Vermont’s Village Revitalization Initiative, Led By Leahy, Bruhn, HUD, Receives National Historic Preservation Award

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, Nov. 10) – The Village Revitalization Initiative—a cooperative effort among Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Preservation Trust of Vermont, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) — drew national recognition Thursday in garnering the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation’s (ACHP) Chairman’s Award for Achievement in Historic Preservation.

“This creative and important initiative demonstrates how effective partnerships can use relatively modest funding to accomplish important local projects that create jobs, preserve our heritage, and improve the vitality of communities,” said Milford Wayne Donaldson, FAIA, ACHP chairman. “It is a great model for other elected officials and preservation organizations to emulate across the country.”

In 2005, Leahy and the Preservation Trust of Vermont—using HUD Economic Development Initiative Special Projects Congressional Grants—embarked on a partnership to build stronger and more economically vibrant villages and small downtowns. 

Leahy said, “This initiative proves again that historic preservation is not a cost for saving the past, but a wise investment in the future. Vermonters are respectful stewards of our state’s rich heritage.  Cookie-cutter solutions are not the Vermont way. Paul Bruhn and the other partners in this effort carefully and thoughtfully forged unique, local, ‘hand-crafted’ solutions that embrace our history, while envisioning a vibrant future for these special Vermont places.”

In remarks Thursday as he accepted the award, Leahy told a personal story:  “As a child, I recall visiting the 1891 Romanesque Post Office building that defined a block of downtown Montpelier.  It was a beautiful building – complete with an arched entry way, a turret and a grand courtroom.  In 1963, the structure was destroyed to make room for a white box building that resembles a prison, a design familiar to any town in the county that got a new federal building in the 60s.  With the loss of that building, the character of my hometown was forever changed. If the Preservation Trust of Vermont and Paul Bruhn had been there, they would have saved that post office.

He continued, “When Paul, my staff and I discussed the creation of the Village Revitalization Initiative, our goal was simple: to help towns protect their greatest historic, economic and community-building assets -- their historic town centers -- from the fate of the Montpelier Post Office.

“Though this program is primarily a bricks-and-mortar historic preservation program, we chose not to focus on the historic value of a building, but instead on the historic use and potential impact of restoring the building to full use.  This approach made every historic preservation project we undertook a meaningful economic development and community development project.  We reopened community spaces, rebuilt general stores and gave people places to gather in the center of their communities.

“Perhaps most notable was that we did all this with earmarks. I’m proud that we did all of this with earmarks that created jobs. I’m number two in seniority in the Senate and number two in seniority on the Senate Appropriations Committee and let me tell you a little secret:  I’m not giving up on earmarks.  I hope that your recognition of this program might help bring a bit of common sense to the appropriations process and prove that sometimes Congress can get it right.”

During its first six years, the Village Revitalization Initiative supported 27 projects in 25 different communities in Vermont (see list below).  A federal investment of $2,435,200 has helped leverage more than $27 million in total project costs.

At the ACHP Fall Business Meeting Thursday in Washington, Donaldson presented the award to Leahy; Paul Bruhn, Executive Director, Preservation Trust of Vermont; and Yolanda Chávez, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Grant Programs, Office of Community Planning and Development, HUD.

The Village Revitalization Initiative’s goals are to use targeted federal grants to leverage investments that have made possible a collection of village-scaled historic preservation projects across Vermont. In 1995, when the average earmark was well over $1 million, the small scale of many projects in Vermont was a stumbling block for gaining federal support.  For Leahy — a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee — and his Initiative partners, the solution was to aggregate the smaller projects and to direct the overall grant monies, secured by Leahy, through the Preservation Trust of Vermont, which in turn sub-granted to communities. The grants are for rehabilitation of historic community buildings located in the heart of a community center or in a small downtown. A primary criterion is that projects must result in enhanced community use of a facility.

The Preservation Trust of Vermont provided hands-on technical assistance, project management and grants management assistance.  Leahy’s seasoned and accomplished economic development staffers visited prospective grantees with the Preservation Trust personnel, and they worked closely together in vetting and refining proposals and then in making selections.

The projects have created both short-term construction and permanent jobs in Vermont. Short-term federal and state income tax revenues have grown from construction jobs, as have long-term property tax revenues. HUD-EDI investments will play a crucial continuing role in the vitality of these communities.  The individual projects, while strengthening their own communities, together reinforce the essential unique character of Vermont, helping to maintain the state’s special brand.

The federal grants ranged from $20,000 to $250,000 for revitalization projects ranging from $50,000 to $7 million in overall costs.

For more information, visit www.achp.gov and also http://leahy.senate.gov and www.ptvermont.org

The location of projects to date and their grant/total costs include the following:

Addison County

            Salisbury – Shard Villa

                        $100,000/$200,000 total

            Ferrisburgh – Grange/Town Hall

                        $100,000/$2.5 million

Bennington County

Readsboro – Bullock Block

$100,000/$200,000 first phase           

Caledonia County

Hardwick – Jeudevine Memorial Library        

            $50,000/$200,000 total

               – Memorial Hall

            $20,000/$40,000 total

  – Town House


            Groton – Village Store and Library

                        $54,900/$3.5 million total      

Chittenden County

            Richmond – Round Church fire suppressions system

                        $25,000/$215,000 in this phase

Essex County

            Bloomfield – Town Hall

                        $70,000/$75,000 this phase/$200,000 total

            Brighton – Town Hall/Opera House

                        $60,000/$500,000 total

Franklin County

            Richford – Sweat Comings Health Care Center

                        $100,000/$7 million total

Grand Isle County

            North Hero – Community Center

                       $100,000/$800,000 total        

Orange County

            Brookfield – Old Town Hall

                        $100,000/$400,000 total

            Strafford – Town House Bell Tower


            Bradford – Public Library

                        $75,000/$203,000 total

            Randolph – Chandler Music Hall

                        $250,000/$3.5 million total

Rutland County

            Brandon – Old Town Hall

                        $70,000/$900,000 total

            Pawlet – Town Hall Auditorium

                        $75,000/$200,000 this phase

            West Rutland – Carving Studio

                        $75,000/$200,000 total

            Sudbury – Meeting House

                        $75,000/$130,000 phases 5 & 6/$250,000 total

            Poultney – Bentley House

                        $100,000/$220,000 total

Washington County

            Worcester – Town Hall

                        $50,000/$162,300 total

Windham County

            Rockingham Bellows Falls – Town Hall Theatre

                        $100,000/$850,000 total

            Putney – General Store (Putney Historical Society)

