IAN LORD, St. Albans Messenger
“They’re always going to have a need in this area.”
ST. ALBANS CITY — St. Albans City was back before its own Development Review Board (DRB) to continue hearings on two large, connected projects, an office building and a parking garage.
The DRB must provide major site plan approval for the projects, one of which involves the removal of an historic building.
The Design Advisory Board (DAB) will meet Monday, July 22, to conduct its review of the design. The DAB will consider the city’s request to demolish 15-17 Lake St., the Rail City Salon building.
The building is part of the city’s historic district and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1828, it was the original schoolhouse for the St. Albans Academy. It was purchased in 1860 by butter merchant Benjamin Rugg, who moved it to its current location and converted it for commercial use.
The city has an option to buy the building, pending project approval, explained project engineer Peter Cross. The building site would become the Lake Street entrance and exit to the parking garage. The garage is planned for the current location of the core parking lot.
The Rail City Salon building and the sites of two buildings immediately west of it are planned for future development. The city is currently in discussion with hotel developers about putting an 88-room hotel in that location.
Peter Garceau of Cross Consulting Engineers outlined for the DRB the proposed locations of all utilities. Electricity for eight building, including six on Kingman Street, will be moved underground.
Curbs will be added along the rear of the Kingman Street buildings, along with landscaping and designated dumpster locations. That area is currently held in common. The city is asking the property owners to assign those rights to the city in exchange for a permanent easement, explained Cross.
The current entrance to the core parking lot from Kingman Street will be closed, although parking for A.N. Derringer employees will remain. The entrance will be replaced with a sidewalk and greenspace.
There will be sidewalks and streetlights around the perimeter of the garage.
The garage will have 370 spaces with the state leasing 170 spaces, 100 assigned to the hotel, and 100 for the general public.
Asked if the amount of public parking would be sufficient, city manager Dominic Cloud replied that absent additional development, such as the state office building, the city does not need more parking. The core lot currently has 100 spaces.
Architects for the state office building said the state has opted not to put a fifth floor on the building. The four-story building will have a mechanical room on the roof, which will not be visible from street level. The building will be 71.5 feet at its highest point.
The building will not be visible to pedestrians on Church Street.
The 91-by-124 foot building will fill its entire 0.287 acre lot and will contain 45,1000 square feet of office space.
In response to concerns from DAB members about windows, the size of the windows has been expanded.
The building will be constructed and owned by the ReArch Company of South Burlington, and leased by the state. Details of the lease are still to be worked out, according to Gail Henderson-King of White + Burke, the real estate company representing the city.
Cloud said the basic term would be 20 years, although the state may have an option to purchase the building after 10 years. Should that happen the city would receive enough funds from the PILOT program to cover the project’s payment into the tax increment financing fund.
“They’re always going to have a need in this area,” said Cloud of the programs to be housed in the building. “This is one of their fastest growing offices.”
The state workers currently are located in a building on Houghton Street.
DRB member Rebecca Pfeiffer asked about the impact on traffic.
No traffic study has been done of the project.
“These 170ish employees currently work about a block away,” said Cloud, explaining that the city had felt no need for a traffic study.
However, the city does plan to address the Lake and Federal street intersection with either a signal light or striping or both, said Cloud. “One way or the other we have to fix that intersection,” he stated. Changes to the intersection are part of the design of the Federal Street multi-modal connector, but that project has barely reached the permitting stage.
The relocation of the state office building may improve traffic in the short term, suggested DAB member David Barber, by placing the building on the east side of the rail line. Currently, if trains are crossing the tracks at the same time state employees are leaving work, there can be lengthy lines, he suggested,