A rendering of the proposed reconstruction of Winooski's Main Street
Winooski voters will decide next Tuesday whether to approve a $23 million facelift of northern Main Street.
The bond would advance a proposal to bury power lines, widen sidewalks, plant street trees, create a dedicated bike lane, and overhaul water and sewer infrastructure on a three-quarter mile stretch of Main. The section begins at a railroad bridge just north of the Winooski traffic circle and continues uphill to Tigan Street, just before Exit 16 of Interstate 89.
The idea is to make the heavily trafficked corridor more pedestrian-friendly and vibrant, with features that are similar to the ones on the lower stretch of Main.
Approval of the bond would be a "yellow light" for the Main Street reconstruction project, according to city manager Jessie Baker. It would allow the city council to apply for grants and explore funding in greater detail before making a final decision.
“We can't put together a definitive funding package until the community decides that this is something that they want to do,” Baker said.
The council would weigh all the options and costs and then decide whether to proceed, she said. The earliest construction could start is spring of 2020.
The city has held several meetings about the project, including a community dinner that brought out 150 people last week. Some were supportive, others worried about the price tag.
"I think people are excited about the project and realizing the community vision," said Baker, "and I think there's concern about the impact to the tax rate. We’ll have to see what the voters decide."
The council estimates a 4 to 6 percent increase in municipal taxes if the project happens. On a home priced at $225,000, that translates to an increase of about $150 a year. Municipal water and wastewater rates would increase around 2.5 percent, according to preliminary estimates.
The city is looking at many funding options, including federal loans. It might also establish a 1 percent local options tax on rooms, meals and alcohol to help pay off borrowing for the project. That would generate around $150,000 annually, according to Baker.
The redesign is intended to make the gateway artery more inviting, especially as new development pops up there. One new apartment building was recently completed on Main and another is nearly complete.
Meanwhile, the proposed Strand concert venue and office/retail building at the corner of West Allen and Main is on hold, Baker said. Redstone, the Burlington-based developers of the project, have had trouble obtaining financing for the building, according to Baker.
Still, she's confident about the potential of the prominent corner site.
“Redstone owns the parcel and has done a lot of interesting development here in Winooski," Baker said. "I'm sure they will identify another exciting project for our community.”
Another meeting on the bond vote will take place at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Winooski City Hall.