Jim Dickerson and Melissa O’Brien
Charlotter Jim Dickerson has a vision for the Spears property
For some time Charlotte citizens have watched and pondered the future of the gas station property located at the Route 7 intersection. Seemingly stuck in limbo, to date, the corner still lies idle. The property is uniquely located at a spot that is recharged with new visitors from the ferry traffic every half hour and also receives a steady flow of Route 7 travelers. The most recent plans to re-establish a filling station and expanded convenience store were withdrawn after much local rancor and regulatory hurdles.
Many in town have lamented the loss of a spot to refuel, get a tune-up, buy winter tires and in the summer grab a burger and cremee with the kids at Uncle Sam’s. The question is often posed, “Why can’t someone just make it happen again”? There is no short answer, of course. One may also wonder why local farmers, working dawn to dusk, can barely break even or why Vermont Life, a one-time icon of the bucolic Vermont lifestyle, has tanked. Full-day lift tickets to ski in our beautiful Green Mountains are no longer ten bucks; road maps are in our phones, and social media connections are the new “normal.” It’s a reality: things change.
The Spear family, longtime residents dating back to the early years of this town, are at a point where it is time to sell this unique corner property. Town resident Jim Dickerson recently proposed a potential project that may offer a viable solution to the dilemma of “which way to turn?”
Dickerson’s vision includes a mixed-use facility which would serve to benefit the town and local area. The Charlotte Arts and Cultural Center is a concept that would utilize and retrofit the existing structures on the property. The gas station structure would become a combination gallery, Uncle Sam’s Cafe and a venue for various after-hours uses ranging from classes and meetings as well as other uses including culural emphasis on all things from fly fishing to Native American history of the Champlain Valley. The interior would be designed with the ability to easily “morph” into an open area allowing for a multitude of options.
The southern building would be divided into a group of individual studio spaces for uses ranging from woodworking, sculpture, pottery, painting, metal work, glass-making and more. These spaces could be rented and provide a walk through viewing area for visitors to watch the artists at work.
Dickerson’s vision doesn’t end there: “A summer use would include a Sunday outdoor market featuring food, art and antiques, and other visitor friendly exhibits and events. This would operate in a manner not to conflict with the nearby Shelburne Saturday market.”
“All of this is open to discussion and tweaking in the future,” Jim says. “I am hopeful that interested Charlotters may step forward to explore possibilities that may lie ahead.” Dickerson envisions this project as a non-profit entity with income streams from artist space rentals, a leased cafe business and income from gallery commission sales and affordable small event fees.
Dickerson is aware that the property may go under contract at any time, but he intends to take steps forward in pursuit of this plan. The next step, if the concept continues to pass muster, will be a breakdown of potential costs in all categories so a budget can be established. Dickerson says that he has no intentions to request taxpayer support for this endeavor and that funding sources will be explored in other directions. “Support from a broad range of townspeople is likely the only way this project will be possible, and I look forward to hearing from members of this community,” he says. “This is our town and we can do better.”
The fuel tanks have been removed from the land, and Dickerson’s plans bypass the Department of Transporttion need for a new traffic lane.
An open and informal meeting will be announced soon, and Jim looks forward to feedback from all.