$2.7M in Vermont tax credits going to downtown projects

By LISA RATHKE Markets Associated Press

More than $2.7 million in state tax incentives has been awarded to 22 rehabilitation projects in downtowns and village centers across the state, Gov. Phil Scott announced on Wednesday.

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Among the recipients is Montpelier's French Block, a historic brick building that encompasses nearly a block in downtown Montpelier and houses several businesses at street level but whose upper floors have been vacant for more than 75 years.

Nearly $300,000 in tax incentives will help to renovate the upper floors into affordable housing, development officials said.

"With the vacancy rate of about 1 percent in Montpelier I'm excited to say not too far in the future Montpelier will be home to 18 new apartments, 14 of which will be affordable," said Eileen Peltier, executive director of Downstreet Housing and Community Development.

The downtown tax credits, federal and state historic credits and several other sources have come together to make the total $5.4 million project work, she said.

"Vermont's downtowns are an integral part of Vermont's character, and they are at risk," she said.

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Other recipient projects include repairing and renovating the Vermont Studio Center artists' studios in a historic church in the center of Johnson after a fire in June; improving the accessibility and safety at Guilford's historic Grange Hall by adding accessible bathrooms and a sprinkler system, upgrading the kitchen and making exterior repairs; and rehabilitating a historic vacant building in Bellows Falls into a duplex apartment and first-floor retail space.

The tax credits offset the costs of big investments in elevators, sprinklers and other code improvements to make the buildings safe and accessible, said Scott, a Republican.

The program's funding was increased by $200,000 this year. The cap on tax credit awards was raised from $300,000 to $500,000, Scott said.

Since the program started in 2000, more than 320 projects have received a total of $24.6 million in tax credits, he said.

The credits have been used to help bring projects up to code and put vacant upper floors into use, he said.

"It's one of the most effective redevelopment programs the state has," Scott said.

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This story has been corrected to show the program's funding was increased this year, not last year.