Woolson Block renovation project receives major investment

Woolson Block
Recent construction on the Woolson Block in downtown Springfield. Photo by Bob Miller

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – The Woolson Block renovation project, which was purchased by the town in 2016 and is currently co-managed by the Springfield Housing Unlimited and Housing Vermont, recently received a significant mission investment from the Vermont Community Foundation. The funds will allow the renovations to be completed on the historic building, which will offer the town affordable housing and commercial retail space.

This renovation project is part of a $37 million “affordable apartments” development investment throughout Vermont, supported by federal low-income credits and Vermont Affordable Housing Credits through the Vermont Housing Finance Agency. The fund, set up for a dozen projects throughout the state, came from the sale of the tax credits to investors and was anticipated to cover an estimated 55% of the restoration costs.

The Woolson Block redevelopment endeavor, which began in April and is sponsored by the Springfield Housing Authority, will include 15 affordable apartments designed for a mix of households, including four single-room “service enriched housing units” for homeless or at-risk of being homeless youths. The transitional program will provide a structured environment for young adults in order to help them develop the skills needed to live independently. Along with the apartment units, there will also be available, a fully renovated 5,000-square-foot street level commercial storefront.

The design plan includes the elimination of one residential unit through the demolition of the 650-foot southwest brick addition of the building, while converting the Park Street-level commercial units into the new residential space, relocating the youth housing program from the Main Street floor level to the first level, and expanding the Main Street commercial rental space.

Along with the investment from the Vermont Community Foundation, SHA was able to raise an estimated $3 million through the sale of tax credits, with remaining funds coming from state, historic and downtown tax credits, as well as funding from the Community Development Block Grant program. VCF’s $250,000 investment in the Woolson Block fills a crucial funding gap in the project. The initial estimated cost of the project was $5 million and is now set at about $8 million.

Woolson Block
Woolson Block from Park Street, where demolition has removed an addition and is stabilizing the ledge. Photo by Bob Miller

“The Vermont Community Foundation has been wanting to become active in this area of the state,” said Bill Morlock of the Springfield Housing Authority. “They were especially interested in helping with the Woolson Block project because it was part of the revitalization of downtown Springfield, and the building would house the Youth of Transition program. We were very excited to have them become a part of this important program.”

The VCF investment allows the project to move forward and help place several at-risk youths in a structured environment, which will allow them to learn the new skills needed to live independently. The investment creates a major impact on the overall quality of the construction of the building.

The renovation of the Woolson Block plays a big role in the overall improvement plan of Springfield, changing the perception from the old “machine tool factory” town to a modern, innovative community that attracts younger residents to a newly renovated, downtown area.

“We are excited to support this array of community projects, and we thank all the people and organizations who are working hard to improve the lives of Vermonters and all the communities that we call home,” said Josh Hanford, Vermont Department of Community Development’s deputy commissioner.

Several local organizations are working together to assist in occupying the renovated building. Springfield on the Move will assist in bringing in a local business to fill the retail space. Local social organizations such as Health Care & Rehabilitation Services, the Springfield Department of Social Services, and Windham County Youth Services will help occupy the residential apartments.

According to Springfield on the Move, as of Monday, Nov. 11, the Park Street Bridge will be closed for three weeks to accommodate a large crane that will be stabilizing the ledge below Woolson Block. Traffic will detour to Mineral Street.

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