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Boom! Demolition clearing the way for Vergennes senior housing project

THE REMOVAL OF additions from 34 North St., which is soon to be restored and become part of Vergennes Grand Senior Living, nears the midway point late last month.
Photo courtesy of Vergennes Grand Senior Living

VERGENNES — After a well-attended ceremonial groundbreaking in mid-October, work began in earnest late last month on the roughly $25 million Vergennes Grand Senior Living project in the heart of the city — and  residents can expect its next construction phase, beginning early next week, to be noticeable.

Blasting ledge could begin on Monday.

That elderly housing complex, when complete in a little over a year, will house up to 82 seniors, mostly of modest means, in a facility fronting the Vergennes green.

It will blend 40,000 square feet of new construction with a 10,000-square-foot restored building at 34 North St., formerly known as Vergennes Residential Care.

That first phase of the project no doubt caught folks’ attention. DeBisschop Excavating used heavy equipment to remove less historically valuable additions to the 200-year-old building at 34 North St. that fronts the downtown park. That building will be retained and restored.

DURING THE LATE-NOVEMBER process of removing additions to the original 200-year-old structure at 34 North St. that will become part of Vergennes Grand Senior Living, the first casualty was a porch on its west side, already history in this photo.
Photo courtesy of Vergennes Grand Senior Living

“The only thing that is remaining, as required by the Division of Historic Preservation, is the main historic block, which is the square building right up front,” said Dan Hassan; he and spouse, Rebecca Hassan, are the principals of Vergennes Grand.

The next phase, set to begin as early as Monday and take between 10 days and two weeks, could make a bit more noise: It involves explosives.

Dan Hassan said the first stage of preparing the site for the new buildings will be blasting “ledge on the back slope, where the foundation of the new construction will be.”

A DEBISSCHOP EXCAVATING claw clears debris late last month from demolished additions behind 34 North St. in Vergennes. This 200-year-old building that still stands will be renovated and become part of Vergennes Grand Senior Living.
Photo courtesy of Vergennes Grand Senior Living

The sound and effects of that blasting will be dampened by large rubber mats placed over each detonation. The Hassans have also notified the roughly 30 potentially directly affected neighbors of what’s on the way to allow them to prepare, for instance by taking antiques off shelves as a precaution.

“I don’t think they’ll vibrate off shelves or anything like that, but they’ll certainly feel it,” Hassan said.

The Hassans have also taken to social media to inform the larger community of what to expect.

The demolition work done late last month is related in purpose to the blasting. Dan Hassan said removing a porch from the building’s west side as well the addition to the rear helped pave the way for new construction to be attached as well as prepared the historic structure for its restoration.

“They had to clear the site in the back,” Hassan said. “They just went right up to the historic block. We just cut a line right around the building They just went in with the big claw and removed it. Then we went in and removed the aluminum siding on the building.”

Hassan said stripping the 50-year-old aluminum siding revealed its original clapboards, “some of which we’re going to be able to restore, and some of which is too far gone.”

Much of the original trim work was removed when that aluminum siding was installed, he said. But during the upcoming restoration and renovation of the original building, Hassan said, “All of that well be replicated and replaced.”

Another building, an older duplex to the left of the construction site, that the Hassans purchased from the Clark family, Vergennes Residential Care’s original owners, was demolished and removed late in 2022.

LOOKING AHEAD

The project is transforming the former 18-bed facility at 34 North St. into an interconnected 53-room, four-building care home capable of accommodating up to 82 seniors. According to the Hassans it will also triple the business’s employee count from 18 to an estimated 48.

A STONE FOUNDATION is revealed late in November as the removal of newer additions from the 200-year-old building at 34 North St., formerly Vergennes Residential Care, nears its conclusion.
Photo courtesy of Vergennes Grand Senior Living

The Hassans are accommodating their current Vergennes residents in their South Burlington facility, with first choice of rooms in Vergennes Grand offered when the project is complete.

Dan Hassan said Vergennes Grand will provide housing for an “underserved” segment of the senior population, as do the other four such properties the Hassans own and manage in South Burlington, Bradford, New Hampshire, and Washington, D.C.

He told the Independent their target demographic are seniors with “low to middle income, or sometimes no income, because we use the Medicaid waiver program.”

The Hassans’ plans have been welcomed by city officials and the Vergennes business community, who see Vergennes Grand meeting a need for area seniors, providing jobs, and bringing patrons to other ventures.

According to figures accepted by the Vergennes Development Review Board during the project’s approval process, Vergennes Grand was then estimated to add $390,000 annually in civic and commercial revenue to Vergennes. That figure included property taxes, water/sewer fees, and visitor and staff purchases at local businesses.

34 NORTH ST. in Vergennes, all of 200 years old, stands alone without its more modern additions as work to remove them is complete late last month. The building will be renovated and become part of Vergennes Grand Senior Living.
Photo courtesy of Vergennes Grand Senior Living

To support the project, the state has also offered a sales tax credit that will upon the project completion funnel about $180,000 to the city to pay for improvements to its central green and the sidewalks and roads around it.

If all goes smoothly through a construction phase that will include a number of Vermont and local contractors, Vergennes Grand Senior Living clients could be taking residence in just over a year.

“We should be opening in January 2025,” Hassan said, adding there is already a waiting list:

“We’re growing it right now.”

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