In the Northeast Kingdom Newport is a community that continues to look for economic boosts. It's also a place with ties to several failed EB-5 plans. But now, things are trending up. Plans are underway in the Gateway to Lake Memphremagog.
Improvements coming to downtown Newport. City and state leaders hope a combinations of taking better advantage of Lake Memphramagog and improving key, local businesses will bring the city back to it's heyday. "It's about finding the right assets and putting them in place in a mindful way," said Mike Schirling, the State's new Secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. He was just one of a group of local and state leaders who gathered Thursday to discuss redevelopment efforts for the City.
"We have to keep a supermarket downtown. We've got 10,000 people that come a week, that's an integral part of the community and connection," stated Ernie Pomerleau, President of his family's real estate company. Pomerleau says development is now happening in Newport. First on the list, upgrades and renovations to the Vista Supermarket. "As always we encourage local shopping, I'm sure that's what people that have businesses in this local community root for," Tim Merrill explained. Merrill is General Manager of the Downtown based Supermarket. He was happy to announce the supermarket group has singed a new ten year lease, ensuring the business, which employs 60 people, stays downtown.
That's not all.
"When public, private, non-profit partners all come together, to create opportunities to move our economy and our communities forward, that's the most impactful work we can do," stated Schirling. He says the state is also sending a grant to Newport. It'll help the community identify other re-development opportunities. Just like the creation of pedestrian and bike paths, slated to be built this year. The paths will better connect the downtown corridor, while providing better access to Lake Memphremagog.
The Preservation Trust of Vermont has also committed $160 thousand towards development in Newport. Some of those funds have already been allocated to the Vista Supermarket renovations. Other dollars are also going to the Pick & Shovel, a local hardware store, and the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center. The three have become staples in the Newport economy.
While some people in the Northeast Kingdom are upset about the crater still in the middle of their downtown, thanks to a failed EB-5 plan calling for a hotel and retail space, these leaders ask for just a little more patience. "It's a big, vacant spot on Main Street, but there are few downtowns in the country that have the opportunity to take a big piece of the center of their town and re-imagine what it could be," said Schirling. Mayor Paul Monette added, "What goes there will be here for 50 years or more. It's vital we have the right fit for our downtown."
Improvements to the Vista Supermarket are already happening, and work on the pedestrian and bike pathways will begin this spring.
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