Photograph of a four-story mixed-use building.
Photograph of a four-story mixed-use building with a sidewalk and street in the foreground.
Rendered site plan of the development between a commercial corridor and a river, showing a mixed-use building, parking lot, landscaped seating area, walking path, and greenspace.
Photograph of the produce section of the grocery store.
Photograph of a dozen people standing around a flower stand in a plaza.
Photograph of the interior of an apartment showing a wide hall leading to the kitchen in the background.
Photograph of a landscaped seating area in front of the three-story section of the building.

 

Home >Case Studies >Preserving Retail and Increasing Affordable Housing in Downtown Brattleboro, Vermont

 

Preserving Retail and Increasing Affordable Housing in Downtown Brattleboro, Vermont

 

Co-op Plaza, a mixed-use development in Brattleboro, Vermont, provides 24 affordable rental units and commercial space for a local food cooperative. Developed by a partnership between the Brattleboro Food Co-op and Windham & Windsor Housing Trust, Co-op Plaza, which opened in 2012, was awarded the 2015 American Institute of Architects/HUD Secretary’s Housing and Community Design Award for Creating Community Connections. The award-winning development retained an important local business and added affordable housing in the downtown in response to community concerns. The product of a multi-year engagement process, the infill project also includes sustainable and energy-efficient features.

Co-op Plaza

Co-op Plaza increases the Brattleboro Food Co-op’s space for retail, food preparation, storage, and offices from 17,000 to 33,600 square feet in the first 2 stories of the new building. Co-op Plaza’s residential space takes up the third and fourth floors, featuring affordable efficiency, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units. The site offers 5 units subsidized by project-based vouchers for households earning up to 50 percent of the area median income (AMI), 14 units that are affordable to households earning up to 60 percent of AMI, and 5 units that are affordable for those earning up to 100 percent of AMI.

Addressing Local Wishes

Founded in 1975 and boasting more than 6,000 members, the Brattleboro Food Co-op has become a mainstay of Brattleboro’s commercial corridor. As business ramped up in the early 2000s, the cooperative needed to expand its grocery store to meet increasing demand. The cooperative’s leadership held a series of meetings with members and the surrounding community to discuss options for relocating to a larger building, and participants shared their concerns about losing the downtown’s only grocery store. Heeding these concerns and recognizing the importance of remaining close to housing and transit, the cooperative’s leadership agreed to stay in downtown Brattleboro and hired a consultant to study whether to renovate the existing space or construct a new building.

The study included a design workshop wherein community members called for a new facility that reflected the town’s historic character. “It was at that charrette that individuals raised the idea of including affordable housing,” says Connie Snow, executive director of the affordable housing organization Windham & Windsor Housing Trust, a local nonprofit that the cooperative contacted to develop the housing component. The housing trust used the cooperative’s consultant on the feasibility study to quickly establish design concepts and identify financing sources.

Co-op Plaza Financing

Co-op Plaza’s $12 million total project cost included a $5.3 million budget for the residential component, of which $1.4 million came in the form of low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) equity from People’s United Bank and $2.9 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. Additional support included $200,000 in HOME Investment Partnerships funding and a $200,000 Economic Development Initiative grant from HUD, as well as $485,000 from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.

Table 1. Financing for the Residential Portion of Co-op Plaza

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds

$2,956,000

People’s United Bank LIHTC equity

1,422,000

Vermont Housing and Conservation Board funds

485,000

HOME Investment Partnerships funds

200,000

Economic Development Initiative grant

200,000

Total

$5,263,000

Reconnecting with Lower Main Street

The cooperative acquired an adjacent contaminated property and remediated the site to develop Co-op Plaza. According to Snow, the new development has been a major draw for shoppers, giving an economic “shot in the arm” to the southern end of downtown Brattleboro. Co-op Plaza’s walking paths, outdoor seating, and café generate additional pedestrian activity. The new building’s orientation relative to Main Street and its location 800 feet from the town’s transit hub improve access to the development and better position it within the commercial corridor.

Sustainable and Efficient

As a result of design-phase deliberations among community members and the development team, Co-op Plaza incorporated a number of green building features. The building’s heating system captures and recycles heat expelled by the grocery store’s refrigerator, thus reducing per-unit heating costs compared to a conventional system. The residential units also employ ENERGY STAR®-certified appliances as well as energy-efficient insulation and windows. The building’s retail space generates its electrical power from a photovoltaic system located on the roof of the building’s residential section; the solar panels produced an annual average of 28,140 kilowatt hours of energy in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Other sustainable practices include locally sourced construction materials, such as Vermont-milled slate on the building’s façade and Vermont maple flooring donated by the state’s land trust. The single-story section of the grocery store has a green roof to reduce stormwater runoff. The site’s stormwater management system includes vegetative buffers and, in the parking lot, pervious pavers and a bioretention basin. Co-op Plaza’s design characteristics and energy-efficient features helped earn the development the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2012 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement for Main Street or Corridor Revitalization.

Growing with the Community

Co-op Plaza allows the Brattleboro Food Co-op to remain connected with Brattleboro and the broader region in these and other significant ways. The cooperative employs a growing staff of 175 people and supports the regional economy by sourcing its food from local organic farmers. In addition, the cooperative uses its larger space to engage local residents in learning about health and nutrition in its demonstration kitchen and provides health education programs in local schools.


 

Source:

Documents provided by Connie Snow, director, Windham & Windsor Housing Trust; Interview with Connie Snow, 25 January 2016.

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Source:

Documents provided by Connie Snow, director, Windham & Windsor Housing Trust; Windham & Windsor Housing Trust. n.d. “Brattleboro Food Co-op Canal & Main Apartments.” Accessed 11 January 2016; Interview with Connie Snow, 25 January 2016; Correspondence from Connie Snow, 25 January 2016.

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Source:

Brattleboro Food Co-op. n.d. “our history.” Accessed 9 February 2015; Documents provided by Connie Snow, director, Windham & Windsor Housing Trust; Interview with Connie Snow, 25 January 2016.

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Source:

Documents provided by Connie Snow; Interview with Connie Snow, 25 January 2016.

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Source:

Documents provided by Connie Snow; Windham & Windsor Housing Trust. n.d. “Brattleboro Food Co-op Canal & Main Apartments.” Accessed 11 January 2016; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research. 2015. “Housing and Community Design Awards, 2015: Creating Community Connections.” Accessed 9 February 2016.

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Source:

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research. 2015. “Housing and Community Design Awards, 2015: Creating Community Connections.” Accessed 9 February 2016; Documents provided by Connie Snow; Interview with Connie Snow, 25 January 2016.

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Source:

Stevens & Associates. n.d. “Brattleboro Food Co-op and Affordable Housing Project — Brattleboro, VT.” Accessed 11 January 2016; Documents provided by Connie Snow; Interview with Connie Snow, 25 January 2016; Correspondence from Connie Snow, 25–26 January 2016.

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Source:

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research. 2015. “Housing and Community Design Awards, 2015: Creating Community Connections.” Accessed 9 February 2016; Stevens & Associates. n.d. “Brattleboro Food Co-op and Affordable Housing Project — Brattleboro, VT.” Accessed 11 January 2016; Interview with Connie Snow, 25 January 2016.

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Source:

Documents provided by Connie Snow; Interview with Connie Snow, 25 January 2016.

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