Redevelopment of historic Woolson Block begins

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – On Nov. 13, 2019, affordable housing owners and developers, Springfield Housing Authority and Housing Vermont joined local elected officials, funders, and project participants to celebrate the start of redevelopment of the Woolson Block building. Renovations will return this historic property to its prominent origins and contribute to the economic vitality of downtown Springfield.

Housing Vermont and Springfield Housing Authority begin redeveloping the Woolson Block. Photo provided

The Woolson Block is a three-story Italianate-style brick building, built in 1868 by the president of a Springfield machine tool company and woolen mill. The historic building sits perched above the falls of the Black River in the center of downtown Springfield. Historical photos from the early 1900s show the Woolson Block as a busy, well-kept mixed-use building. In more recent years, the building had fallen into disrepair, which ultimately led to tax sale by the owner.

“The Woolson Block represents a significant step in the revitalization of downtown Springfield from its old machine tool factory days to a modern infrastructure that attracts and retains younger people to our beautiful downtown where they can live safely and affordably,” said Bill Morlock, the executive director of the Springfield Housing Authority. “Both the housing and commercial spaces will contribute directly to Springfield’s continued economic revitalization through property tax revenue, the provision of goods and services, and new affordable housing.”

The redevelopment plan at Woolson Block involves a substantial rehabilitation of the historic structure and the creation of affordable apartments, transitional housing, and more than 5,000 square feet of commercial space on the street level. The residential space will provide 15 rental apartments designated for a mix of households, all with incomes at or below 60% of the area’s median income. There also will be four single-room occupancy and service-enriched apartments for homeless and at-risk youth between the ages of 18 and 24 with incomes at or below 50% of the area’s median income. The transitional program will provide a structured environment for at-risk youth so that they’re able to develop the skills and habits they need to live independently.

Funding totaling more than $8.6 million from several private and public sources was raised to finance the total redevelopment costs. PNC Bank invested over $5 million through the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, which is administered by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency. The Vermont Housing & Conservation Board provided over $1.75 million, including $1 million from the state Housing for All Revenue Bond of 2017. The Vermont Community Development Program provided $450,000 through the town of Springfield plus Downtown Tax Credits worth $328,000. The town also provided $200,000 through its revolving loan fund. The Vermont Community Foundation provided $250,000 in critical gap funding. The Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission provided $175,000 in EPA Brownfields funds. Efficiency Vermont incentives of $34,000 were also provided.

“Redeveloping this historic building will be challenging,” said Housing Vermont President Nancy Owens. “However, it offers several important community benefits including creating much-needed affordable housing and boosting the vitality of downtown Springfield. With the leadership of our elected officials, supported by a diverse range of funders, we will be able to offer a forward-thinking mix of uses to include 15 new affordable homes as well as four service-enriched apartments for at-risk youth along with street level commercial space.”

Housing Vermont and the Springfield Housing Authority have previously collaborated in downtown Springfield. After a 2008 fire destroyed the Ellis Block, HVT and SHA worked together to restore the building, a historic movie theater with residential housing, which sits across the street from Woolson Block.

Renovations on the Woolson Block are estimated to be complete in June 2020.

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