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New Building To Rise From Burned-Out Site In St. Johnsbury

Toby Talbot
Fire destroyed three buildings in the heart of St. Johnsbury in 2009, but the parcels will now become the site of a new multi-use building.

It looks like a big new building will finally fill a gaping hole left by a fire in St. Johnsbury  five years ago. Rural Edge, a non-profit community development agency, has bought the land in the town’s retail Main Street district.

All that’s left from the devastating 2009 fire is an unsightly cellar hole surrounded by a chain link fence. It’s taken five years to hash out some thorny right of way issues, but Rural Edge CEO Merten Bangemann-Johnson says it can now purchase four parcels and build a multi-story building with retail, office space and housing. He says it will not be an affordable housing complex, because this street in the heart of an historic mixed-use neighborhood is better suited to market-rate development.

“It fits nicely into the context of downtown; it’s that transition from very grand single family residential properties to that more multi-family commercial part of St. Johnsbury, and we are very excited,” he says.

Bangemann-Johnson says he knows the town needs more dwellings for low-income tenants but notes that Rural Edge facilitates not just affordable housing but also community development. He expects this project to spur economic growth. Details about who will inhabit the building are still being decided.

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