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Builder proposes commercial, apartment space in downtown White River Junction

  • Ted Carbino, of White River Junction, Vt walks past an empty lot on South Main Street in White River Junction, Vt., on Monday, June 24, 2019. Carbino has lived in the village for 20 years and like the changes he has seen. Developer Mike Davidson is proposing to build a five-story building on the lot -- the 43,641 square-foot building is to have a mix of commercial space and apartments. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • An artist's rendering of the proposed five-story building on South Main Street in White River Junction, Vt., from developer Mike Davidson. The 43,641 square-foot building is to have a mix of retail space and apartments. (Courtesy Studio Nexus Architects + Planners)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/24/2019 10:25:39 PM
Modified: 6/25/2019 6:19:08 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A major Upper Valley developer is proposing to construct a five-story mixed-use building in downtown White River Junction.

The 43,600-square-foot building proposed by Mike Davidson for 132 S. Main St. would house a nearly 5,000-square-foot commercial space on the first floor, as well as up to 52 apartments, according to preliminary plans submitted to Hartford’s planning office. The apartments would be a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units on all five floors.

The nonprofit theater company Northern Stage also could lease 22 of the new apartments for visiting actors and production personnel, the plans said.

“I think it’s good for downtown,” said Ken Parker, a White River Junction insurance agent and former Selectboard chairman. “I think it certainly adds another dimension of growth and renaissance in the downtown area, which I think is healthy for the economy there.”

Parker said the building would join other recent developments proving the downtown area is both economically viable and drawing new residents.

“It’s nice to see people investing their resources and their assets to help the community achieve its potential as a unique and desirable place in the Upper Valley,” he said.

The proposed “L”-shaped structure would replace a vacant lot next to 112 S. Main St., which is a nine-unit apartment building also owned by Davidson, and is across the street from a mixed-use building, including 22 apartments, opened in 2015 by former Selectboard member Matt Bucy in an old American Legion building.

Preliminary designs submitted to the town show a modern, brick- and gray-colored building with large windows and balconies overlooking the street. Inspiration came from the nearby Gates-Briggs Building, the Village at White River Junction and the architecture of Railroad Row, according to White River Junction-based Studio Nexus Architects and Planners.

“This site emulates a street corner lot, offering a recognizable tower element, two frontages and multiple entrances, diversifying the streetscape and increasing opportunities for a mixture of uses,” the firm wrote in a June 3 letter to the Hartford Planning Commission.

The company called the building a “gateway” for those traveling to White River Junction from the south and thus was designed to be “pedestrian friendly” with a continuous sidewalk, transparent storefronts and a pocket park. Although Davidson is in talks with a single company to fill the downstairs commercial space, it could be leased to four separate stores with frontage on South Main Street.

Inside, 10 studio apartments, six two-bedroom and six one-bedroom units would be dedicated to Northern Stage employees, according to plans.

“South Main Street is one of the options that we are considering for housing, but it’s not official or confirmed,” Ruby Summers, the theater group’s sales and marketing director, said on Monday.

She said Northern Stage has long searched for housing for directors, actors and production staff it employs largely between September and May.

It now leases 18 out of 36 studio apartments at the former College Cleaner’s plant, which Davidson redeveloped in 2017, and also has an additional five units downtown after purchasing the Twin State Typewriter building in 2018. Employees also are housed at condominiums in Quechee and an apartment on Sykes Mountain Avenue, Summers said.

“We have 150 contracts processed every year through Northern Stage and almost all of those people are housed,” she said.

Parking would be 62 spaces, according to plans. Fourteen of those would be on site with another 48 between Vermont Salvage and the railroad tracks on a parcel Davidson plans to lease.

Hartford’s zoning regulations require the building to have 81 spaces, but Davidson plans to request a reduction, partially because there’s town-owned spaces nearby and Northern Stage discourages its short-term employees from bringing their own vehicles.

The nonprofit theater company provides vehicles in its own parking lot for employees to carpool.

Parking “needs to be looked at closely,” members of the Hartford Planning Commission told Davidson on June 10, according to minutes of the meeting.

Davidson, who owns properties in Hartford, Lebanon and Enfield, is expected to soon file a formal application with the commission, Hartford Zoning Administrator Jo-Ann Ells said on Monday. A formal hearing will then be scheduled for August.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.




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