ST. ALBANS CITY — Voters gave a resounding endorsement to St. Albans City’s plan to build a parking garage on the downtown core parking lot, authorizing the city council to borrow up to $13 million for the project in a vote of 559-170.
The project won the support of more than 75 percent of those who voted. Seventeen percent of those registered to vote in the city did so.
“We are thrilled for the future of St. Albans,” said Mayor Liz Gamache, who spent the day outside the polls answering questions from residents.
The garage, in Gamache’s view, is critical for building a stronger St. Albans. “This is a turning point and a milestone,” she said.
Nancy Hudak, owner of Rail City Market, hung a sign outside her business urging residents to vote in support of the garage.
St. Albans City Manager Dominic Cloud, who has spearheaded the city’s redevelopment efforts, thanked voters for their support. “We appreciate your confidence. We won’t disappoint you,” Cloud said.
Construction of the new garage will likely take place next year, with work on the site to begin this November. Prior to construction of the garage, the city will be relocating water and sewer lines, moving some electric wires underground and doing other cleanup of the site.
Included in the project is a signal light for the corner of Lake and Federal streets. The city has already received a $100,000 state grant for that project but did not receive federal transportation grant that would have allowed for more extensive improvements at the intersection.
The five-level garage will provide parking for the new state office building and the existing state office building will be sold to Mylan Technologies, Inc.
Mylan Technologies, one the city’s largest employers, is a leader in transdermal drug delivery systems, adhesive patches that deliver medication through the skin and related technologies. The company recently added a new 84,000-square-foot research and production facility to its Lake Street location, but is planning further expansions in the city.
The purchase of the existing state office building would allow Mylan to add 100 employees initially with the potential for more.
Ward 2 Alderman Jim Pelkey said Mylan is to St. Albans City what IBM is to Essex. “We’ve got to make sure they stay here,” said Pelkey. “They’re bringing good quality jobs to the city.”
This type of development, which will add 100 new jobs to the city and relocate 170 state workers into the heart of downtown, is how downtown St. Albans will survive the opening of a Walmart store in St. Albans Town on Wednesday, Oct. 16, suggested Pelkey.
“This is the way St. Albans City should go,” he said. “It’s going to make us vibrant. It’s going to make us vital.”
Ward 4 Alderman Jeff Young said, “This is a building block; it’s a big one… This allows so many things to fall into place.”
Two buildings, the former Moose Lodge on Lake Street and the Brickyard Tavern on Federal Street, have been demolished to make way for the garage and an attached office building for state workers. That building will be on Federal Street.
A third building, the Rail City Salon building on Lake Street, will also be taken down as part of the project.
The city is currently negotiating to add a hotel to downtown St. Albans. If constructed the hotel would be located on Lake Street with parking in the garage.
The city council will decide the ultimate size of the bond approved last night based upon the winning construction bids. The bond is to be repaid with tax increment financing (TIF).
Because the city has a TIF district, it will be able to divert 75 percent of the education and municipal property taxes on $35 million in new development to pay for the bond. The city may divert the funds for 20 years. Some of that development is complete and the rest is all buildings currently being constructed or renovated.
The city is already receiving TIF revenues from the recently completed Mylan facility and the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery Store.