ST. ALBANS CITY — With revitalization of the center of downtown St. Albans City well underway, the city and the Northwest Regional Planning Commission (NRPC) are shifting their attention south – to the neighborhood defined by Stebbins, Catherine and Market streets.

The $50,000 market study and planning effort is being paid for with funds from the NRPC’s Brownfields Program.

A steering committee, which met Tuesday night, is overseeing the work.

Multi-family housing has been identified as a likely use for properties in the area. Pointing to the multi-family developments that have gone up in recent years in St. Albans Town, committee member Jeff Young asked how the city could make it attractive to build similar projects in the city.

David White of White + Burke Real Estate, which is consulting on the study, answered that the primary considerations for developers are money and risk. “The job of a city like St. Albans… is to lower the cost and lower the risk,” he said.

David Barber, chair of the city Planning Commission, suggested the creation of a special design district allowing for the use of a wider range of building materials in this neighborhood than is permitted downtown. Giving developers more options could also potentially lower the cost of projects, he noted.

Joe Weith, also of White + Burke, added that downtown developments require greater density in order to be cost effective. “They need to drive the density in order to make it economically feasible,” he said.

“These are not going to be inexpensive sites to develop,” said White.

During the meeting, the committee selected four sites at the corner of Catherine and Stebbins streets for a more in-depth feasibility analysis, including 14 Stebbins Street, which the city owns.

Prior to making those selections, the committee looked at four possible development scenarios, each varying in the density of development. The first featured smaller buildings and additional at grade parking, while the later scenarios included larger, multi-story buildings and the construction of a parking garage.

All of the scenarios included landscaping to shield the area from the railroad and two included turning Market Street into a one-way road going south to allow for the creation of a larger buffer between the neighborhood and the railroad.

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