Decisions to be made for vacant Main Street building in Saxtons River

37 Main Street building Saxtons River Vt. Photo provided.

SAXTONS RIVER, Vt. – Back in October, a meeting was held in Saxtons River to discuss the future of 37 Main Street. The former hardware store, now a vacant building, was donated to the nonprofit organization Main Street Arts, which is located next door.

Dozens of local residents attended the meeting, along with Saxtons River Village President, Amy Howlett, and Professor Robert Ryan, chairman of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Department of Landscaping Architecture and Regional Planning. Ryan has previously worked on several other Vermont-area projects.

During the 90-minute planning workshop held in the upstairs theatre at Main Street Arts, several ideas for the vacant building were discussed, including a new fire station, a coffee shop or café, or using the property for buried utility lines.

After a 2020 engineering study had deemed the building too expensive to rehabilitate, the town of Rockingham obtained a grant to bring in Ryan and the UMass planners to assist in finding out what the townspeople wanted to happen with the property. Then, in an early November meeting, six groups discussed the good and bad points on three different ideas: a fire station, a green space, and mixed use/residential.

“The final meeting for the (upcoming) municipal planning grant is set for Thursday, Dec. 15, (6:30 p.m.) at 35 Main Street, aka Main Street Arts,” Amy Howlett said in a recent interview. “Fact TV will livestream the event, and the format will include statements from Main Street Arts, and then the UMass at Amherst consulting team will review the previous information gathered and also report on the three ideas that proved most popular with the community.”

The team will also suggest the next steps in the process, answer questions from attendees and moving forward, will also be researching ideas to calm traffic on the west side of the village, which includes 35 Main Street.

“Later in December, the team will provide a full written report to the Saxtons River Village Trustees,” Howlett said. “The report will include all of the information gathered during interviews, picture selection, and all the discussions from September through December.

“As a citizen, I was very happy to see the turnout at the two public meetings, and the mood was upbeat and thoughtful. We had a good mix of people who have lived here for many years and newcomers to the village. The consulting team used the meetings effectively, giving people information and choices to discuss and making notes about their decisions.”

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