MOUNT VERNON — Work has begun on a new development that Mount Vernon city leaders hope will serve as a gateway to downtown.
At a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday, Mayor Jill Boudreau, City Council members and representatives of development company Visconsi celebrated the culmination of nearly three years of predevelopment work.
The development will bring about 24,300 square feet of commercial space to Mount Vernon alongside Interstate 5 south of East Kincaid Street, occupying a lot that’s been vacant for at least a decade.
“More construction is super important to bringing more economic development to the city,” Boudreau said.
The goal is to build a development that draws people from the freeway into the city’s downtown, she said.
Construction crews are working to prepare the land for development, installing infrastructure for utilities and an access road off Kincaid.
As a condition of project approval, Visconsi is required to make an improvement to Third and Kincaid streets to allow for U-turns and build a public trail along the western boundary.
Brad Goldberg, vice president of development for the Ohio-based company, said he’s been working on the project since late 2016 and that its success in getting off the ground is a testament to the way government can collaborate with companies.
“It was a great collaboration between public and private,” Goldberg said. “City staff was instrumental in making it happen.”
Rebecca Lowell, senior planner with the city, said construction could start on the first business, a 7-Eleven that will sit at the northwest corner of the property, as soon as infrastructure is in place — likely next spring.
Chris Phillips, director of development services for the city, said the 7-Eleven and any future development on the site will have to abide by the city’s downtown design standards, which mandate new construction fit in aesthetically with the historic neighborhood.
He said Starbucks has expressed some interest in the site, but has yet to commit.
While apartments have been a part of the city’s plan for the property, Visconsi has only signed on for the commercial construction on the northern half.
Earlier this year, soil contamination was discovered on the southern half of the property, and housing construction can’t begin there until it is addressed, Phillips said.
Goldberg said if the company decides to purchase the southern portion, housing would be part of its plan.