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Making the Most of Our Public Spaces
John Hollar

Increasingly it seems, people stop me on the street to comment about what a great city we have. They are usually drawn to different facets of our community (although the Farmers' Market is definitely a common denominator). Other favorites include our amazing array of restaurants and bars, our unique shops, the quiet of Hubbard Park, and the simple beauty of our downtown built environment.

Of course, it's easy to see the beauty of Montpelier under a warm sun in June, rather than the dark days of February. But I believe what makes Montpelier unique, regardless of the season, is that it provides us with an abundance of interesting, safe and attractive places to interact with others, both publicly and semi-publicly.

I believe we can do more to take advantage of our unique downtown area to make it a place where people want to live, visit and work. If we can make Montpelier an even more vibrant city, it will help us attract young people, families, and entrepreneurs, as well as tourists to help support our merchants and hotels.

The City Council has established numerous goals for 2014-15 that reflect our shared commitment to increasing the vitality of our community. We're making good progress on each of them. Here are some highlights:

Becoming a Bike-Friendly Community

Great cities are friendly to bicyclists. Our active bike advisory committee recently approved a grant for the development of a bike and pedestrian master plan. This plan will be completed this year and will guide the city in creating the infrastructure we need to become a truly bike- and pedestrian-friendly city.

The extension of the bike path from Granite Street to Gallison Hill Rd. is well underway, with construction to begin next year.

Finally, the Taylor Street project will include the construction of a new bike and pedestrian bridge across the North Branch, and a new segment of the bike path from Taylor Street to Main Street. Construction on that project will begin next year as well.

Investing in Downtown Promotion

Montpelier voters approved last year the creation of the Downtown Improvement District. The new DID will raise about $75,000 per year from property owners in the downtown area which will be used to promote downtown through marketing, events and streetscape improvements.

Montpelier Alive, which will administer the DID, has received approval to allocate $75,000 of DID funds for branding and marketing, community and arts grants, way-finding signs, street furniture, and seasonal decorations. And Montpelier Alive continues to sponsor many other events that bring life to downtown, including our amazing July 3rd celebration.

A DID-funded project was on full display downtown last weekend with the Park in the Street festival. The event was organized by Meg Schultz of Meg's Events. By all accounts (and as you can see from the photos on this page) the event was a huge success. Thousands of tourists and residents packed State Street and enjoyed dozens of venues set up by local merchants and out-of-town artists.

I heard from many people that we should close State Street to car traffic more often (or even permanently). We will be exploring more ways to draw tourists and shoppers to our core downtown. The reconstruction of State Street next year gives us an opportunity to rethink how our street is designed to make it more attractive to pedestrians.

Local property owner Jesse Jacobs is organizing a series of events in July that will build on the publicly-funded investments in our downtown. ArtsRiot, a Burlington-based community organizing company, will bring its successful Food Truck rallies to Montpelier for four consecutive Saturdays beginning on July 12.

These events will bring food trucks in mobile kitchens to a block-style party atmosphere in the parking lot behind Aubuchon’s Hardware. With live performances, open galleries and art studios and great food, this event series will bring artists, families, and visitors downtown. The ArtsRiot event in Burlington has turned the heart of the South End Arts District into a one-of-kind local gathering place, and it promises to be an amazing experience in Montpelier.

Developing the Transit Center

The Taylor Street development will transform a large section of downtown that has long been ignored. Local architectural firm Gossens-Bachman has been leading a public discussion on how to design the new Taylor Street transit center and commercial development so that it incorporates and builds on what works within our existing downtown area and reflects our communities' values. We need to ensure that the Taylor Street development contributes to the vibrancy of our downtown by creating public gathering spaces and allowing access to the river, a long-ignored asset of our community. The new transit center will make Montpelier much more accessible by alternative transportation.

Alleviating Parking Pressures

While I don't believe that great cities are defined by their friendliness to cars, we do need to ensure that we provide adequate parking. We are considering a variety of options to propose for a parking garage. A garage could advance our downtown goals in a number of ways, including 1) alleviating a problem that seems to have grown in recent years, 2) allowing for more of the Taylor Street property (and perhaps other areas) to be used for green space or other public uses, and 3) supporting the construction of more downtown housing.

We are in the early stages of evaluating the options for a garage. These options will be presented in the near future for the city council to consider.

Please do not hesitate to call or email me any time at 223-4651 or

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August 10, 2012

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Sep 22, 2014 7:00 pm

Development Review Board meeting


Sep 29, 2014 5:00 pm

Planning Commission Meeting


Sep 30, 2014 5:30 pm

Design Review Committee meeting

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