Vermont Business Magazine Seven communities around Vermont were announced on Tuesday as the inaugural winners of Main Street Grants, a program the National Life Group Foundation created in partnership with the Vermont Community Foundation. The grants include funding for signs to guide visitors through downtowns, renovation of a community center, and updating a historic performance space. In all, $85,500 in grants were awarded to Barre, Bennington, Montpelier, St. Albans, St. Johnsbury, Waterbury, and Wilmington. The National Life Foundation provided $70,500 of the funding and the Vermont Community Foundation provided $15,000.
“We’re delighted to be able to support the exciting things happening in Vermont downtowns,” said Beth Rusnock, president of the National Life Foundation. “The projects that we’ll help fund will drive the local economy, support local culture and help to foster the civic pride that Vermonters take in their communities.”
“The heart of community is a sense of common experience,” said Dan Smith, president of the Vermont Community Foundation. “Vermont should be proud of the work going on across the state to design energetic downtown spaces that bring people together, foster connections and build community. We are excited to be partnering with National Life in exploring how to bring together people and resources to make a difference for these downtowns.”
There were applications for 29 different projects across the state. National Life partnered with the Preservation Trust of Vermont to analyze the projects and recommend funding. In addition to contributing toward the grants, the Vermont Community Foundation is reviewing all of the applications to determine whether they might qualify for additional future funding.
“I appreciate the support of National Life Foundation and the Vermont Community Foundation in launching these new Main Street Grants,” said Governor Scott. “Revitalizing Vermont’s downtowns and villages is crucial to strengthening Vermont’s economy, and I am so thankful for the incredible state, local, public and private partnerships working to build stronger, more vibrant communities.”
The winning projects were announced at a news conference with Governor Phil Scott at the annual Downtown Day at the Statehouse. The grant winners are:
Barre: Creation of a historical walking tour of downtown and a bicycling tour that connects to Upper Graniteville. The project includes historical plaques, brochures and website. $5,500.
Bennington: The Grow Bennington Initiative is designed to create greater vibrancy in the town center with a variety of projects, including plantings, signs, a park and, year-round lighting of trees to make the downtown more visually appealing, safer and vibrant. $5,500.
Montpelier: Phase 2 of a “wayfinding” project to manufacture and install signs that will help to guide downtown visitors to landmarks, historic sites and other places in the downtown. $9,000.
St. Albans: Continue renovating the City Hall Auditorium into a modern performance space with new sound and lighting equipment, curtains, and a repaired and extended stage. $15,000.
St. Johnsbury: Enhancements of Depot Square Park to create gathering spaces with benches and tables, sculpted bike racks, art installations and signs, and community events. $20,000.
Waterbury: Projects to make Waterbury’s downtown a “bike-friendly” community with bicycle racks, improved signs directing riders to downtown from attractions outside the business core, and bike wash and repair stations. $5,500.
Wilmington: Renovate the lobby and reception area of the former Twin Valley High School building into the Old School Enrichment Center community center to make it handicap accessible, and improve directional signs, and to attract future social service, educational, wellness and community organizations as tenants. $25,000.
“Strong, dynamic downtowns and villages, coupled with housing working families and young professionals can afford are critical to my Administration’s work to strengthen and grow Vermont’s economy,” said Scott. “The work to revitalize Vermont’s downtowns and villages is a team sport, so I truly appreciate the growing number of state, local, public and private partners who are working to build stronger, more vibrant communities.”
In January, Scott proposed several initiatives that build upon the successful $37 million housing bond proposed and passed last year, aimed at introducing more affordable workforce housing throughout the state. These initiatives are currently included in H. 766.
Key provisions of H. 766 include:
- Allocates $625,000 to pilot a new homeowner tax credit to improve the quality and quantity of housing in and around Vermont’s designated downtowns and villages;
- Increases investment in the downtown and village center tax credit program by $250,000; and
- Invests an additional $125,000 for the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) tax credit to fund its Down Payment Assistance Program for first-time homebuyers.
“I appreciate the Legislature’s work to advance my housing proposals, which invest $1 million in tax credits to attract and house the young families Vermont’s economy needs to thrive,” added Scott. “Representatives Fred Baser, William Botzow and Michael Marcotte have helped lead the charge, and my Administration looks forward to our continued collaboration on this work.”
At his press conference, the Governor also showcased the contributions of the 23 state-designated downtown communities. In the past year, the 23 state-designated downtown communities have documented nearly $59 million in public and private investment, 127 new housing units, 47 new and expanded businesses, and more than 200 new jobs have been created within the downtown districts.
The Agency of Commerce and Community Development administers the state designation programs, which target investments to build strong communities and promote the efficient use of land, infrastructure and resources. Nearly 170 community centers are designated (downtowns and villages), allowing them to receive priority consideration for state grants and access to state tax incentives.
Source: NationalLife.com. 3.13.2018