Fixing up Fairlee: New park opens at site of 2007 fire

Town leaders are working to liven up the downtown in Fairlee, Vermont.
Published: Dec. 14, 2022 at 6:16 AM EST
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FAIRLEE, Vt. (WCAX) - Town leaders in Fairlee are working to liven up the downtown over a decade after a major fire.

Last October we went to Fairlee, where the community was breaking ground on a park at the site of where the Colby Block building once stood. The two-story commercial complex with small businesses, apartments and a grocery store burned down 15 years ago. Now, the park is complete and the town is looking for other ways to make the downtown more vibrant.

Deecie Denison and the Chapman cousins purchased the Colby Block land for $85,000 last fall. Thanks to $7,500 from crowdfunding, community members planted trees at the site. Chapman’s Place looks different now. Dirt has been replaced by grass, benches, a gazebo and a coffee hut.

“We need it, especially after COVID. We really just want a place where you can sit down, talk with friends, you know where there are no stresses, no hassle. You don’t even have to buy anything here,” said Denison.

She says it was a draw for folks in the summer, creating a lively atmosphere in the spot for the first time in over a decade.

Getting people to come and stay downtown is a goal of town leaders.

“A lot of people drive on Route 5 but not a lot of people stop here,” Fairlee Selectboard Chair Peter Berger said.

Berger said the town is working to liven up the entire area, including the possibility of adding across the street from Chapman’s Place.

“Engineering companies studying the soils we’re under, we’re doing septic. Homes downtown-- which is really to see whether we can have increased density. So, that apartment building, like Jonah’s, can be more mid-rise and increase density,” said Berger.

People will need a way to get around, so Berger said they’re working with VTrans to increase crosswalks and sidewalks downtown. He also said they’ve added a bus stop downtown with Tri-Valley Transit to have a route that brings riders to Bradford, Woodsville and back in a day.

“The idea of increasing accessibility, transportation, and just the general use of sidewalks in the town has been our goal,” said Berger.

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Fairlee community revitalizes space where commercial complex burned down