MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott said projects in Montpelier, Rutland and other Vermont communities are receiving $2.7 million in state tax credits to help fund redevelopment projects in downtown and village centers across the state.
Scott said the tax credits approved by the state have generated more than $53 million in investment in 22 separate projects.
In downtown Montpelier, a tax credit worth nearly $300,000 will help renovate the the two upper floors of the French Block, which have been vacant for more than 75 years. The two floors will contain 18 new apartments, including 14 affordable units, when the project is completed. The total project is expected to cost more than $5.4 million.
“With the help of Downtown and Village Center Tax Credits, Historic Tax Credits, funding from several affordable housing partners and years of hard work, the building’s upper floors will be put back into use,” the governor said at a news conference Wednesday at Montpelier’s City Hall.
Scott said the project in Montpelier and others around the state will help “bring more people and vibrancy to the downtown.” The projects are moving forward, he said, because of the cooperation of various groups.
“Community revitalization is a complex process. It requires patience, innovation and ongoing commitment from a broad range or partners, organizations and agencies. This isn’t easy work,” he said.
Montpelier Mayor John Hollar said the tax credits available from the state have helped communities like Montpelier.
“We would not be doing the projects we are without the range of partnership that we have,” he said. “Our city has been very deliberate about wanting to make a private-sector investment in our community in our downtown. But the fact is, after five years as mayor, this really can’t be done alone with our private sector. The economics don’t work. It’s too expensive to build and the economic returns don’t work.”
The 2017 tax credits will help offset the costs of major building improvements such elevators, sprinklers and other upgrades required by local and state codes, Scott said. The upgrades will make the buildings safe and accessible for the public, he said.
The tax credit program, which launched in 2000, has helped jumpstart more than 320 projects in 140 communities by distributing $24.6 million in incentives, Scott said. Tax credits were capped at $300,000 until the Legislature approved an increase to $500,000 this year, he said.
The program has “injected over $400 million into our local economy … and reversed declining grand list values,” Scott said.
In Rutland, a $126,000 tax credit will support a $1.1 million project to renovate 10,000 square feet at 56 Merchants Row. The space will house 32 Castleton University students in 10 apartment units. Another project in Brandon will receive a $165,000 tax credit for a $1 million project that will create housing for middle-income and young professional tenants at 10-16 Center Street.
Other projects include the rehabilitation of two historic buildings in downtown Bennington for commercial and office space and student housing and offices for Bennington College, and the installation of an elevator to expand use of a mixed commercial block in Newport.
Katie Buckley, commissioner of the Department of Housing and Community Development, said the state received 50 applications and was able to commit tax credits to 22. The program received a $200,000 funding increase in the 2018 fiscal year state budget, she said.
“The competition for the funding this year was extremely fierce,” she said. “It was really hard to score the applications.”