A historic building has been restored to provide 40 new homes in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.
Originally constructed in 1897 as the “New Avenue House,” the building was one of the grandest hotels of its day. The hotel stopped operating in 1970, and the upper floors were converted into apartments while the street level floor was converted to commercial space, all of which suffered from years of neglect thereafter, according to officials.
Evernorth, RuralEdge, New Depot Square Commercial Properties (NDSCP), and others joined forces to acquire and renovate the beloved building, which recently celebrated its reopening.
“We were able to undertake this challenging redevelopment because of the deep support from the community,” said Nancy Owens, co-president of Evernorth, a nonprofit low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) syndicator and investor that has raised more than $1 billion in equity capital for affordable housing and built more than 13,000 affordable homes and apartments across New England.
With leadership from state Sen. Jane Kitchel, the Vermont Legislature directed a $1 million grant to the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, and Evernorth purchased the building and partnered with RuralEdge to restore the residential floors. “It was a highly unusual and risky step for us to take,” said Owens. “But changing the ownership was the only way to change the future of this building.”
NDSCP assembled a local investor group to take on the challenge of acquiring, renovating, and leasing the street level commercial space. "NDSCP is honored to represent the local community's collaborative effort to work with Evernorth and the state of Vermont to restore this historical building and reclaim the heart of the downtown as part of the overall transformation and renewal taking place in St. Johnsbury,” said Brad Ashley, CEO. “The town of St. Johnsbury, Kingdom Development Co., St. Johnsbury Academy, Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital, and other community-minded individuals have all been supportive and have coalesced their important contributions around NDSCP's partnership with Evernorth to reach this celebratory moment for New Avenue.”
Residents have begun moving into New Avenue, which has been renovated to include 40 redesigned apartments, including 37 affordable homes, on the upper floors as well as two large community rooms.
“The redevelopment of New Avenue—a prominent, historic anchor building—represents the latest significant step in the revitalization of downtown St. Johnsbury,” said Patrick Shattuck, executive director of development firm 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 $14.9 million from numerous private and public sources was raised to finance the total redevelopment costs of the residential spaces. Over $9 million in federal LIHTC equity came from the Evernorth’s Housing New England Fund 1, LP, allocated by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, which also provided a permanent loan in the amount of $625,000. 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 $550,000 through the town of St. Johnsbury. The state’s Downtown Program allocated Downtown Credits worth over $415,000. Citizens Bank provided $625,000 through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston’s Affordable Housing Program. The Vermont Community Foundation provided $250,000 in creative gap financing. Energy-efficiency incentives totaling over $150,000 were provided by Efficiency Vermont and Green Mountain Power. Additional support of $50,000 came from the 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.
The design team was led by Duncan Wisniewski Architects, and Bread Loaf Construction was the construction manager.