                        $160,000/$800,000 total

            Guilford – Housing and General Store (Friends of Algiers Village)

                        $65,000/$250,000 first phase 

Windsor County

            Rochester – Pierce Hall

                        $100,000/$700,000 this phase

            Springfield – Ellis Block

                        $125,000/$3,401,051 total

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North Hero Town Hall:  $100,000
Funding used for exterior improvements to a 70-year-old building in the center of North Hero, helping to reopen the building to community members and visitors in preparation of the Quadricentennial celebration of Lake Champlain.
Putney General Store:  $160,000
Funding used to rebuild the Putney General Store that was targeted by arson twice in 18 months.  The historic building housed a general store since 1830.  The community will open a community supported general store shortly. 

Readsboro Bullock Building:  $100,000
Funding was used to stabilize the 1880’s three-story, wood frame building that serves as a prominent storefront in the center of Readsboro. 
Brandon Old Town Hall: $70,000
Funding was used for interior improvements to the 1861 Greek Revival Brandon Town Hall to enable additional public uses.

Poultney’s Bentley Hall: $100,000
Funding was used by Green Mountain College to restore a 1900 Queen Anne-Colonial Revival building in the center of Poultney Village to serve as community meeting facility.

Randolph’s Chandler Center for the Arts:  $250,000
Funds were used for rehabilitation and additions at the 1907 music hall in central Vermont.
Richmond Round Church: $25,000
Funding was used to install fire suppression equipment in the nearly 200-year-old Richmond landmark at the heart of Richmond village.

Guilford Village Store:  $65,000
Funds will be used by the Friends of Algiers Village to purchase, stabilize and reopen the Guilford Village Store.

Brighton Opera House / Town Hall: $60,000 – exterior siding work
Funding will be used for the removal of old vinyl siding from the 122-year old Town Hall and restoring the building’s wood clapboard appearance and original architectural features. 

Springfield Ellis Block:  $125,000
Funding was used for exterior rehabilitation efforts following a 2008 fire that destroyed several units of housing and an iconic downtown movie theater.  The theater reopened recently.
Salisbury Shard Villa: $100,000
Funding used to restore murals and infrastructure at a 1874 historic residential care home and national historic site.
Hardwick Jeudevine Memorial Library: $50,000
Funding was directed to repoint exterior stonework of the 1896 Jeudevine Memorial Library, a classic Romanesque Revival building designed by Lambert Packard, one of Vermont’s most prominent nineteenth-century architects.

Hardwick Memorial Hall window repair: $20,000
Funding was used to conserve windows and replace historic lighting fixtrues in the 1911 Neo-Classical style building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hardwick Town House woodwork, roof, foundation repair: $30,000
Funding was used to make structural improvements and code improvements to the c. 1860 Hardwick Academy building.

Groton Village Restoration Project: $54,900
Funding was used as part of a village-wide mixed use restoration effort.

Bloomfield Town Hall:  $70,000
Funding was directed to make foundation, basement and life safety repairs enabling the late 19th century stick style building to be used as a public meeting space.

Brookfield Old Town Hall: $75,000
Funding was directed to make structural repairs and add handicap access so that the mid 1850’s facility could be used for community functions.  The building is listed on the National Register as a contributing structure to the Brookfield Village Historic District.
Strafford Town House: $50,000
Funding was used to make repairs to the 1799 Town House which stands on a small hill overlooking the common in the Village of Strafford.  The building has been in continuous use for 200 years for Town Meetings and elections.

Bellows Falls Town Hall Theater:  $100,000
Funding was used to restore the 1926 building, targeting the 250 seat theater.  Improvements included reproduction and installation of arched windows and stage renovations to accommodate both film and live theater.
Worcester Town Hall:  $50,000
Funding was used to address fire safety code improvements and accessibility problems on the second floor of the town office building.
Sudbury Meeting House: $75,000
Funding was used to help the Sudbury Community Club restore the 1807 Gothic style meeting house.
West Rutland Carving Studio:  $75,000
Funding was used to convert former Vermont Marble Company offices into usable year round artist space.
Bradford Public Library:  $75,000
Funding was used to complete brick work and roof work on the 1895 Woods Library Building in the heart of Bradford.
Pawlet Town Hall:  $75,000
Funding was used to help the town restore the 1881 Italianate style town office building and reopen the second story town meeting hall closed due to accessibility concerns.
Richford Sweat Cummings:  $100,000
Funding was used to help convert a decaying mill property in housing, retail and office space in the downtown center of Richford.  This funding was particularly helpful in relocating the Richford Health Center to the mill.
Ferrisburgh Grange Project:  $100,000
Funding was used to help the town rebuild the 1868 Italianate style Grange Hall into town offices and a community center following a 2005 fire that destroyed the building prior to rehabilitation efforts.
Rochester Pierce Hall:  $100,000
Funding was used to help the Pierce Hall Community Center restore the 1916 Pierce Hall and re-establish its original purpose as a community center and performance venue for the Upper White River Valley.

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