Vermont Business Magazine At a meeting on May 10, the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board awarded $6,656,970 in VHCB funding, Housing Revenue Bond funds, and federal funds from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service for the construction or rehabilitation of 72 affordable homes and to conserve 5,650 acres of natural areas and public recreational lands and 617 acres of farmland.
Gus Seelig, VHCB Executive Director, said, “These awards will bring state and federal funds to towns throughout Vermont, helping to support the agricultural economy, to create new and rehabilitated homes for low- and moderate-income Vermonters, and to protect water quality and wildlife corridors, secure public access to multi-use trail systems, and add to state forests. Forestland conservation projects in Stowe, Londonderry and Windham open public access to more than 4,000 acres, while the redevelopment of New Avenue Apartments is a long-awaited opportunity for community improvement in St. Johnsbury. The Board is proud to support these important initiatives around the state.”
St. Johnsbury – Housing Vermont and Rural Edge will redevelop New Avenue Apartments (formerly known as Depot Square), a prominent, historic building located on the corner of Eastern Avenue and Railroad Street. The apartments will be rehabilitated and reconfigured to create 39 quality, affordable rentals, remedying health and safety code issues, increasing energy efficiency, and preserving and expanding rental assistance for low-income Vermonters.
Local, state and federal officials met with Housing Vermont and RuralEdge in St. Johnsbury to discuss plans to redevelop New Avenue Apartments (formerly known as Depot Square), creating 39 quality, affordable rental apartments in the historic building in the center of the downtown. VHCB photo
Town Manager Chad Whitehead said, “Historically, the property located at 10 Eastern Avenue was the epicenter of the thriving downtown, and we expect that the revitalization of this property will be the much-needed catalyst for economic development in downtown St. Johnsbury.”
The current on-site management put in place with Housing Vermont’s 2018 purchase of the property will be complemented with onsite social service coordination and cooperation with RuralEdge’s SASH program to best serve resident needs. In a public-private partnership, New Depot Square Commercial Properties will own the commercial storefronts on the street level. The $12 million redevelopment is key to St. Johnsbury’s downtown revitalization efforts, and will address the blighted condition of the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The developers will use a total of $2,237,000 in Housing Revenue Bond Funds and $843,000 in National Housing Trust funds awarded by VHCB for the rehabilitation.
Londonderry and Windham – The Nature Conservancy (TNC) will conserve 3,469 acres of middle and high elevation land adjacent to the summit of Glebe Mountain, protecting regionally significant bear habitat, seventeen natural communities and six species of rare plants while providing public access for hunting, fishing, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and birdwatching as well as maintaining an existing snowmobile trail. The acquisition will protect the integrity and water quality of Cobb Brook, a tributary of the West River, and increase flood resilience. The land is one of the largest parcels in southern Vermont and its conservation will allow for permanent public access to land that has been closed to the public and operated as a private hunting reserve for the past 20 years. VHCB will contribute $750,000 to the project over three years, with an initial investment of $300,000 in the current fiscal year.
Newport – A $3.2 million rehabilitation of the Governor Prouty Apartments by Rural Edge will focus on 12 apartments on the second floor, renovation of the community room, installation of a new, energy efficient heating system, accessibility upgrades, window replacement, insulation, and site improvements. The 24 apartments are located in three buildings overlooking Lake Memphremagog, one block from the downtown. VHCB awarded $355,226 in state funds and $375,000 in federal HOME funding for the project, which will also be supported with $1.3 million in funding from USDA Rural Development. All 24 apartments include federal rental assistance, making them an important housing resource for low-income households in the region.
Stowe – A 750-acre parcel of forestland on the west side of the Worcester Range—the largest remaining unprotected privately-owned forest tract in Stowe—will be purchased and conserved by the Stowe Land Trust, using $200,000 in VHCB funding for the $5.5 million acquisition. The Stowe Land Trust will transfer the conserved land to the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation as an addition to the 14,000-acre C.C. Putnam State Forest, allowing for public access to the land for the first time in several years. With two miles of Class IV roads, connections to a VAST trail, and the location close to Stowe Village, the acquisition will protect wildlife habitat and wildlife corridors, allow for sustainable timber management, provide for non-motorized public recreational use, and preserve the integrity of a large tract of forestland. The headwaters of Moss Glen Brook drain from the property into the Winooski River and Lake Champlain. A local fundraising campaign is well underway, with the goal of raising $750,000 from 750 donations for the project and a contribution to Stowe Land Trust’s stewardship endowment. An anonymous private philanthropic donation of $5 million through the Vermont Community Foundation will provide most of the funding for the project.
Vergennes – Housing Vermont and the Addison County Community Trust will use $230,744 in federal HOME program funding awarded by VHCB for the construction of 24 mixed-income, family apartments located close to public schools, services, and public transportation. The award is in addition to previous VHCB awards of Housing Revenue Bond funds and FY18 HOME program funding. Construction is expected to begin in August with occupancy anticipated in the summer of 2020.
Brattleboro – Groundworks Collaborative will construct a new building on South Main Street for a day shelter that will convert each November through April to an overnight winter warming shelter with 34 beds for homeless individuals; as well as bathrooms, showers, kitchen, laundry, and lockers. The existing drop-in center will be rehabilitated for program and administrative use. Groundworks will assist clients to secure housing and services, providing counseling, a food shelf, and supportive housing case management. Services will also be provided on-site by the Brattleboro Retreat, and Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. Groundworks has raised $1,030,000 in private funds, another $460,000 in additional public funds, and needs to raise another $1.61 million for the $3.1 million development. VHCB awarded $325,000 in state funding and Housing Revenue Bond funds.
Addison, Orleans, and Chittenden Counties - Four farms, including a dairy farm, a diversified operation with rented tillage, an orchard, and a vegetable operation will be conserved by the Vermont Land Trust, using $563,500 in VHCB funding and $616,500 in federal farmland conservation funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. In each case, water quality provisions in the conservation easements will establish riparian buffer areas along waterways and protect wetlands on the protected lands.
Mount Holly – The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, in partnership with the Vermont Land Trust and the Mount Holly Conservation Trust, will use $200,000 in VHCB funding to acquire 340 acres of high elevation land off of Route 155, linking Okemo State Forest to the Green Mountain National Forest. Over 25 years, the Vermont Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Forests, Parks, and Recreation have conserved nearly 30,000 acres of land in the area to establish a wildlife corridor between publicly held lands. This parcel is the final link in an area with disbursed development that threatens wildlife connectivity. The Catamount and VAST trails cross the property, and the headwaters of three watersheds will be protected by the acquisition.
The Vermont Housing & Conservation Board supports the conservation of agricultural and recreational land, forestland, historic properties with public use, and the creation and preservation of housing affordable to Vermonters at a range of incomes. www.vhcb.org