Wilson Ring / AP Photo Jim Levinsky, right, of the Lamoille Housing Partnership, and Matt Moore, of Housing Vermont, stand across the street from what had been Arthur's Department Store in Morrisville on Tuesday. The two are helping to oversee the rehabilitation of the building with the help of a state tax credit announced Tuesday by Gov. Peter Shumlin.
MORRISVILLE — For generations Arthur’s Department Store was a fixture in Morrisville, bringing people downtown from surrounding communities. But over the decades the buildings that housed the store lost the people living in the apartments upstairs, and the store closed two years ago, leaving a void in the downtown.
Now local officials are hoping to fill that void with the help of a $233,500 state tax credit that will help complete the financing package for a $3.5 million rehabilitation project to create 18 apartments and ground-floor retail space. Construction is scheduled to start next month.
The Arthur’s project is among 31 in 20 Vermont downtowns — six in Morrisville — that are getting a boost thanks to almost $2 million in state tax credits that were announced Tuesday in Morrisville by Gov. Peter Shumlin.
The credits are a benefit of Vermont’s Downtown and Village Center Designation. The credits can support hard-to-finance projects and state-mandated code requirements, such as sprinkler systems or elevators.
In Barre, the Old Labor Hall, the Barre Elks Club building and the Main Street commercial block that once housed Del’s Restaurant will benefit from tax credits to support code-related improvements. The former Del’s property, vacant since 2010, also is due for improvements to its facade as part of an effort to bring the buildingback into productive use.
The Luther Cross House at 155 Elm St. in Montpelier will benefit from tax credits to support its completehistorically sensitive renovation, including code upgrades. The building houses a commercial tenant on the ground floor and four apartments.
The Arthur’s buildings in Morrisville were never known for their architecture, but they were the heart of the community.
“Generations of people in Morrisville and Lamoille County have been in here and bought a pair of socks, bought a shirt or whatever, and it generated a lot of foot traffic for a lot of people over the years, and when they closed up the doors and the town didn’t know what was going to happen, that was a big question mark,” said Matt Moore, a developer with Housing Vermont who is among those working to rehabilitate the building. “The significance, really, is bringing life back to Main Street.”
The tax credits are expected to make possible $18 million in construction projects statewide that will create jobs in the heart of Vermont communities, helping to keep them vibrant, said Shumlin.
“What distinguishes Vermont, what makes our quality of life so extraordinary in this state, is the fact that neighbors take care of neighbors, neighbors take care of strangers. We want to help each other, and downtowns are the connections, the heart of that very essence of Vermont,” Shumlin said.
Other projects that will be supported with the credits include the reconstruction of a block in downtown St. Johnsbury that was damaged by fire in December, work in the Catamount school in Bennington and improvements to the Bank Building in Richford.
The three buildings where Arthur’s operated for 40 years were built between the mid-19th century and about 1950, Moore said.
The upstairs rooms were gradually abandoned over the years, many in the 1970s, with the last vacated about 20 years ago.
Most of the 18 rental units will be reserved as affordable housing, and there will be two commercial spaces with a total of about 3,500 square feet.
Work already has begun with the removal of dangerous substances, such as asbestos and lead. General construction will begin next month. Work should take about a year.
Jim Lovinsky of the Lamoille Housing Partnership is working with Moore on rehabilitating the buildings. He said that after his son graduated from college the two of them went to the store to buy him a suit for his job search.
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