Historic New Avenue Building is Officially Reopened in the Heart of Downtown St. Johnsbury
SAINT JOHNSBURY-Evernorth, RuralEdge, New Depot Square Commercial Properties, LLC, funders, elected officials and community members were among those that celebrated the much-anticipated re-opening of New Avenue that is already bringing new life and vitality to downtown St. Johnsbury.
Originally constructed in 1897 as the “New Avenue House”, the building was one of the grandest hotels of its day. The hotel stopped operating in 1970 and the upper floors were converted into apartments while the street level floor was converted to commercial space, all of which suffered from years of neglect thereafter.
In the summer of 2018, Evernorth aimed to change the historic building’s destiny. “We were able to undertake this challenging redevelopment because of the deep support from the community”, said Nancy Owens, Co-President of Evernorth. With leadership from VT State Senator Jane Kitchel, the Vermont legislature directed a $1.0 million grant to the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, and Evernorth purchased the building and partnered with RuralEdge to restore the residential floors. “It was a highly unusual and risky step for us to take” added Owens, “but changing the ownership was the only way to change the future of this building.”
New Depot Square Commercial Properties, LLC (NDSCP) assembled a local investor group to take on the challenge of acquiring, renovating and leasing the street level commercial space. "NDSCP is honored to represent the local community's collaborative effort to work with Evernorth and the State of Vermont to restore this historical building and reclaim the heart of the downtown as part of the overall transformation and renewal taking place in St. Johnsbury,” said Brad Ashley, CEO. “The Town of St. Johnsbury, Kingdom Development Company, St. Johnsbury Academy, Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital and other community-minded individuals have all been supportive, and have coalesced their important contributions around NDSCP's partnership with Evernorth to reach this celebratory moment for New Avenue”, Ashley continued.
Redevelopment is now complete and residents began moving into their new homes last week. The building renovation includes 40 high quality, redesigned apartments on the upper floors, two large community rooms, over 8,000 feet of renovated prime commercial space, and a highly energy efficient heating and cooling system.
“The redevelopment of New Avenue – a prominent, historic anchor building – represents the latest significant step in the revitalization of downtown St. Johnsbury,” said Patrick Shattuck, Executive Director of RuralEdge. “Both the housing and commercial spaces will contribute directly to St. J’s continued economic revitalization through increased property tax revenue, the provision of goods and services, and new affordable housing.”
Funding totaling more than $14.9 million from numerous private and public sources was raised to finance the total redevelopment costs of the residential spaces. Over $9 million in federal tax credit equity came from the Housing New England Fund 1, LP, allocated by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency which also provided a permanent loan in the amount of $625K. The Vermont Housing & Conservation Board provided over $2.2 million including $843K from the National Housing Trust Fund. The Vermont Community Development Program provided $550K through the Town of St. Johnsbury. The State’s Downtown Program allocated Downtown Credits worth over $415K. Citizens Bank provided $625K through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston’s Affordable Housing Program. The Vermont Community Foundation provided $250K in creative gap financing. Energy efficiency incentives totaling over $150K were provided by Efficiency Vermont and Green Mountain Power. Additional support of $50K was provided by Preservation Trust and the Freeman Foundation, and $75,000 by a grant from the Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grant Program from the federal Historic Preservation Fund.
The design team was led by Duncan Wisniewski Architects and Bread Loaf Construction was the construction manager.
St. Johnsbury’s Town Manager, Chad Whitehead remarked, “There are a lot of very positive things going on in St Johnsbury at the moment, and I truly believe that the investment made in this iconic landmark by Evernorth and the first floor investors was a real springboard for St Johnsbury’s economy. In addition to the exterior beauty of this project, these quality apartments are coming online at a critical time when housing is in such high demand. I can’t be more thankful for everyone that worked so hard to bring this project to fruition! Congratulations!”
To see an apartment tour and for more on New Avenue, please see video remarks below: