On September 9, 2018, an excavator drove up to the Discount Beverage and Redemption Center and ripped through the small brick building. The Beverage Center, once an important part of the Montpelier community, was demolished after nearly 70 years of business to make room for a bike path, part of the new Montpelier Transit Center.
Montpelier weighed the trade-offs in development. Many citizens of Montpelier are excited about the prospective Transit Center, but some Montpelier residents argue that it was unnecessary to remove a convenient place to buy beverages and recycle bottles. In the long-term, these decisions determine what the city of Montpelier will be.
“It was very controversial because it was the only bottle return center right in Montpelier,” said Chris Jolly, a Planning and Programming Engineer for the Federal Highway Division office in Montpelier. “It was really convenient for a lot of people and any time you close a business you’re losing jobs.”
The closing of the Beverage Center left eight people unemployed. “It may not seem like a lot, but to the people that work there, they’re losing a steady source of income,” said Jolly.
The Montpelier Discount Beverage and Redemption Center before and after its demolition.
In addition to lost jobs, Montpelier lost some business when Discount Beverage was shut down. A recent Times Argus article claimed that the store brought in an average of 500-600 customers and processed around 10,000 cans every day.
Now, there are only a handful of large-scale bottle return centers in the area for those customers to redeem their bottles: The Maplewood Convenience store in Barre and the Waterbury RTR center. Business has increased drastically for these bottle return centers since the closing of Montpelier Discount Beverage.
“We are seeing about a 25% increase in business since the closing,” said Ben Cubit, an employee of the Waterbury RTR Center. “The problem is that people from Montpelier are not only coming in with their bottles but their trash and recyclables, which is almost too much for us to handle,” Cubit added. The RTR Center ended up having to place restrictions on their customers and asked that they bring in no more than three trash bags at one time.
This influx of bottles and recyclables has slowed in the winter months, but the Times Argus said that the Waterbury RTR Center was extremely close to closing in the summer. They went from processing 6,000 bottles a day before the closing of the Montpelier Discount Beverage to processing 12,000 to 15,000 bottles a day. Cubit said that “it would be a good thing to have a place like this to send bottles, trash, and recyclables in every town.”
While some are focused on the downsides of losing the Beverage Center, the City of Montpelier is gauging what the Transit Center will bring to the city. How many jobs will the Transit Center bring to the city? How much new business will it bring in? Does the bike path that replaced the Bottle Redemption Center have anything directly to do with bringing in jobs? Or is it just a small part of the larger picture?
The Discount Beverage Center might have been a successful business, but it was demolished to make way for a bike path. This particular bike path is the final piece of the puzzle for the Montpellier Transit Center that is being built after nearly 20 years of planning.
“The new bike path had to go right through where the building was and then behind the Shaws Supermarket. When it comes to federal aid projects like this, the state has the right of eminent domain,” said Chris Jolly of the Federal Highway Division. “Eminent domain is where we determine whether a property is needed for a project and we can go in and buy it for fair market value.”
Despite acquiring several other properties including the Discount Beverage Center, the proposed Montpelier Transit Center will bring in a lot more business for the city.
The Transit Center includes plans to build 30 affordable housing units and 18 more apartments in Montpelier’s French Block, according to VTDigger. The bike path that took the place of the Discount Beverage and Redemption Center was also a key linchpin in the project, as it will connect downtown Montpelier to the North Branch of the Winooski River.
Proposed designs for the Montpelier Transit Center building (left) and the piece of the bike path that replaced the Discount Beverage (right).
The city looked everywhere to find a place for the Beverage Center to be relocated, but unfortunately, there was not a location suitable enough for the owners and they ultimately made the decision to close and were paid by the City of Montpelier for their business.
“The Transit Center will provide a place for residents to catch public transportation,” said Assistant Montpelier City Manager, Susan Allen. “This is one facility where they can sit, get a cup of coffee and catch a bus anywhere around the city or up to Burlington,” she added. “It’s also designed to add on a train terminal, so it’ll be great for bringing tourists down from Burlington, which is good for the economy.”
“If there truly is a market for bottle redemption,” Allen said, “somebody will probably come back with a business.”