HOPE ready for building renovations

MIDDLEBURY — People who work at and receive services through the Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (HOPE) Community Services Building at 282 Boardman St. face around three months of construction upheaval. But officials of the social services nonprofit believe the payoff will make the temporary inconveniences worthwhile.
Workers on Jan. 10 are scheduled to begin more than $700,000 in renovations to the 20-year-old structure, all aimed at making the building more comfortable and client-friendly.
“This space worked when the building opened in 1999, but we’ve grown,” said HOPE Executive Director Jeanne Montross. “We were serving around 150 people per month at the food shelf back then, and now it’s closer to 700 people a month.”
The upgrades have been in the works for more than a year and are made possible through a successful fund drive recently undertaken by the HOPE board, according to Montross. HOPE runs the county’s largest food shelf, a resale shop, and programs that provide food, clothing and other assistance for the county’s most impoverished citizens.
HOPE also owns and operates the Community Services Building at 282 Boardman St., which hosts several other not-for-profit tenants. They include Vermont Adult Learning, Addison County Court Diversion & Community Justice Projects Inc., Easterseals Vermont, and the Middlebury Community Players.
The Community Services Building is fully occupied for the first time in several years, according to Montross, who wants to reward the tenants — and their clients — with improved offices and meeting areas that will provide more space and privacy.
Approximately 4,100 of the building’s total 20,608 square feet will be under construction, according to Montross. Another 2,500 square feet — largely on the second floor — will be affected by heating and ventilation system upgrades, she added.
Court Diversion, HOPE and Vermont Adult Learning will be the organizations most affected by the construction, according to Montross.
“We basically have to vacate the entire west side of the building, both upstairs and down,” Montross explained. “Everybody is being very cooperative and cheerful about it, which is very helpful.”
The interior improvements will largely involve putting underused space within the building into circulation for tenants and clients. Construction will, among other things, create:
•  More food shelf space for storage, shelving, refrigeration and work areas, allowing HOPE to manage inventory in a more accessible and cost-effective manner.
•  A dedicated food shelf waiting area to reduce crowding and stress at the reception area.
•  Improved, safer access for bulk deliveries to warehouse receiving areas.
•  A walk-in shower room where homeless people can bathe in privacy.
•  An extension of the HOPE headquarters further into what is now a large lobby area at the building’s front entrance. That front entrance will also be widened, according to Montross.
•  A double-doors, a sink with work area, and overhead door in the warehouse.
•  More storage space for the HOPE Holiday Shop.
“We want a more dignified and organized delivery of client services,” Montross said.
The project will produce some short-term pain before the long-term gains, she added.
Crews from Silver Maple Construction started mobilizing at the building this week. Tenants whose space will be affected by the work will temporarily stow their office furniture into two storage units placed outside.
Building tenants will have to wedge into smaller spaces during construction.
“During this time we are going to keep all of our services going, except that the showers will not be accessible, because bathrooms will be torn apart,” Montross said.
HOPE’s offices will temporarily move into a front conference room — where the Holiday Shop operates in the late fall/early winter.
While the current food shelf space won’t be torn up during the project, that area won’t be accessible due to demolition. So the food shelf will temporarily move into a smaller conference room next to where the one where the Holiday Shop operates.
“There may be a little less variety in there,” Montross said. “We won’t be able to have the entire (food) inventory in there, but we’ll have a complete selection.”
Court Diversion and Vermont Adult Learning workers will still have use of a “couple of their offices,” according to Montross. Vermont Adult Learning will have to vacate its larger classrooms in the west wing of the building, and consolidate that function in its administrative offices down the hall, Montross said.
Private meetings with clients will take place in a small portion of the Middlebury Community Players space.
Montross stressed although HOPE’s resale shop will remain open for the duration, it won’t be accepting any merchandise donations for two weeks once construction starts on Jan. 10.
Montross will ask HOPE volunteers to greet clients as they enter the building and explain where they need to access services during construction.
“There are going to be different ways people are going to have to access the building during different phases (of construction),” Montross said. “We are asking people to be patient, go slow, be safe.”
Workers have already completed exterior work that was part of the project. That included a new loading dock equipped with a canopy, and construction of a shelter for a relocated Addison County Transit Resources bus stop
In all, more than 200 individuals, foundations and businesses have given to the “Building HOPE” campaign, ranging from a few dollars to a $250,000 challenge grant through the Hoehl Family Foundation. The Magic Vermont, Windham and Hannaford Charitable foundations also contributed to the effort, Montross said.
“It will be interesting around here for a little while,” she added.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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