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HOPE seeks hold on its mortgage

MIDDLEBURY — Officials at Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects, or HOPE, are asking the town of Middlebury to temporarily suspend the anti-poverty organization’s monthly payments on a $225,000 mortgage loan relating to its John Craven Community Services Center at 282 Boardman St.
The town of Middlebury currently serves as a pass-through for the loan extended to HOPE several years ago by the Vermont Community Development Program. As reported by the Addison Independent in its Oct. 23 edition, HOPE has five vacancies within its building, amounting to a combined total of 4,657 square feet.
Vermont Adult Learning was the most recent tenant to announce its departure; it will move to 24 Washington St. Vermont Adult Learning officials believe the organization will gain better visibility being closer to the downtown.
At the Oct. 28 Middlebury selectboard meeting, HOPE Executive Director Jeanne Montross explained the Community Services Center was envisioned as a one-stop shop for human services, and seemed primed to meet that goal after it was completed in 1999. But recent years have seen tenants like Addison County Transit Resources and Addison County Retired Senior Volunteer Project leave their rented spaces for facilities they have either built or rented within Middlebury village. This trend, according to Montross, has resulted in lost rental income and forced HOPE to delve into revenues from its very successful RetroWorks refurbishing program and resale shop to cover building operating expenses.
“That money, we believe, is better used in support of our poverty relief programs, including fuel assistance, housing and medical needs,” Montross said. “It would be very helpful if we could devote as much RetroWorks revenue as possible to those needs and resume paying the town after we have new tenants paying rent.”
Montross added HOPE has formed a committee that is reaching out to prospective new tenants. She said the organization is willing to accommodate for-profit tenants as well as nonprofits, and that rents are negotiable. Montross stressed to selectboard members that HOPE is not seeking loan forgiveness.
The selectboard agreed to entertain HOPE’s request, but asked Montross for more information about its tenant recruitment process and financials before deciding whether to recommend to the Vermont Community Development Program that it suspend the loan repayments.

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