Gov. Peter Shumlin, key members of his administration, lawmakers and local officials joined Randolph developer Sam Sammis today to officially sign off on construction of the state's first public-private visitor center serving both north- and southbound travelers on I-89 in Randolph. The facility is part of Sammis' 172 acre plan for the site off Exit 4 that includes residential units, manufacturing space, a hotel, fitness center and more.
Under the 30-year agreement, Sammis will pay for construction and operation of the visitors center, which will be open 365 days a year from at least 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. The site will offer rest rooms, complimentary coffee, Vermont tourism information, as well as Vermont-made products from across the state -- some for purchase in the Vermont Products Showcase portion of the facility that will also highlight Vermont businesses and state-wide attractions. The building is designed to resemble a barn to blend into the Vermont landscape. One end of the building will host the State sanctioned visitor center, the other end housing the Vermont Products Showcase.
In addition, Sammis plans to add 274 residential units, 280,000 square feet of office space, 236,000 square feet of light manufacturing space, and a 180-bed hotel and conference center on land he owns near the visitors center. Sammis is required to secure proper permits before construction can begin. The project is to be completed in the Spring of 2019 or earlier.
"In the past, during tough budget times, we have seen visitor centers closed and hours of service reduced. This doesn't make any sense to me in a state so reliant on tourism," Gov. Shumlin said. "Vermont hosts six times its population annually at its network of visitor centers, which are critical to the success of the many businesses and communities. With a projected half million travelers stopping at our new Visitors' Center, the adjacent Vermont Products Showcase will be a huge boost to Vermont craftspeople and service providers. "
The Governor said these public-private could be critical in helping Vermont provide visitor services along our highways in the future. " We know there are limits to how much government can spend," Gov. Shumlin said. "A public-private partnership that spurs economic growth, promotes Vermont and creates jobs while saving valuable taxpayer dollars is clearly a path heading in the right direction."
"When I first heard about this proposal I thought it sounded too good to be true. Imagine, a private developer offering to build a top quality visitor center for the State on private property, staff it and operate for thirty years and at what cost to the State? Zero," said Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding. "We are confident this project will be a job creator, generate new revenues and save the state many millions in avoided spending while providing quality services to the travelling public."
Commerce and Community Development Secretary Lawrence Miller called the project a win-win project, adding, " his project is good for visitors to Vermont, for Vermont product manufacturers and attractions, and will provide an opportunity for economic activity and job creation in Central Vermont."
The visitors center also meets the Agency of Transportation's goal of providing safe and comfortable traveler services to visitors in passenger vehicles and to those in the trucking industry who transport goods up and down interstate corridors.
"The legacy costs this project will generate in savings will allow VTRANS to make investments in roads, bridges and paving projects that would be competing for these funds," said Transportation Secretary Brian Searles. "This is an extraordinary opportunity the state is being presented with."