Valley News – Downtown projects in multiple cities get Vermont tax credits

FAIRLEE – Old buildings live multiple lives and sometimes need a boost to move on to the next.

For example, the old Fairlee Post Office building dates from 1934 and was expanded in 1968. In recent years, the Main Street building has had a series of uses and is now in need of updates.

Jonah Richard, whose great-grandfather William Chapman built the post office, bought the building from his grandmother last year, and is planning his next life.

The project takes off in the form of a tax credit of $ 86,000 from the state of Vermont.

“I wouldn’t be able to do the project without him,” Richard said Friday.

Vermont offers a tax credit program for projects in downtown and village centers, and last week the state announced that projects in Chelsea, Norwich, Springfield and Strafford have received credits from the city. tax, in addition to the Fairlee project. The grants were part of $ 3.6 million awarded to 28 revitalization projects across the state.

The program, administered by the State Department of Housing and Community Development, has grown tenfold since its inception in 2000, when it granted $ 300,000 in tax credits, Josh Hanford, the department’s commissioner said Friday.

Tax credits allow funders of a project who would otherwise have difficulty raising funds to raise funds and attract other funding. The developer or owner can take the state tax credit to a bank, insurance company, or investor, often a community-minded institution, and exchange it for cash to invest in. a project, Hanford said. The financier then obtains relief on his state taxes. The legislature allows credits as part of state budget revenue, where credits are counted as “lost revenue,” Hanford said.

The program works like a grant, Hanford said. But “it’s not like the state is spending more money,” he said. On the contrary, he receives less.

Statewide, projects range from a massive office building in Burlington in need of updates to the famous Elmore store, which is moving into non-profit ownership. The tax credits will help institutions such as the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury (one of four projects in the capital of the North East Kingdom) and Old Bennington High School, which is in the process of being transformed. in a community center.

Among Upper Valley’s plans is a plan to bring Dan & Whit’s up to the level of the fire code, including fire alarms, sprinklers and a new fire escape.

Norwich’s general store, a staple since 1955, had to empty its floor during the pandemic after an inspection revealed fire code issues, store co-owner Dan Fraser said on Friday.

The $ 80,000 tax credit, which covers half the cost of the project, “makes it much more affordable,” Fraser said.

The second floor housed the town hall before Tracy Hall was built in 1938, Fraser said. There was a hallway between the lobby and the Norwich Inn, so Inn guests could catch a show in the lobby without having snow on their boots.

That passage is long gone, but if the store can work with the hostel to build a new one and fire escape accessible to both structures, it will be able to reopen its second floor to full capacity, Fraser said.

A beautiful old bank at 302 Route 110 in Chelsea more recently housed a restaurant that closed in 2018. Owners Robert and Petra McCarron plan to renovate it in hopes of finding someone to open a restaurant.

“Our motivation is to reopen a restaurant in a city that doesn’t have one,” Robert McCarron said Friday.

The $ 54,000 tax credit is critical to the estimated $ 288,000 project, he said. “The cost of the renovation will far exceed anything a business can afford,” he said.

The Strafford Historical Society acquired the former Masonic Hall in South Strafford last December for a dollar. It will take about $ 360,000 more to renovate the building, said Laura Ogden, vice president of the company.

A government tax credit of $ 56,000 is a key component of a $ 124,000 project to stabilize and update the structure.

Springfield, once the state’s industrial capital, is undergoing a long revitalization. His 1868 Woolson Block was rehabilitated, a cooperative grocery store moved downtown, and a restaurant and cafe opened.

“These are all projects that took a leap of faith,” said Matt Dunne, founder and executive director of Rural Innovation Strategies, on Friday.

Two buildings on Main Street, a former department store and a neighboring mixed-use commercial property, received tax credits of $ 185,000 and $ 117,000, respectively.

As with other projects that received tax credits, the money will be used to pay for some unpleasant work: asbestos removal, upgrades to meet building codes and work on building facades.

“It makes all the difference in making these projects viable,” said Dunne, a Hartland resident and former state senator. Once buildings have reached a certain level of depreciation, they can no longer attract conventional financing.

There is not yet a big plan for the two Springfield buildings, Dunne said, but “there is a continued need for Springfield to keep the momentum going in its downtown area.”

Without the tax credit program to kickstart that momentum, a grand but decaying building “would just sit there and keep rotting,” Dunne said.

“It’s super important to have these kinds of programs.

Alex Hanson can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3207.

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