by Natalie Hormilla
copyright the Chronicle 8-15-2012
BARTON — The Gilman Housing Trust (GHT) has entered into a purchase and sale agreement with Amy and William Braun, the current owners of the Pierce Block in downtown Barton.
“We’re in the process of assembling the financing, and hope that everything will work out so that we can be the new owners within a couple months,” Robin Drinkwater, GHT’s director of real estate development, said on Friday.
The Gilman Housing Trust is a nonprofit housing organization based in Lyndonville. It serves the three Northeast Kingdom counties.
GHT plans to “retain the first floor commercial spaces and potentially develop housing in the upper floors, which are currently empty,” said Ms. Drinkwater.
The current tenants of the Pierce Block building are Kinney Drugs and Maggie and Bug’s Café and Bakery.
Ms. Drinkwater said there are no plans to change any of the current tenants. “It’s really to give the property the attention it deserves and develop the unused space there to contribute more to the downtown area.”
She said the upper floors would most likely be converted to affordable housing.
“It’s a potential of 12 to 16 residential apartments, depending on size.”
“Most of the housing we provide is affordable housing,” she said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s for the lowest of incomes or that it’s subsidized. Affordable could mean a wide range of things. It could mean affordable to teachers or officers or town clerks.”
“The actual redevelopment of the property would not be immediate,” Ms. Drinkwater said. GHT would need to create a development plan and acquire funding to redevelop the property. “The rest wouldn’t be seen for a minimum of 12 months, and most likely longer because it would take longer to assemble the financing.”
She added that since the run-on building on the Pierce Block is designated as historic, GHT would have to retain the historic nature of the property, and so it may be limited in what it can do.
GHT plans to buy the Pierce Block partly using money from the town of Barton’s revolving loan fund.
Barton’s loan committee has made the recommendation to the town’s selectmen that GHT be given the loan for their requested amount of $150,000, said John Brown, chairman of the loan committee.
“But then it has to be finally approved by the selectmen, which probably won’t be happening until Monday,” Mr. Brown said.
The loan committee’s recommendation will officially come before the selectmen at their next regular meeting on Monday, August 20. If the selectmen approve the loan, they will also decide what its exact terms will be.
The revolving loan fund is meant to promote business growth and job development for the town. The six-person loan committee is appointed by the selectmen. The committee reviews applications for loans and makes recommendations to the selectmen, who ultimately decide who may get a loan through that fund. Those who are approved pay the town interest.
“It’s sort of self-funding,” said Mr. Brown.
He said the loan committee has not received a serious application for a couple of years.
GHT plans to seek bank financing for the rest of the purchase amount. Ms. Drinkwater said that she does not currently know which bank GHT will seek financing from, but that she will work with local lenders.
GHT currently owns and manages 15 apartment units in three buildings in Barton through the name Crystal Lake Housing, and 20 apartment units in one building in Orleans named Rainbow Apartments. GHT owns 560 residential units and 25 commercial units in 89 buildings in the Northeast Kingdom. All of the residential units are considered to be affordable housing, with varying levels of restrictions on eligibility requirements, Ms. Drinkwater said.
contact Natalie Hormilla at firstname.lastname@example.org