Developer purchases house next door
By Jason Starr
The Essex Reporter
The Five Corners redevelopment project at the corner of Pearl and Park streets is transitioning this week from digging an underground parking garage to raising the walls that will make up the village of Essex Junction’s tallest building.
The four-story apartment building with ground-floor commercial space is on pace to open next spring, developer Brett Grabowski of Milot Real Estate said in an interview Friday.
Pedestrians can expect a portion of the sidewalk along Pearl Street to be narrowed as the building foundation is poured along Pearl Street. According to Essex Junction Community Relations Assistant Darby Mayville, the narrowed sidewalk will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and safety personnel will be on site to assist pedestrians.
Grabowski bought the former People’s Bank branch site last year and permitted the redevelopment through the Essex Junction Planning Commission and Vermont Natural Resources Board (Act 250). Grabowski confirmed Friday that he has since purchased the house at 8 Pearl St., next to the construction site. Excavators have been using the property to park when idle. Grabowski plans to rehabilitate the house as a separate project.
He said he purchased the house as a way to smooth over old parking easements that tie the bank property together with the neighboring houses on Pearl Street.
“The bank had plans that never materialized, but the agreements were put in place,” Grabowski said. “(Purchasing 8 Pearl St.) simplified some things with the way the project is designed.”
Village officials reacted to Grabowski’s purchase of the house as a public opportunity. According to emails between village President George Tyler, Municipal Manger Pat Scheidel and Finance Director Lauren Morrisseau published on the village website, both the Essex Junction Historical Society and the Village of Essex Junction are interested in acquiring the property.
Grabowski said he is aware of the public interest in the building, but no specific discussions have taken place.
“The intent is for that building to be restored to its historical nature,” he said. “Whether it’s by me or somebody else, who knows?”
In an email to Scheidel, Morrisseau wrote: “There has not at this time been a written offer and, in fact, Milot is still not sure what parts of the property they will use as part of their project. But they are very interested in the possibility of working with the village. When they decide how much of the property they don’t need for their project they will approach us with an offer. (Grabowski) said that when that time comes, the village will have first choice of refusal.”
Tyler wrote in an email to Scheidel that the building could fulfill a desire of the Essex Junction Fire Department to have a home for firefighter interns from Vermont Technical College, which would bolster the department’s volunteer ranks. Tyler stressed that any decision on acquiring property would rest with the Board of Trustees.