And since we're talking about 2013, let's look back at the top 13 stories we culled from the remarkable number of news stories that percolated throughout the Northshire these past 12 months. Call it a listicle or a Baker's Dozen. It was hard to select. They are listed in no particular order - each was important and significant in its own way.
The Sirloin Saloon: On July 10, demolition of the former Sirloin Saloon Restaurant began on Depot Street. The restaurant had been a local landmark for many years. Before it was a family-style restaurant, it was the site of a local nightclub known as The Five Flys which offered a place to dance and hear live music.
The area around the restaurant was also the former home of several small mills and foundries during Manchester's early years, and the town's Historical Society helped during the demolition and excavation. A new 19,450 square-foot building, to be known as the Marble Mill, has been under construction since then and is expected to open by this coming summer.
Park House: A new "Park House" which replaced a former office structure at the Dana Thompson Recreation Park opened last summer. The new 4,500 square foot facility includes an activity room for a variety of special functions as well as offices for the park and recreational department staff.
Village Picture Shows: The digital era overtook the town's remaining movie theater, and forced the theater into acquiring new projection equipment to screen mew movies, as traditional film stock fades into history.
The Village Pictures Shows launched a drive to raise the $175,000 needed to upgrade their equipment via Kickstarter, an online fundraising website that allows donors to make contributions to support causes or enterprises they wish to help. Depending on the size of the contributors, donors are rewarded with benefits or privileges in exchange for their financial support. The theater was shut down for the month of April before reopening in early May.
Manchester-Dorset Collaboration: A unique and unusual, and possibly historic, combined meeting was held Dec. 5 between the Manchester an Dorset select Boards. The two boards met to sign a memorandum of understanding which commits them to helping push forward an initiative to explore ways the towns could work together and share costs when it comes to public safety services, such as police protection, fire departments and rescue squad services. The first step will be the formation of a study group to explore where such savings might be found. If approved by voters during March town meeting, the study group is expected to start meeting sometime this coming Spring.
Construction starts on new library: Earlier this year, on June 21, ground was broken for a long discussed new library to replace the building in Manchester village which housed the Mark Skinner Library. Located on Cemetery avenue, the privately financed new structure will offer a variety of services and venues to accommodate the digital era in libraries. To be known as the Manchester Community Library, the 18,000 square foot structure will also serve as a community center, offering places for small and large group meetings, as well as providing space for children and young adults. Library officials are anticipating having the new building ready for opening by the fall of 2014.
Lee Krohn leaves as planning director: After 24 years, Lee Krohn Manchester's planning director an zoning administrator, left to take a new position with Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission. Over his nearly quarter-century of work as the town's planner, and over the past 10 or so years its main zoning administrator, Krohn oversaw the construction, permitting and development of virtually all the town's new construction. He was also instrumental in spearheading the work on the biggest infrastructure project seen locally in quite a while - the Roundabout, which replaced an obsolete intersection of three roadways in the heart of downtown Manchester.
Roundabout completed: It was really one of the top stories of 2012, but the historic Roundabout (actually two roundabouts) was formally declared done this past spring. Most of the work on the two roundabouts - one larger, one smaller - was finished in December, 2012, but some striping and fine tuning remained. The roundabout seems to have accomplished its main goal of easing traffic congestion at the intersection of Main and Depot street, where traffic backups on busy days an weekends were legendary and for many, aggravating.
Completion of the Roundabout was celebrated at the first of two streetfairs held on Main Street on June 21. A large crowd of festive area residents filled Main street, which was closed off to traffic, for the celebration.
Subway comes to town: No, it's not the A train made famous in Duke Ellington's classic tune, but a Subway franchise restaurant proposed for the Equinox Square Plaza near the intersection of Depot St. and Center Hill sparked some discussion and controversy that is still in progress. An appeal of an initial permit granted for Subway to open in a vacant former retail space questioned whether or not the proposed restaurant was a "restaurant" or a "fast food restaurant" which would have required many more available parking spaces. Town officials eventually concluded it fit within the town zoning ordinances as a "restaurant," but an appeal is still in play at the state level, and it is uncertain when, or if, the new restaurant will open.
Friendly's closes: Long a landmark and a stopping place for hungry residents and visitors alike, Friendly's closed its doors last June. The restaurant had been a local fixture since its opening 37 years ago.
The restaurant was acquired by another local restaurateur, however,, who is renovating the building and hopes to have it back in the business of serving food to its patrons sometime this coming year.
Manchester Shopping Center sold: Last July, the Manchester Shopping Center, located at 97 Depot street, was acquired by Crosspoint associates for $6.8 million. The shopping plaza, which totals almost 64,000 square feet, houses the Village Picture Shows, the Price Chopper Supermarket, Eastern mountain Sports, Manchester Pizza and Olympia Sports.
Another unused building behind the main plaza was also the former home of a bowling alley, which from time to time has figured in other potential development schemes.
Community Visits: Beginning in March, a series of three community-wide forums were held, a partnership between a local group known as Manchester 2020 and the Vermont Council on Rural Development. The "visits" which brought several experts and state officials familiar with the issues involved in helping communities adapt to changing times and circumstances, led to the creation of four distinct task forces, which are exploring ways of bringing a business "incubator" to town, examining possibilities for higher education services, expanding the town's Riverwalk and expanding the accessibility and quality of recreational bike riding.
Drug Sweeps: Two wide-ranging drug sweeps, one in January and the second in October. A joint law enforcement task force consisting of police officers from across Bennington County as well as the State Police collaborated on a round up of suspected drug felons that netted 48 people in the January sweep, and another 21 in October. Rising concerns about the prevalence of drug activity around the county helped prompt the unprecedented collaboration of police departments.
Village Country Inn: Long one of Manchester's better-known inns, the Village country inn closed its doors in 2006 and has sat unused since. This fall, another proposal to demolish the existing and increasingly dilapidated structure passed muster with the Village's Development Review Board, which approved a proposal to build a new inn along with several satellite cottages. The new complex is expected to open in the summer of 2015.
Happy New Year.