Governor Peter Shumlin visited Randolph this week to highlight an agreement between the state and developer Jesse “Sam” Sammis to build the first privately run public rest area on I-89.
The fanfare over the new rest area momentarily overshadowed a much larger development plan that has been in the works for several years and may soon be apparent to all who drive past Exit 4.
Exit 4 is the only easy-off stop for gas and other services between the New Hampshire border and the Barre-Montpelier area, thanks to a Mobil station and a McDonalds located just off the Interstate. They’re about to have lots of company if Sammis receives Act 250 approval for his plans to build his Green Mountain Center.
The development will cover 172 acres of land along the west side of the Interstate exchange. Sammis envisions 274 residential units, 280,000 square feet of office space, light manufacturing space, a fitness and recreation center, the public visitor center and an adjoining Vermont products showcase center.
Sammis will pay all the costs of constructing, maintaining and staffing the visitor center, which will operate in the same way as state-owned rest areas. He says the expense is offset by the benefits derived from the 1 million travelers (his estimate) who’ll pull off the Interstate annually to use the visitor center facilities.
As a result of a very long planning process and much debate in Randolph, it was decided that Sammis’ development won’t include retail space, which raises the question: If what he’s building is primarily housing and manufacturing how will he benefit from all those people pulling off the highway at Exit 4?
Sammis says the traffic created by the visitor center is of great interest to a number of hotel chains. He hopes that ultimately his Green Mountain Center will attract one of the chains to build a hotel and conference center.
Sammis hopes to receive Act 250 approval later this year and by spring of 2019, he plans to have transformed the now-quiet Exit 4 into a bustling multi-use center.