“We were able to undertake this challenging redevelopment because of the deep support from the community”, commented Nancy Owens, President of Housing Vermont. The building sits as a cornerstone of the commercial center of the downtown, but had fallen into disrepair over the years. With leadership from Senator Jane Kitchel, the Vermont legislature directed a $1.0 million dollar grant to the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, and Housing Vermont acquired the building in July 2018. “It was a highly unusual and risky step for us to take” noted Owens, “but changing the ownership was the only way to change the destiny of this building.”
Kingdom Development Company assembled a local investor group to acquire the street level commercial space at New Avenue.
In January of this year, Catamount Environmental began the $1.0M asbestos abatement work. All of the original plaster from the 1898 hotel contained asbestos, and needed to be removed. The work was scheduled to take three months but the abatement work was shut down during the COVID-19 Executive Order, mandating the closure of construction sites. That work has now restarted.
After almost two years of design work, permitting and financing applications, the co-developers, Housing Vermont and RuralEdge, closed on the construction loan with Citizens Bank in late May. Bread Loaf Construction began work on June 15th.
“The redevelopment of New Avenue – a fantastic and prominent, historic anchor building – represents the latest significant step in the revitalization of downtown St. Johnsbury,” said Patrick Shattuck, Executive Director of RuralEdge. “Both the housing and commercial spaces will contribute directly to St. J’s continued economic revitalization through increased property tax revenue, the provision of goods and services, and new affordable housing.”
Funding totaling more than $15 million from several private and public sources was raised to finance the total redevelopment costs. Over $6.9 million of funding came from the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit allocated by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, and over $2.2M from the federal historic tax credit. The Vermont Housing & Conservation Board provided over $2.2 million including $843,000 from the National Housing Trust Fund. The Vermont Community Development Program provided $550k through the Town of St. Johnsbury. The state’s Downtown Program allocated Downtown Tax Credits worth over $415k. Citizens Bank provided $625k through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston’s Affordable Housing Program. The Vermont Community Foundation provided $250k in creative gap financing. Energy efficiency incentives totaling over $150k were provided by Efficiency VT and Green Mountain Power. Additional support of $50k was provided by Preservation Trust and the Freeman Foundation, and $75,000 by a grant from the Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grant Program from the federal Historic Preservation Fund.
When the construction is completed in August 2021, the building will include 40 apartments, 8,100 square feet of renovated commercial space, and a highly energy efficient heating and cooling system. “During construction we will bring over 100 construction jobs to downtown St. Johnsbury, and upon completion, New Avenue will be a catalyst for the continued revival of St. Johnsbury”, noted Kathy Beyer, lead developer for Housing Vermont on the project. “I have so enjoyed working with the community; there is a renewal afoot in St. Johnsbury, even in these challenging times.”
For more insight into New Avenue redevelopment, check out these short interviews from project stakeholders: