Federal money is waiting to be spent on the downtown parking pit.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that $330,000 in supplemental brownfields funding was being provided to the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. State officials said the money was being designated for 453 Pine St. in Burlington, the Yellow Barn in Hardwick and the former Berwick Hotel site, better known locally as the parking pit.
“In a nutshell, it’s a good opportunity to secure some financing for the cleanup,” said Justin Belden, vice president of Belden Construction, which owns the pit. “Every little bit helps because it’s going to be an expensive cleanup.”
The pit has been so designated since the Berwick Hotel burned down in 1973. Plans to redevelop the property have been repeatedly complicated by contamination at the site from the hotel’s remains and the building’s prior uses. One assessment put the cleanup cost at $500,000.
The Rutland Herald bought the pit in 1975. Belden Construction bought the pit along with the former Rutland Herald building last year. Belden said the company was still in the process of working with environmental consultants to determine just what they had to do to clean up the property.
“There’s a couple more drafts that have to be drafted and approved by the state before we get to the cleanup,” Belden said. “We don’t have a specific number (for the cost) yet because it depends on the plan that the state approves. There’s quite a few variables there.”
Kristie Farnham, director of business support for the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD), said that an initial assessment prior to the purchase got the site listed as eligible for EPA funding.
“The current redevelopment goal is to remediate the site and ready it for redevelopment,” Farnham wrote. “This includes anticipated renovation of existing structures for commercial reuse. At present, additional environmental site characterization is underway, which will inform the scope, scale and timeline of the cleanup plan. Once the cleanup plan is formalized and the Corrective Action Plan (CAP) is approved, ACCD’s Brownfields Initiative will be at the ready with funding for CAP implementation.”
Some renovations have already taken place — Belden fixed up the basement of the former Herald building and has rented it to a company for the manufacture of medical devices.
“We’re actively renovating the building and looking for development opportunities, trying to clean up the pit, make it a viable commercial site, help with the rejuvenation of downtown,” Belden said.