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Rural redevelopment in East Calais, Vermont

Updated: Aug 25, 2022

The texture and depth of a close-knit and caring community enriches the redevelopment process of a historic mixed-use property in East Calais. Launched by a small group of volunteers, the East Calais Community Trust (ECCT) vowed to preserve the community's only general store after its last owner threw in the towel at the end of 2019. Since 1850, generations of East Calais residents relied on the store for basic provisions, hunting and fishing licenses, local news, and casual conversations to catch up with neighbors.

As East Calais residents braced for the lights to go out in their local store, ECCT arranged a meeting with the late Paul Bruhn, who founded and led Preservation Trust of Vermont. Bruhn connected ECCT with the statewide network of communities engaged in similar efforts to preserve rural general stores and their historic properties. Preservation Trust assisted ECCT with the initial fiduciary responsibilities and planning process involved in launching a fundraising drive, and ECCT's vision got underway. As a first step, ECCT engaged Ryan Edwards & Company Architects | Designers to implement the group's vision.

One ECCT volunteer who was also a Town historic preservation committee member introduced the group to the Agency of Commerce & Community Development's Certified Local Government program which provided a project start-up grant. One source led to another and ECCT soon compiled over $40,000 in grants to implement a range of feasibility activities. Impressively, one of these included remediation of underground storage tanks with Phase 1 and 2 environmental assessments funded by the VT Department of Environmental Conservation. Additionally, the Vermont Housing & Conservation's Rural Economic Development Initiative program supported the costs of a grant-writer to raise project capital.

In June 2020, ECCT hired Brian Pine, of Pine Consulting to begin researching and applying for grant funding to cover redevelopment costs. Since then, Pine Consulting and partner CommonLand Solutions have raised over $970,000 from 12 grant sources to bring the project near to the finish line. ECCT continues to solicit donations and all project funding will be in place before construction begins in the fall of 2021. Currently, ECCT is soliciting proposals for construction management services:

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ECCT's enthusiasm and determination will breathe life into this community hub again when renovations begin. By the summer of 2022, East Calais residents and visitors will find fishing licenses, library books, basic, affordable provisions, and local products lining the shelves of the new East Calais General Store once again.

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