A Leahy-Secured $125,000 Grant Shifts Into Gear The Long-Awaited Reconstruction Of Springfield’s Burned-Out Ellis Block

. . . Community Leaders And Developers Celebrate Groundbreaking

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – During a groundbreaking ceremony at the Ellis Block in Springfield on Friday, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy announced he has secured a $125,000 federal appropriation to help rebuild workforce housing and a theater lost to a 2008 fire.  The appropriation, finalized earlier this summer, ensured that the project could break ground.

Housing Vermont and an affiliate of the Springfield Housing Authority have partnered to redevelop Main Street’s historic Ellis Block, which was destroyed by a devastating fire on July 8, 2008.  The renovated building will include a three-screen movie theatre and nine affordable apartments.

The $3.4 million reconstruction project also includes a $1.286 million federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant made possible by another Leahy-authored provision, included in the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.

“In Vermont our downtowns are the heart of our communities,” said Leahy.  “When we lose a central part of our community – whether it’s a theater, a hotel, or apartments -- we lose more than bricks and mortar.  The new Ellis Block will retain the historic façade that helps to define this community, it will create much-needed workforce housing, and it will bring Springfield’s downtown theater back to life.” 

“This project is an outstanding example of how federal funds can be used to respond to key community needs,” said Housing Vermont President Nancy Owens.  “Senator Leahy’s support of this project through direct appropriations and through his support of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program all-state minimum helped move this project to the finish line.”

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program was created as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 to help states and communities mitigate the impacts of blighted and foreclosed properties.  Leahy and Senator Bernie Sanders authored a provision of that legislation that brought Vermont $19.6 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding.  Earlier this year, Leahy secured another $5 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds for Vermont as part of the Wall Street Reform Bill.

Leahy secured the new $125,000 grant in partnership with the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and the Preservation Trust of Vermont’s Village Revitalization Initiative.  Since 2005, this partnership has enabled Leahy to secure more than $2 million for Vermont communities to help preserve access to and restore historic downtown buildings, including the Ellis Block and the Putney General Store.

Other sources of funding for the reconstruction include $1.3 million in equity from Housing Vermont’s Green Mountain Housing Equity Fund, $403,000 from state tax credits, $25,000 from the Town of Springfield, $74,000 from Springfield Housing Unlimited, and $165,000 from the Vermont Community Development Program.

William Maclay Architects redesigned the building and Ingram Construction is the general contractor.  Construction will be completed in Spring 2011. 

During Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony, Leahy said the federal investments in the Ellis Block complemented more than $2.5 million in recent federal transportation investments he has been able to secure for Springfield’s recently completed downtown upgrades, as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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