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Ribbon-cutting Celebration Marks Re-opening of COTS Building

On April 3, Congressman Peter Welch, Governor Phil Scott and Mayor Miro Weinberger joined Housing and COTS to mark the re-opening of the COTS building at 95 North Avenue following extensive renovations.

COTS and Housing Vermont partnered on the capital project to rebuild a permanent home for the COTS Daystation, the nonprofit’s daytime center for homeless adults to connect with services; create 14 affordable apartments; and renovate COTS’ program spaces for its homelessness prevention initiative (the COTS Housing Resource Center), and family and adult services, making them fully accessible and more energy efficient. COTS will annually serve more than 2,600 people facing homelessness from its new facility.

“This project is not about a building but about what happens within it,” said Rita Markley, COTS Executive Director. “We are bringing together in one location every level of care for our most vulnerable neighbors: affordable housing, the largest homeless prevention initiative in Vermont and our Daystation which offers a safe warm refuge for those with no place left to turn. “

The redevelopment project officially broke ground on March 29, 2016. The project was made possible through a partnership between COTS and Housing Vermont, public and private funding sources.

“This ambitious project builds on our successful partnership with COTS that constructed affordable housing with services for veterans on Canal Street in Winooski,” said Housing Vermont President Nancy Owens.  “Creating 14 new affordable apartments at 95 North Avenue and modern, centralized facilities for COTS will provide lasting benefits to the community that so graciously supported our efforts.”

COTS purchased 95 North Avenue in 2010 from Burlington College. The building, anchored at the corner of North Avenue and North Street, was built in 1893, serving first as a general store known as Saiger’s Department Store before becoming Alex Colodny’s Supermarket for more than 50 years. The building originally had apartments on the second floor. The renovation project restored the historic portion of the building to its original 1893 look.

Seven of the 14 affordable apartments will be fully furnished and offer service-enriched housing for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. These apartments also will receive private rental assistance through a COTS internal subsidy. The other seven apartments will provide permanently affordable housing for households with incomes below 60 percent of the HUD area median income. Twelve of the apartments are efficiencies; two are one-bedroom units – all with their own bathrooms and kitchens. The efficiencies measure about 512 square feet, while the one-bedroom units are 575 and 695 square feet. The apartments have shared residential space that includes a common living room, laundry room, and additional storage areas.

Funding totaling $8.2 million from numerous sources was raised to cover the total development costs. Housing Vermont’s Green Mountain Housing Equity VI invested $3.2 million. The  Merchants Bank provided a loan through the Affordable Housing Program of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston.

Other sources of financing include the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Vermont Community Development through the Town of Williston, HUD’s HOME program administered by the City of Burlington, Burlington Housing Trust Fund, Vermont Gas and Burlington Electric. The Merchants Bank provided construction financing and the Vermont Housing Finance Agency allocated federal tax credits.

COTS’ successful $3.2 million 95 North Capital Campaign: Bringing It All Home enabled COTS to retire the debt on the building, help with redevelopment costs, provide furnishings for apartments and program space, and create a private rental subsidy for some of the units.

JA Morrissey was the project’s general contractor, and Bob Duncan of Duncan*Wisniewski Architecture was the project’s architect.

The COTS Daystation is a daytime drop-in center for homeless adults. The Daystation’s previous permanent home was destroyed by a storm in 2012. Since then, the program, which connects homeless adults with services and community resources, has had several temporary locations. Last year, 570 people visited the COTS Daystation.

The Daystation’s new home includes commercial-grade washer and dryer, showers for guests, and computers, in addition to various program spaces. A noontime meal is served 365 days a year at the COTS Daystation.

The renovation enabled COTS to co-locate multiple programs, including COTS’ homelessness initiative, known as the COTS Housing Resource Center, COTS’ family and single-adult services, and COTS’ Daystation program, with housing and with each other.

COTS and Housing Vermont previously partnered on the successful Canal Street Veterans Housing in Winooski, which created 16 transitional apartments for veterans and their families, as well as 12 permanent affordable units.