Community Spotlight: Saint Albans
Incorporated as a village in 1896 and later as a city in 1902, Saint Albans has long been recognized for its importance as a terminus for the Vermont and Canadian railroads. Today, it continues to function as a commercial hub throughout Franklin County and Northwest Vermont, balancing its growth efforts with sustainable city planning strategies.
Saint Albans historic downtown is the focus of community life and recently became the sixth Vermont community to gain approval as a state-designated Growth Center. The Growth Center, which encompasses most of the city limits, will guide infill, historic renovation and brownfield development plans. The City is currently in the midst of a major revitalization effort since completion of the Saint Albans Downtown Master Plan, which recommended improvements such as the expansion of outdoor dining and picnicking areas in Taylor Park, a focal point of the downtown. During the summer months, the Park is host to a Friday evening concert series and the Northwest Farmers Market, which runs from May through October, and as the site of many of the activities during the annual Maple Festival in April.
Additional components of the downtown revitalization effort include the renovation and redevelopment of some historic buildings, such as the Old Saint Albans Hotel and the Foundry Building, as well as construction of a new multi-modal center in the downtown to provide more efficient connections between bus lines, Amtrak service and walking paths within the city.
With assistance from the Vermont Housing Finance Agency and the Vermont Downtown Program, Saint Albans has developed several successful tax-credit projects involving the redevelopment of abandoned buildings in the downtown area into mixed-use spaces. These include the Waugh Opera House, the Fishmans Department Store building, and several buildings along Lake Street. These projects combine living space in the form of family and senior housing with first floor retail and office spaces, concentrating commercial and residential life within the heart of downtown.
Moving beyond the city limits, Saint Albans Town offers visitors numerous recreational activities. Burton Island State Park, located directly on Lake Champlain, offers a variety of recreational activities like camping and canoe and rowboat rentals. Further inland is Hard’ack recreation area which offers a field for lacrosse and soccer, and mountain biking trails. The hill, also part of the area, provides a variety of winter activities. This is also the location of the Saint Albans Winter Carnival which offers a winter running race, children’s activities, sleigh rides and maple syrup tastings.
Saint Albans City is in the midst of an exciting period of redevelopment and revitalization, providing examples of innovative and smart city planning by attracting commercial and residential development without sacrificing recreational spaces and natural areas.