After Arthur and Theresa Breault retired, the niche Arthur’s Department Store had filled in Morrisville’s economy and downtown area’s vibrancy for nearly four decades became empty. The historic property dated back to the 1800’s with an addition built in 1940, and featured both commercial space as well as several upper floors that had been vacant during the store’s lifetime; a prime location for a mix of residential apartments and businesses. Lamoille Housing Partnership saw the store’s closure as an opportunity to repurpose the building in a way that would fill the niche and more, by serving the community as well as continuing to benefit the local economy and preserve downtown vibrancy.
In 2013, Lamoille Housing Partnership partnered with Housing Vermont to purchase Arthur’s Department Store, which resulted in the creation of two commercial spaces plus 18 units of much needed affordable rental housing. Rehabilitation efforts included critical structural improvements, as well as energy efficiency upgrades to optimize the building’s energy use and to reduce tenants’ utility costs. Currently all of the apartments are rented by low to moderate income Vermonters, while Black Cap Coffee and Pizza On Main lease the commercial spaces. The rental apartments are a critical addition to the area’s supply of affordable housing. The residents include families and individuals who comprise the local workforce, even some who have been previously homeless. The businesses at the street level are thriving, and provide jobs to two dozen local workers.
Lamoille Housing Partnership and Housing Vermont should be recognized for the Preservation Honor Award via the Arthur’s on Main project for several reasons. The thoughtfulness and hard work that went into this project is evidenced by the need that is met in both the rental housing and commercial space development. By increasing the affordable rental housing supply in the community, there is a reduction in local families and individuals struggling to bear housing costs; by adding commercial spaces, opportunities for employment have been created and more dollars are funneled into the local economy. Lamoille Housing Partnership and Housing Vermont’s persistence and commitment both to the community and this project was tested when during construction, it was discovered that one of the buildings lacked a stable foundation – nevertheless, the team from each organization drew on these qualities to meet the goal, and overcame a substantial amount of extra work and funding needed to complete the project. Because of all of these characteristics, the completion of this project was built on the legacy that Arthur’s Department Store left, and directly benefits the strength of the local economy while preserving the downtown area’s vibrancy.