If there is a secret ingredient to successfully completing a $17 million renovation project in the heart of a struggling downtown, it is this: belief. “Over the past decade, things in St. Johnsbury have changed, and more and more the community began earnestly believing in themselves,” says Kathy Beyer, senior vice-president of real estate development at Evernorth. “They said to us, You’ve got to fix this. This has to be part of our future.”
Built in 1898 as a first-class hotel next to the railroad station, the four-story 50,000 sq. ft. New Avenue was converted to apartments in 1978 and suffered from deferred maintenance in recent years. In 2018, with dogged advocacy from Senator Jane Kitchel and support from partners across the state, including a $100,000 Bruhn Revitalization Grant from PTV, Evernorth purchased the building and partnered with RuralEdge to restore the residential floors. New Depot Square Commercial Properties LLC assembled a local investor group to take on the challenge of renovating and leasing the street-level commercial space. Their collective goal was to provide good affordable housing and a vibrant streetscape, bringing new life and vitality to St. Johnsbury.
The fully restored New Avenue opened in 2022 and has been resoundingly welcomed into the larger community. All of the 40 apartments and commercial spaces are fully occupied and the corner is bustling once again. Not only is the project a renovation success; it has become a catalyst for other downtown projects and activities, helping to rejuvenate and reinvigorate a critical area of downtown St. Johnsbury. New Avenue received a 2022 Preservation Award from PTV.
Our downtown is booming, the commercial vacancy rate is the lowest it has been in decades, new businesses are opening, and merchants are experiencing double-digit increases in sales. This success has instilled positive energy and a sense of pride within our community. It’s a game changer!
— Joe Kasprzak, Assistant Town Manager, Town of St. Johnsbury