Local projects receive tax credits

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WILMINGTON >> Three local projects will be pushed further along after receiving tax credits.

"Property owners are eligible to apply for this program because Wilmington is part of the Vermont Downtown Program," said Anna Drozdowski, executive director of Wilmington Works. "Wilmington businesses have been on the receiving end of more than $650,000 in credits since being granted our downtown designation three years ago."

State income tax credits are offered to properties located in designated downtowns and village centers for specific types of projects, according to Vermont Tax Credits and Grants Coordinator Caitlin Corkins. For facade improvements, 25-percent credits are available. Then there are 50-percent credits for technology which could target Internet service or computers, and code upgrades, which might include installation of elevators and sprinkler systems.

While $2.2 million in tax credits are usually awarded shortly after the July 1 deadline for applications each year, Corkins said some funds were recaptured through the tax credit program. Two Wilmington applicants plus ones in Saxtons River and St. Johnsbury recently became recipients. This can happen for a variety of reasons.

"Sometimes, projects just don't go forward. Sometimes, they go under budget. So we recapture remaining funds. Sometimes, they don't meet the program requirements," said Corkins. "Wilmington has done a great job of taking advantage of the program. This year, fortunately there were a few projects that didn't quite make the cut in July but we were able to fund them any way."

Projects awarded tax credits must be completed within five years, she said. If a property is sold without the project being finished then the credits come back into the program.

Isabelle Alvarado, owner of The Village Roost, said she, her daughter, Britny Jones, and son-in-law, Sam Jones, were looking for a project in Wilmington and had a choice between nine buildings that were "virtually abandoned" following Tropical Storm Irene. They chose 20 West Main Street for its flow and parking.

"We were really excited to get additional funding because like any project you undertake, you think you're going to spend x then you spend x plus x, x, x, x," said Alvarado of the tax credits for facade improvements coming in just over $40,000. "It was something we had a vision for that Wilmington needed; a more casual eatery without having to sit down for two hours. We really wanted to gear it down for children, a place you could bring kids to."

The restaurant uses no genetically modified organisms and sells no soda. Inside are five different areas for seating and outside are two patios. But initially, there was no electricity or plumbing. The roof was deteriorating and no equipment was left inside the building, said Alvarado.

"We were basically rehabilitating the building from scratch," she said, adding that the front section was built in 1840 and another section was a barn built in the 1970s. "When we started the project, we knew what we were getting into but we didn't know the extent."

The business wanted to go the "historic route" but decided not to apply for tax credits in the beginning because there were too many limitations attached to the funding, Alvarado told the Reformer. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. And delving into its history, she found out it was a flop house in the 1940s.

Local contractors were hired for the renovations. New siding, windows and roofing were installed.

The restaurant will be closed for mud season while cosmetic fixes are made. Alvarado said the decks will be power-washed and stained. A window in the front will be repaired.

"We're very pleased with the support we got in town all around," said Alvarado. "Wilmington has become a destination for eating."

Todd Gareiss was awarded $44,723 in tax credits to spruce up his residential building at 19 East Main St., which was severely damaged from flooding during Irene. He has two other buildings in town.

"While we were working, cleaning those out and saving those as fast as we could, two or three months went by," he said. "By the time we went to clean this other building, the whole thing was just covered in black mold. Post flood, there was so much moisture in there. From there, it became a complete gut job."

Wiring and a heating system from the 1930s needed to be replaced. But now, Gareiss is looking to add more square footage to the building in order to offer another unit. He worked on a design with Wilmington-based LineSync Architecture. On top of the tax credits, another $200,000 is expected to go into the project, which is scheduled to begin this summer.

"We developed a new two-family home situation with one being an ADA-accessible apartment," said Gareiss, referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act. "It's going to be beautiful. There will be a stain-polished floor. Everything first class. It's meant for residents, not seasonal or second homeowners. We're looking for the right people to become part of the community."

He said he hopes the apartment might attract elderly people, citing a regional plan calling for an increase in ADA-compliant housing.

Gareiss is finishing up his 9 South Main St. property, where an antique/boutique will soon open. An apartment in the basement won an honorable mention from the Architectural Institute of America Vermont in 2014.

"It was built to be completely submerged again," said Gareiss, describing the unit as a jail cell meets Soho loft. "It's resilient but nice. That's bringing a whole new set of tenants to town. It's a little more upscale than your average apartment in Wilmington."

He called Irene "a godsend" as it his given him an opportunity to start from scratch with his properties, which were "plagued with issues."

Another six months of work is ahead for Gareiss with renovations to his apartments at 48 North Main Street.

"I love Wilmington," he said. "I'm here to stay. I'm here for the long run."

Main Street Arts in Saxtons River received its second award through the tax credit program. Kathleen Bryar, co-chairwoman of Main Street Arts board, said her group received $33,250 in tax credits this latest time around. The funding will go towards covering the cost of a new sprinkler system in the center's renovated building.

"They've done any amazing amount of work in such a small community," said Corkins of the non-profit arts center.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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