• Stephen Mills, Times Argus

Distillery to throw groundbreaking cocktail party

MONTPELIER — State, city and company officials will be both breaking ground and raising a glass to the start of work on Caledonia Spirits’ 26,000-square-foot distillery in the Capital City Thursday.

Gov. Phil Scott, representatives from Vermont’s congressional delegation and city officials will join the Caledonia team in the ceremony. The official groundbreaking and cocktail party is open to the public from 3 to 6 p.m.

The project by the Hardwick-based company will include a new distillery, tasting room and visitor center on newly named Gin Lane and is expected to open in May, creating 25 to 30 new jobs paying 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/Zorzi family, south of Barre Street and across the street from Sabin’s Pasture. Work on the project follows approval by the 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 distillery.

Engineers with South Burlington contractor Neagley & Chase first began work July 13, using heavy machinery to prepare the building site for construction. Weimann Lamphere Architects, of Colchester, has designed the facility with support from Dalkita Architecture and Construction of Littleton, Colorado.

The $9 million distillery will increase Caledonia Spirits’ total production capacity to more than 200,000 cases a year, company officials said. Caledonia Spirits will also grant an easement to the city for a public river access.

The Montpelier City Bike Path construction project, which also begins this year, will run along Barre Street directly in front of the distillery.

Montpelier Mayor Anne Watson welcomed news of the start of the project.

“This is a significant moment for the city of Montpelier, as we continue to show that Montpelier is a hub of business in central Vermont,” Watson said. “It’s going to be more than just a great distillery. It will be a destination for those visiting central Vermont.”

Laura Gebhart, the new executive director of the Montpelier Development Corporation, also hailed the project as a “beacon of collaboration” by the city and local organizations, adding, “The new distillery will provide value to the community and a unique amenity for those who live and work in Montpelier. Visitors coming to the distillery to experience one of Vermont’s high-quality, thoughtfully-made products will now get to enjoy the unique assets the rest of the city has to offer.”

In a memorandum of understanding written by City Manager William Fraser and approved by the City Council, 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. And the tax stabilization agreement will 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.

Caledonia Spirits first brought Barr Hill Gin to market in 2011. The company has since seen rapid growth, winning 13 gold medals from top national and international spirits competitions in New York, San Francisco, Berlin and Hong Kong, among other cities.

Ryan Christiansen, president and head distiller of Caledonia Spirits, said the new distillery will give the company the additional capacity it needs and provide new opportunities for growth.

“The added capacity allows our team to bring more Barr Hill to market, while providing space to create and share new products with the community as we cultivate stronger relationships with our area farmers,” Christiansen said. “This is an investment in Vermont. We can see the trend and feel the momentum. If we’re going to keep up, we need more space.”

For more information about Caledonia Spirits, visit www.barrhill.com.


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