MONTPELIER — Apartments in three affordable housing units in the Capital City have received a new lease of life with a second round of renovations.
The 2.0 renovations were for three properties known as the Winooski River Apartments — two Victorian houses at 11 Bailey Avenue and 15 Baldwin Street and an Italianate house 37 Barre Street. The upgrade was to create two new accessible units, address structural issues, weatherize properties, improve energy efficiency with a switch to wood pellet heating in two buildings, and make some units accessible to people with disabilities. The near-$4 million renovations by Rutland contractors VMS Construction took about seven months to complete.
City Manager Bill Fraser, a guest speaker at a ribbon-cutting event at the Bailey Avenue building on Friday, said he was having a déjà vu after being present for a similar ceremony after the buildings’ first renovation almost two decades ago.
The buildings originally were acquired in the late 1990s by the former Central Vermont Community Land Trust, under the direction of former executive director Martin Hahn. CVCLT subsequently became Downstreet Housing and Development, Inc., led by executive director Eileen Peltier.
Downstreet is a leading affordable housing nonprofit program in the region. Officials involved in the project noted that the second renovation was needed after 20 years of wear and tear to ensure the historic buildings continued to provide affordable housing in a city with a housing shortage.
“When I walked up, I said to Eileen, ‘I feel like I was just here,’ and she said, ‘Well, actually it was 18 years ago,’” Fraser said. “I do remember standing out here, doing something similar to this when they were first opened.
“I think it’s a great example of how they invest in our community and then reinvest to keep these buildings up to-date, up to code, and we look forward to having these lovely units … in place for a long time. Thanks to everyone and to Downstreet for what you do,” Fraser added.
Laura Trieschmann, state historic preservation officer, noted that historic preservation projects were important to link the past, present and future — a process greatly helped by historic preservation tax incentives.
“Since 1977, with 43,000 completed projects, over $90 billion has been invested nationally in historic buildings, creating nearly 300,000 rehabilitated housing units and another 30,000 new housing units,” she said. “In Vermont, between 2002 and 2016, 234 federal historic tax credit projects received their final Part 3 certifications, resulting in over $200 million in total development and 5,070 construction and permanent jobs.
“Just last year, 11 projects created 65 housing units with $1.8 million in federal tax incentives for a $11.8 million advancement,” she added.
Trieschmann noted that “these three grand ladies” were renovated again with similar historic tax credit investment funding and praised Vermont’s housing agencies for coordinating funding for projects in the state.
Other speakers included Rick DeAngelis, from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and Josh Slade, of the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, and Eileen Anderson of NeighborWorks America.
Anderson noted that NeighborWorks America celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
“It is our mission to help people to live in affordable homes, improve their lives and strengthen their communities,” she said, adding that the organization was a network of 245 organizations like Downstreet Housing that have collectively served four million people since 1878.
“The investment made in the Winooski River Apartments will retain long-term affordability for many years to come. These beautiful, historic, energy-efficient apartments will provide a safe, comfortable and sustainable home to individuals and families. We’re honored to be here today to celebrate with Downstreet and all of you,” Anderson added.
Eileen Peltier said Downstreet Housing’s work was about “social justice” and thanked everyone involved.
“It’s about creating opportunity to have a safe, decent affordable home, opportunity to thrive financially, and (support) your health, your spirituality and your mental health — all of those things,” she said. “We appreciate all of you and the work we’re able to do, day in and day out, in this community.”
The project will serve mixed-income households. Of the 15 units, three units will be affordable to households making 50 percent or less of median income, 10 units at 60 percent or less of median income rents and the remaining two units at market rate.
Four tenants displaced by the renovations elected to return to the properties. The rest were relocated in other Downstreet or private properties. Downstreet is accepting applications for the remaining renovated units.
To learn more about Downstreet rental units, visit www.downstreet.org.