Tax credits to boost restoration of city’s Shade Roller Building

VERGENNES — The award of $237,500 in historic preservation and tax credits to the proposed $3 million renovation of the prominent — but long vacant — Shade Roller Mill and Annex buildings near the Otter Creek falls in Vergennes should move that long-delayed project forward, the property owner said, but almost certainly not until 2014.
Ferrisburgh resident David Shlansky, the principal of property owner Shenandoah LLC, said he doesn’t believe obtaining an Act 250 permit will be a problem after receiving the tax credit award from the Vermont Downtown Development Board this past summer.
But obtaining bank financing for a project that will create 10 residential units and commercial space in a renovated Shade Roller building and smaller Annex will take time, Shlansky said, especially while his main legal business is busy in its nearby office in the Grist Mill, on an island in the Otter Creek falls.
“What we are really doing is focusing on the budget,” he said, in preparation for a loan application.
The Vergennes Development Review Board (DRB) gave Shenandoah a conditional use permit for its plans on Oct. 15, 2012. That permit for work on the 1.5-acre property at the junction of West Main and Canal streets is good for two years, and can be extended.
Shlansky called the plans a “careful infill” project — including condos in the 16,000-square-foot Shade Roller building with views of the falls and Otter Creek basin — that meets Act 250 criteria.
“I don’t think we will have trouble getting an Act 250 permit,” he said.
Shlansky said his law firm has been exceptionally busy this summer, but he hopes to find the time to pursue permitting and financing to start the project within the next year, while calling the potential timetable “a good question.”
“I’d like to say we can start sometime during 2014,” he said.
Shenandoah’s DRB application listed potential commercial uses as “Medical Service, Personal Service, Residential, Prof. Studio, Office, Retail Store,” and its Downtown Development Board application lists a private gym as a possibility.
The tax credits — which are made possible because Vergennes is a Designated Downtown with a nonprofit entity (the Vergennes Partnership) overseeing its health — are critical to the financial health of a project without a large profit margin, Shlansky said.
“It makes it easier not to lose money,” he said.
The board awards historic preservation credits to both preserve buildings and boost the economy, said Gov. Peter Shumlin in July while announcing a total of about $2 million in credits to 31 projects around Vermont. 
“Historic preservation has always been an important component of Vermont’s community and economic development strategy, and the state tax credit program not only helps repair these buildings, but also creates jobs and attracts businesses and tourists to our downtowns,” Shumlin said.
The tax credit award to Shenandoah was the largest of those 31 awards.
According to Shenandoah’s application, the benefits to Vergennes will include conformity with the city plan, which calls for new life in those buildings; “numerous temporary construction jobs” and work for related consulting, engineering and architectural firms; the “fiscal multiplier effect” from those jobs and wages; and the benefits of the finished project to the area’s tourism sector and the city’s grand list and economy.
Shlansky also acknowledged the project has had a difficult history since he paid Green Mountain Power $150,000 for the property in 2004. Both buildings have been empty for almost 20 years, but had also previously been used by Simmonds Precision, now UTC Aerospace Systems, to store materials.
Shenandoah’s plans were stalled when environmental assessments done in 2007 and 2008 found contamination in both buildings, most notably by poly-chlorinated byphenyls (PCBs) that had leaked into flooring. PCBs are found in transformers, among other pieces of equipment.
The contamination from the PCBs, plus solvents and some petroleum products, meant Shlansky’s firm could not move ahead with its plans. In 2010, Shlansky filed suit in U.S. District Court in Burlington against GMP, claiming the company did or should have known about the contamination. The civil suit sought a jury trial.
GMP maintained that Shlansky knew of potential contamination when he entered into the purchase and sale agreement, and that he failed to inspect the property before the purchase. Shlansky, in turn, said he received assurances from a GMP manager that there were no serious problems before he waived his inspection rights.
In July 2012, the case was settled. The settlement also involved UTC, then Goodrich Aerospace. Shlansky said then the firms ultimately agreed to be responsible “both in material measure” for a sum he described as well into six figures, although each firm at first maintained it was not at fault. Critically, Shlansky said the settlement was enough to fix the issues. 
Shenandoah then received its DRB approval in October, and this summer got the $237,500 news on the tax credits.
Now, the Act 250 and financing hurdles are what remain. 
“Hopefully, we’ll get something going there,” Shlansky said. “It’s had a lot of twists and turns.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

Share this story:

More News

Bernard D. Kimball, 76, of Middlebury

MIDDLEBURY — Bernard D. Kimball, 76, passed away in Bennington Hospital on Jan. 10, 2023. … (read more)

News Uncategorized

Fresh Air Fund youths returning to county

The Fresh Air Fund, initiated in 1877 to give kids from New York City the opportunity to e … (read more)

Obituaries Uncategorized

Mark A. Nelson of Bristol

BRISTOL — A memorial service for Mark A. Nelson of Bristol will be held 1 p.m. on Saturday … (read more)

Share this story: