State aid ‘helps pay the bills’ for construction

Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development sends more than $300,000 in tax credits to four projects in county

BRATTLEBORO — The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) has awarded more than $300,000 in tax credits to four projects in southeastern Vermont.

The Downtown and Village Center Tax Credits program “sparks revitalization by supporting building and code improvements, and is one of the primary benefits of downtown and village center designation,” says the ACCD's website.

Between 2011 and 2016, the ACCD presented 156 projects with $12.5 million in tax credits.

“While not cash or a grant, tax credits essentially redirect income taxes owed to help pay the construction bills,” says the ACCD's website.

In Bellows Falls, $23,963 in tax credits have been awarded to rehabilitate 3-5 Rockingham St., in the center of the village's square.

The structure, owned by Allen Scott Phillips, has long been empty or underutilized. Workers will bring the entire building up to electrical, plumbing, and fire safety code, including installing a sprinkler system, and will restore and re-paint the property's exterior.

In July, the Rockingham Planning Commission approved an application by business owner Jennifer Gurley to renovate the 1,078-square-foot retail space into a 40-seat coffee shop that is expected to employ up to eight people.

A duplex apartment is upstairs.

The cost for the entire project is $328,000.

The Broad Brook Community Center, Inc. (BBCC) received $164,708 in tax credits toward a $990,000 project to improve accessibility and safety at Guilford's historic grange hall, which is owned by the Broad Brook Grange.

BBCC, a nonprofit, was established last year to redevelop the Grange Hall as a centralized, accessible, and inclusive community center for social, civic, educational, and recreational activities. Half of the BBCC's members are also members of the Broad Brook Grange.

In 2013, during a series of visits from the Vermont Council for Rural Development to identify community needs, residents chose this project as the town's top priority.

Tax credits will support installation of accessible bathrooms, a sprinkler system, kitchen upgrades, and exterior repairs.

BBCC President Sara Coffey told The Commons this tax award “gives us wonderful leverage to raise money in our community” to complete the work. “It catapults us,” she said.

Two projects in Brattleboro are on this year's list of recipients.

The three-building property at 79-93 Main St. contains 12 rental apartments, three ground-floor retail spaces, an 1,800 square-foot multi-purpose space, a business suite, and a one-room office space.

The structure needs work to bring it up to code and improve accessibility, including installation of an elevator, a sprinkler system, and asbestos abatement, while maintaining the historic architectural elements of the buildings. The total project cost is $919,706, and the ACCD awarded $156,731 in tax credits.

The buildings are owned by Byron Corporation of Brattleboro, whose principal is Jason Cooper.

A few blocks north, the First Baptist Church, at 190 Main St., will soon undergo extensive renovations. This historic landmark will get a multi-use space, a conference room available for public meetings, and eight apartments - all while allowing continued use by the church's congregation.

State tax credits will support major work to bring the building up to code and make long-needed exterior repairs. The total project cost is $700,000, and the state awarded the owners $135,625 in tax credits.

The church was purchased in 2016 by Delta Zeta LLC, whose registered agent is Robert L. Johnson.

Program 'packs a powerful punch'

“The program was started [around] 2000 with a small amount. It has grown steadily and every year we are oversubscribed by more than twice,” Katie Buckley, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development, told The Commons.

“The current year's total was $2.4 million - this was an increase of $200,000 over last year, thanks to our supportive legislators and Governor [Phil] Scott,” said Buckley.

“It is a program with tri-partisan backing because it packs a powerful punch,” Buckley said, noting, “for every dollar we award in tax credits, it leverages an additional $17.”

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