While equipment and crews were on site and working a week before, the Village of Essex Junction held an official groundbreaking ceremony March 19 to celebrate the commencement of Phase 1 of the Chittenden Crossing project at the Five Corners.
The Village Board of Trustees, village and town staff, developers, regional planning commissioners, and others gathered at 3 Maple Street to pose with golden shovels on the ground that will soon house a four-storey building which will have residential and commercial purposes.
“It's definitely exciting to see,” said Benjamin Avery, vice president of development for BlackRock Construction--the project’s developer. “Where everything's at today, it feels pretty good to have something, somewhere, feeling a little normal for us,” he added--referring to the evolving coronavirus situation.
3 Maple will have 3,870 square feet of retail commercial space in the first floor--set to be utilized by the restaurant group which owns the Grazers restaurants in Williston and St. Albans. The upper three storeys will consist of 30 residential units while there will be surface-level parking at the bottom of the building.
“This is a great project,” said Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission Senior Planner Dan Albrecht. “We wrote the grant with a real focus on housing. When we get a housing project, we try and help it. We fund a lot of projects around the county, but I'm really proud of this one; especially because it's going to have an affordable housing component--the biggest need here in Chittenden County as we all know.”
“Thanks to the village, too, for being supportive,” Avery added. “Robin [Pierce] has been instrumental in helping us get this done. These are the sorts of projects that we're focused on, and these seem to be the sorts of projects that Vermonters want to see. It's a great time to be a part of it, and it's actually a great time to be in Essex Junction.”
Another major player in the development is KAS Inc., a local enterprise that provides environmental and industrial hygiene consulting services. The various groups had to work together to make sure the property was suitable for the project as it was a brownfield site--meaning “the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Years ago, a plume from a nearby gas station contaminated the site and rendered it a brownfield.
“I just want to say that, we can do all the planning we want here in the village, and we can have all kinds of wishes of things we want to see happen,” said Trustee George Tyler, “but unless we get developers and investors who are willing to commit and actually make it happen, it doesn't. So we really appreciate you being here.”
“To piggy-back off of that,” Trustees President Andrew Brown added, “we wouldn't be where we are today without the work of BlackRock and others… they’ve allowed for this to happen--to better utilize the space that we have. Our infrastructure is the one thing we can't change; we have a limited geographic footprint. So by having people that come in to help us and allow us to better utilize that space and provide more housing for future residents and current residents--we appreciate that. It will certainly have a big impact on our community for a long time to come.”
3 Maple is expected to be completed in early 2021, however the project’s schedule may be impacted and extended due to COVID-19.
The groundbreaking ceremony was held at just the right time--being days before a substantial snowfall and less than a week before Vermont Governor Phil Scott issued a “stay at home” order in an attempt to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.