City officials said Friday a contract for the Center Street Marketplace, also known as the Center Street Alley project, was awarded Wednesday and construction could begin next week with a goal of substantial completion by the end of November.
Brennan Duffy, executive director of the Rutland Redevelopment Authority, described the goal of the project as creating a “vibrant public space allowing passive recreation and commercial opportunities.”
His news release said the marketplace is “expected to be a catalyst for future investment” in Rutland’s downtown.
On Friday, Duffy said “passive recreation” meant activities like reading, outdoor dining and visiting with friends rather than a “sand volleyball court.”
The project is expected to create a an open-air public gathering space at the heart of the existing buildings between Center, Washington and Wales streets and Merchant’s Row.
The project is also expected to include fencing and lighting, which Duffy said was made possible by a number of contributors.
The idea for the alley project started with Rutland’s work on developing a “creative economy.” In 2010, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., secured about $974,000 in federal funding. Over time, through engineering and planning studies that amount was reduced and the project seemed to be in serious doubt due to construction estimates that were well over expectations.
However, earlier this year, the Board of Aldermen committed $200,000 from the Zamias Fund, partially at the urging of new Mayor David Allaire, who promised during his campaign to move the project forward.
The request had been for $150,000, but Allaire, along with some of the aldermen, pushed for greater funding to ensure some aspects that might have otherwise been cut, such as gates and fencing, were part of the finished project.
Allaire said he was pleased that the Center Street project, like the pool at White’s Park, were both moving forward this summer as he had promised voters they would be among his priorities.
“I think this is going to be a tremendous opportunity for the city of Rutland and the downtown to have a space where we can provide something for folks, for their pleasure, for their meetings, for all sorts of events,” he said. “I look forward to the next few weeks of construction.”
Allaire also committed $50,000 from the city’s contingency fund from the last fiscal year. Duffy’s organization, the RRA, also committed $50,000 from its capital improvement fund. The project also received a $62,000 Downtown Transportation Fund Award from the state in 2016.
The Rotary Club of Rutland pledged $25,000 and another $25,000 from the Rutland Blooms project of Green Mountain Power.
“Those were new sources of funding,” Duffy said. “We reached out to folks and asked themto contribute to help this project move forward and we got these commitments. That allowed us to go out to bid in May.”
Duffy said an application has also been made for $25,000 to Vermont’s Department of Building and General Services. The grant is for recreational facilities and if the application is successful, Duffy said some other amenities that had been cut to reduce costs, like benches, tables and bicycle racks, would be added back in.
The construction, because it will take place behind existing buildings, is not expected to change the traffic flow in the downtown.
Duffy said officials with the RRA believe the Center Street Marketplace will be a “recreational asset to the community.”
“We’re expecting there will some commercial investment that’s going to be made as part of this,” he said. “There are a number of abutting restaurants and I think they’ll have a very positive reaction.”
Duffy said Foley’s plan to add retail stores and possibly a restaurant that opens into the alley would also help make the downtown more vibrant.
The alley project could also encourage the development of more housing on the upper floors of some of the downtown buildings as well, Duffy said.
One idea that’s been considered is theatrical or musical performances, possibly in partnership with the Paramount Theatre.
“There’s a lot of opportunity and we’ll have to see how we can exploit that opportunity,” Duffy said.