WALLINGFORD — The town has been awarded a $24,500 grant to help with the redevelopment of the “Wallingford Block.”
The money is part of a municipal planning grant awarded by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, said Michelle Kenny, a Wallingford resident and owner of the Wallingford Block.
Municipal planning grants are often awarded to towns to pay for updates to their town-planning documents and zoning bylaws, said Elysa Smigielski, planner with the Rutland Regional Planning Commission, who’s been assisting Kenny with finding funding sources to renovate the Wallingford Block.
Smigielski said the grants can also be used to revitalize properties and infrastructure, especially in designated downtown areas. She said the town accepts the grant money on behalf of whatever project the funding is aimed at, as is the case here.
Kenny said the grant required a $2,200 match, which she provided from her personal funds.
The Wallingford Block, known to some as the “Odd Fellows Block” after the Odd Fellows Club that once owned it sometime during the 1820s, is at 15 South Main St. It’s the current home of Sal’s Italian restaurant, which has been there for 16 years. Kenny bought the 13,400-square-foot, three-story building in May from Jamie and Connie Edmunds for $150,000. The Edmunds had owned the building since the 1980s and also had dreams of revitalizing it, though those never materialized.
Kenny said before she can do anything else to the building, even apply for more grant funding, some of the support structures need shoring up. That project is expected to cost $50,000, she said, and it’s what the municipal planning grant will go toward funding. Kenny said she’s in talks with a contractor, and hopes to begin in the spring and be finished by summer. She said one of the first things she hopes to do is lease the back part of the building to a coffee shop of some kind. With anchor tenants, she can focus on getting money to renovate the second and third floors.
Kenny said the dream is to turn the second floor into a health and wellness center, but that won’t happen for a while and she’s open to ideas in the meantime. Though she’s a private owner, Kenny said she views the property as a community building.
Kenny said that as a private property, finding grants, tax credits and other such sources of funding is proving to be a challenge, but she feels it’s doable. Kenny said she’s been working with the Rutland Regional Planning Commission as well as the Preservation Trust of Vermont to identify potential funding sources.
In September, the Wallingford Select Board voted to apply for the grant and receive funds on behalf of the project. Kenny, an attorney based in Rutland, said she’s received a great deal of community support for her efforts, which she estimates, all told, will cost between $1.4 and $1.7 million.
She said she’s eyeing a federal grant, applying with Smigielski’s help. This grant is more involved, Kenny said, as federal grants come with more stringent reporting requirements.