• @$ID/[No paragraph style]:Businesses benefit from downtown and village center tax credits
    By JEN BUTSON | June 18,2013
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    Jen Butson
    Barre’s downtown is undergoing incredible revitalization. The Barre City Firehouse was converted into space for four businesses, while the fire-damaged Aldrich Block was revived with a popular new restaurant, the appropriately-named Cornerstone. Meanwhile, the prominent Lash Furniture building is undergoing a multi-million-dollar renovation that will provide 40,000 square feet of commercial and office space in the heart of the city.

    How did this happen? In part, thanks to the Downtown and Village Tax Credit Program (http://accd.vermont.gov/strong_communities/opportunities/funding/downtown_village_tax_credit), which helps green light difficult-to-finance projects like the old Lash Furniture building. Also known as the Blanchard Block, this building dominates City Hall Park and stood vacant for more than seven years, in large part because of the significant investment needed to bring it up to code and make other improvements necessary to secure a tenant.

    The challenge for the Blanchard Block — and many other downtown buildings — is that rental rates for retail or office space usually don’t generate enough income for banks to underwrite renovation costs. However, with the help of $927,000 in state and federal tax credits to install elevators and sprinklers, update wiring, and restore the building to its historic appearance, financing was secured for the Blanchard Block project, and rehabilitation is underway.

    Barre business owner Valerie Beaudet received federal and state tax credits for her rehabilitation of the 1904 Barre City Firehouse as well.

    “I have been able to grow my businesses from one to four: Firehouse at Barre, LLC; Ladder 1 Grill; Flowers By Emslie and Company, and the Firehouse Inn,” Beaudet said. “I went from leasing a space and having a flower shop with five employees, to owning a building and employing 26 Vermonters. Between payroll taxes and retail sales taxes, I have more than doubled the state’s investment in my business in just this one year alone.”

    The Firehouse Inn, Beaudet’s most recent project, is scheduled to open this month and fulfills the critical need for overnight lodging in downtown Barre. The total project cost $170,900, which was offset by $63,218 in state tax credits.

    The deadline to apply for tax credits is July 1, 2013. Last year, 21 projects in 17 Vermont communities benefited from $1.7 million in tax credits, leveraging a total investment of $22 million.

    Highlights of other recent tax credit projects completed or in progress around the state include: redevelopment of Winooski’s Champlain Mill into a hub for rapidly growing technology firms; preservation of 37 affordable housing units at the Wharf Lane apartments in Burlington; rehabilitation of multiple commercial blocks on Main Street in downtown Hardwick; rehabilitation of the fire-damaged Brooks House in Brattleboro; transforming the second floor of the Lago Building in Newport into a boutique hotel; and post-(Tropical Storm) Irene repairs at Simon Pearce in Quechee.

    “These tax credits are an investment in the community; they create jobs, preserve history and increase the state’s revenue for years to come. The impact these credits have had on my life is more than I could have ever dreamed,” Beaudet said.

    Targeted state investments like tax credits are one of many tools communities can learn about at the Downtown and Historic Preservation Conference on June 7 in Barre. These tools help revitalize communities, create jobs, and stimulate business in Vermont’s downtowns and villages. The conference, which is open to businesspeople, city planners, policy makers and any member of the public interested in starting or growing a downtown business, will be an educational and inspiring event with the goal of furthering community development in Vermont. Anyone who is interested in applying for tax credits is strongly encouraged to attend.

    The conference registration is $65 and offers tracks in historic preservation, community planning and downtown revitalization. It is sponsored by the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development and the Preservation Trust of Vermont.

    For more information about tax credits, call Caitlin Corkins, tax credits and grants coordinator, Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, at 802.828.3047, or e-mail caitlin.corkins//accd.vermont.gov/.

    To learn more about the downtown conference, call Leanne Tingay, Vermont Downtowns program coordinator, Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, at 802.828.3220, or e-mail leanne.tingay//accd.vermont.gov/.

    Jen Butson is director of communications for the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing. v
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