• Stephen Mills, Times Argus

Council to weigh $10M garage project

MONTPELIER – The City Council is being asked to approve a plan to take charge of the parking garage component of the Hampton Inn & Suites hotel project at an estimated cost of $10 million to taxpayers.

The city is exploring a larger parking garage proposal for 350 cars as opposed to 230 spaces, which was part of an earlier application. City officials said the larger project was needed to account for parking spaces lost to the Taylor Street transit center and housing complex project, which started construction this summer.

Additional parking is needed for the Capitol Plaza Hotel & Conference Center as well as a proposed housing project at the nearby Christ Episcopal Church. Additional requests from downtown businesses for more parking spaces also have been made.

The Bashara family already had a permit to build a $17 million, 81-room, five-story hotel and adjoining four-story parking garage for 230 cars on a 2.8-acre parcel behind its Capitol Plaza Hotel & Conference Center complex on State Street.

However, the Basharas said they need help with the cost of the garage and asked the city to partner with them on the project. The city agreed to consider the request and realized the garage component needed to be larger in order to meet additional parking needs and capacity for the public.

In turn, the city is considering a proposal to build a four-story garage with 350 parking spaces at a cost of $10 million, according to city officials. The garage would extend into the parking lot at 60 State St., land owned by Realtor Tim Heaney; the lot is currently leased to the city for parking and use by the Montpelier Farmers Market on Saturdays. After space allocated for the two hotels and the proposed church apartment complex, the larger garage would provide a net increase of 160 spaces in the city.

The project is contingent on approval of a Tax Incremental Financing application the city has submitted to the state to help pay for some of the infrastructure costs associated with the development. To make the hotel project TIF-eligible, it must include a public infrastructure project with public benefit, such as the garage.

After weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Bashara family, City Manager Bill Fraser said he hoped to present a proposal for consideration to City Council this Wednesday.

“We think we’re very close to reaching an agreement — an agreement that the council will still have to approve and move forward on,” Fraser said.

Fraser said he would present a “hypothetical scenario” for the council and the public to consider in preparation for a bond vote that would have to be warned in time for the Election Day ballot, on Nov. 6.

Fraser said a decision from the state on the TIF is expected by Aug. 30.

“If that’s not approved, then the project is not going to fly,” Fraser said. “So far, it’s been very positive. I don’t want to predetermine how they might vote but we think we’re on the right track for approval.

“It’s very important to the city that it make sense, financially, and that we’re responsible with the project, but I think philosophically, the council is supportive,” Fraser said.

Mayor Anne Watson said she was hopeful the council and residents supported the project in order to address the perennial parking problem around the city.

“We only have so much time to get the word out and help people make an informed decision,” Watson said. “I’m really hopeful that this is going to be a great thing for the city.

“We clearly need more parking, especially with the development at Taylor Street and new businesses coming to town. There’s going to be an increasing need and this is a great opportunity to build a much-needed hotel as well as additional parking. As long as the numbers work, then I’m psyched to move forward,” Watson said.

Work on the hotel and garage complex is expected to begin in November, in tandem with work on the adjacent Taylor Street Transit Center. DEW Construction Corp., of Williston, is the contractor on both projects.


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