by Maggie Lee, UVM Community News Service
CABOT – The Cabot Community Association (CCA) unveiled plans at the Cabot Select Board meeting on March 16 to tear down the structure on the property they had purchased at 3065 Main Street and utilize the plot to create a riverside park. While the prospect of a park in Cabot Village excites many, it has been a long road to get to this point.
When the CCA first started looking into economic development options for Cabot Village, Lori Augustyniak, executive director of the CCA, says, “We hit this roadblock immediately, which was the businesses in town were already established and there really wasn’t any place else for more business development in the village.” The opportunity to purchase the property was a turning point for the CCA’s efforts to further its mission of enhancing community living in Cabot.
The property was purchased with help from a loan from the Cabot Community Investment Fund in January of 2018. Shortly thereafter, planning commenced on the future of the small property at 3065 Main Street. Initial plans were for a local, food-related business and manufacturing site that would have housed offices as well as provide space for a local artist gallery. Those plans, however, proved too large-scale for the small property and were scrapped early on.
Starting at what felt like square one for a second time, “was a little discouraging” for Augustyniak and the CCA. Fortunately, through a relationship with the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the CCA was able to secure funding to bring in an outside consultant to help develop a vision for the space.
Isaac Wagner, a development consultant at Wagner Development Partners, based out of Brattleboro, was brought on to aid in developing options the CCA could pursue with the property. Augustyniak says that, at first, “It was pretty bumpy because we really weren’t sure what we wanted to do with it. There were a lot of different ideas.”
Among those ideas were affordable workforce housing, an art gallery, retail space, or a childcare facility. With each of these ideas, the CCA walked through the process with Wagner but, “these barrier signs kept coming up, saying the site’s not a big enough,” or the plan would require a right-of-way, something the property currently lacks.
The CCA also had to contend with the existing building’s historical significance. Wagner helped the organization interpret and navigate state regulations regarding development of potentially historic sites, as well as determine what repairs would need to be made and their associated costs. According to Augustyniak, the building had been listed as salvage by the town, but the CCA wanted to ensure they went through the proper processes to move forward with development.
The idea of a park came up rather organically within the CCA and the ideas just snow-balled from there. Augustyniak described them as “yes, and” moments — a cascade of ideas building off each other. That stream of ideas did have to be tempered slightly by budgetary constraints, but Augustyniak is excited about where the CCA has landed in its plans for 3065 Main Street. “The next steps will be fundraising,” says Augustyniak, “and being able to do some grant writing and other fundraising to actually pay for all of the work that needs to be done to realize that park plan.”
From here, the CCA will work on making the park a reality, especially as the town, state, nation, and globe recover from a year with the COVID-19 pandemic. Augustyniak says, “The space will be available to help us create all kinds of cool, fun activities or events that people want to see happen in the community.”