick-based company is expected to open in May, bringing 25 to 30 new jobs, earning an average of $30,000 a year, according to company officials.

The project is on a 4.3-acre site with Winooski River frontage on land formerly owned by the Aja/Zori family, south of Barre Street, across the street from Sabin’s Pasture. Work on the project follows approval by Montpelier City Council in May 2017. The council pledged infrastructure and a 10-year tax stabilization agreement worth a total of more than $1 million as an incentive to build the project.

On Thursday, engineers with South Burlington contractor Neagley & Chase were using heavy machinery to prepare the building site for construction.

“We’re doing site work to get the building pad ready for what’s called dynamic compaction,” said project Superintendent Wayne Symon. “Tomorrow, there will be a crane here to start compacting the building site and get it prepped for foundations.

“That will be a two- to three-week process. We can then begin concrete work to get the building started. At that same time, we’ll be doing some of the parking lot excavation,” he added.

Symon said contractors would erect the building before winter sets in and then work on the interior during the cold months to complete the project in time for a May opening.

“We’re going to work right through the winter but next spring we’ll be doing things like final asphalt and (grass) seeding,” Symon said.

Company President Ryan Christiansen was on vacation and could not be reached for comment. But Chief Financial Officer Minty Conant said the company was excited to be starting the project.

“We’ve been very grateful to everyone in Montpelier and our design development team, Wiemann Lamphere Architects, of Colchester,” Conant said.

Tom McArdle, public works director, said work on a new rail crossing to allow public access to the site will probably not happen until the spring, after an agreement with the Agency of Transportation.

In a memorandum of understanding written by City Manager William Fraser and approved by City Council to seal the deal with the company, the city will build a $250,000 railroad crossing, move the city water line at a cost of $155,000 and connect sewer services at a cost of $40,000. The city also agreed to spend $100,000 for a pretreatment sewer plant to handle the company’s biological discharge, and $50,000 to build a public access road to the facility and a public river access area. The tax stabilization agreement that would reduce the company’s property taxes to $36,000 annually for 10 years before reverting to full value at $72,000 annually.

The city will finance the costs from a number of departmental and economic development funds — money Fraser said would be recouped from city service rates and property tax returns over time. All told, the city expects to spend $466,700 but would recoup $536,000 over a 10-year period, according to Fraser’s memo.

In return, the company is willing to pay an estimated $400,000 to remove contaminated soil from granite industry debris on the land, in addition to its site development and building costs.

Fraser welcomed news of the start of the project.

“We look forward to Caledonia Spirits being an active part of our business community,” Fraser said. “We are very excited that their project is underway. This construction is emblematic of the renewed local interest in economic development. We wish them the best of success.”

Laura Gebhart, executive director of the Montpelier Development Corp. added, “The start of construction marks a key milestone in Caledonia Spirits’ project to open a new distillery along Barre Street in Montpelier. The Montpelier Development Corp. is excited to welcome this innovative company to the community and to continue working with them as their project progresses.”


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