Public-Private Partnerships Revitalize Downtown St. Albans

Recently completed is a new mixed-use commercial project in downtown St. Albans, VT, known as the Congress & Main building. This, along with two multi-family developments nearing completion, are transforming what was a collection of blighted properties directly across from City Hall on Main Street into a vibrant block of the core downtown.

With these three buildings and a closely associated new public safety building, the City has added over $66,000,000 to its grand list since 2012. Astonishingly, this represents 67% growth in the downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district since the district was established eight years ago!

These projects are the latest successes in a decade-long effort to revitalize downtown St. Albans. The City faced what is so typical in small cities across America – development costs are higher than projected post-development property values in large measure because rental rates are too low to cover the necessary investment. Moving past this substantial barrier required a willingness on the part of the City to take risks, make investments, clean up brownfield properties, find subsidy funding sources including grants, tax credits, and low interest loans, and affirmatively seek out developers.

White + Burke acted as financial and deal-making advisor to City leadership to bring these projects about through TIF and public-private partnerships. The effort was particularly complex, involving numerous sources of public and private financing including TIF, Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), financing from Governor Scott’s housing bond for workforce housing, an equity investment from Northwest Medical Center, brownfield clean-up grants, conventional bank loans, and other sources. It also required City commitments of on-site and off-site parking and the efforts of key partners including a local St. Albans developer, Grant Butterfield, Champlain Housing Trust (CHT), Northwest Medical Center, and Community College of Vermont.

St. Albans City Manager Dom Cloud said, “Public-private partnerships like Congress and Main can produce superior qualitative results in terms of community vitality, economic resiliency, and housing. But they also can produce superior quantitative results in terms of tax base and infrastructure. If communities are serious about economic recovery, public-private partnerships are the most effective tool in the toolbox.”

The newly opened, 25,000 sq. ft. Congress & Main building is the first of the three new buildings to be completed. Anchor tenants include Community College of Vermont, Vermont Technical College and Northwest Medical Center. The two multi-family buildings are a 30-unit affordable housing project being developed by CHT and a 33-unit market-rate project designed to include workforce housing being developed by Butterfield.

Dom Cloud said, “Congress and Main is the right project – mixed income housing, college students, and professional tenants – in the right location: a former brownfield in a designated downtown. And it was completed in the middle of a global pandemic!”

White + Burke is proud to have been the City’s advisor throughout, and while we celebrate this latest successful project, we’re already working on more projects in downtown St. Albans. Stay tuned!

By: David G. White