By Lisa Scagliotti, editor, Waterbury Roundabout

In less than a month, Amtrak passenger trains will once again head north into Vermont carrying travelers to and from New York City and Washington, DC.



Train depots up and down the two corridors in the state served by the passenger trains will once again see visitors and Vermonters come and go.

In Waterbury, plans are in the works for a community celebration on July 19, the day Amtrak will roll into town for the first time since March 2020 when service was suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But while part of the station will now be open for travelers again, the station’s larger space that hosted the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Cafe and Visitors Center will remain empty.


Owners of the historic train station say they are working hard to find a new tenant but the process includes some very specific criteria and the rent is significant. 

Bottom line: It likely will be 2022 before there is new commercial activity at the downtown landmark beyond the daily arrival and departure of the Amtrak trains. 

“This is not an easy task,” said Revitalizing Waterbury executive director Karen Nevin in a recent interview where she detailed the process ahead to land, vet and move in a new business. 


Revitalizing Waterbury is the community’s nonprofit economic development organization and owner of the train station. After the station was refurbished and opened in 2006, GMCR – which today is known as Keurig Dr. Pepper – signed a 20-year lease. Until March 2020, the coffee company operated a bustling cafe and the spacious visitor center room that contained exhibits documenting the Vermont-grown business’ corporate history and mission. 

In January, the company announced that it would not reopen the cafe after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

The cafe with its large seating area and Wi-Fi was a popular spot for both tourists and locals alike who reliably filled tables both indoors year-round and outside on the covered porch in warmer months. At its peak, Nevin said, the cafe saw some 200,000 people a year pass through. 


Before the pandemic, Waterbury also bustled with daytime activity from workers at the nearby state offices as well as Keurig, Dartmouth Journal Services and other downtown offices. In its central location for tour buses, local workers and community members, the train station cafe was a busy hub from morning through late afternoon. The community has yet to see that level of activity return as many workers are still not back to their offices in-person yet.

For now, the first step to returning the train station to life is welcoming back regular passenger train service. Tickets are now available for travel starting July 19. Both Amtrak and Vermont state officials recently hailed the resumption of service. 

“We are pleased to resume our service in the state of Vermont, as now Vermont residents and visitors can see friends and family they have missed over the past year and experience all the state has to offer,” said Amtrak vice president Ray Lang. “We are excited to welcome them back on board.”


Vermont Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn noted that both routes – the Vermonter and the Ethan Allen Express – will return July 19. The Vermonter is the line originating in Washington, DC, that stops in Waterbury. The Vermonter runs along western Vermont between New York City and Rutland with service expected to extend to Burlington in 2022. 

Flynn noted that trains will be running on the same schedules that were in place when the state suspended service on March 26, 2020. “We appreciate the patience of all of our customers, including the many Vermonters who relied on these trains for transportation when the pandemic struck,” he said. 

To mark the occasion, Revitalizing Waterbury is planning a reception on July 19 starting at 9:30 a.m. Amtrak is scheduled to arrive at 10:10 a.m. The community is invited, Nevin said, and there will be refreshments. 

Trains will come through twice daily from there on, southbound in the morning and northbound in the evening arriving at 7:50 p.m. A local caretaker has been hired to ensure that the station’s Community Room on the far end of the building will be open for two hours around each arrival. Amtrak’s website lists hours as 8:30-10:30 a.m. and 7:15-9:15 p.m. daily once service resumes. 


Beyond that, the work continues behind the scenes to attract potential long-term tenants who meet some key criteria. “We’re looking for the right tenant,” Nevin said, explaining that there may be many inquiries before a match is made.

The next tenant needs to “prove its financial worthiness” to show it can afford the rent and expenses, Nevin said. The advertised rent currently is $4,000 per month, a price Nevin said is 25% lower than what Keurig is paying. “RW’s finances are anchored by the train station’s rent,” she noted.

Nevin noted that the new tenant must provide a business that is complementary to the existing businesses in Waterbury. “And it needs to provide a sense of community to the town,” Nevin said. 

Nevin said there have been many inquiries to date but no formal proposals to review yet. A Revitalizing Waterbury committee is prepared to evaluate applicants, she said. 

Even if a successful proposal landed immediately, Nevin explained, the realistic timeframe needed to open the doors would likely take months and stretch into early 2022 at best.  

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