WATERBURY -- The state of Vermont took the first concrete step toward finding new uses for the largely abandoned Waterbury state office complex when officials on Friday announced a $950,000 federal grant to help convert a now-empty Main Street building into 27 units of affordable housing.
Behind that building, known as Ladd Hall, the rest of the state office complex remains abandoned. Plans still have to be finalized to rehabilitate the entire complex by fixing some of the buildings, demolishing others and constructing a large, new building that will be made resistant to damage from future floods. Eventually the complex will hold about 1,000 state jobs.
Gov. Peter Shumlin, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy and other officials attended a brief ceremony in Waterbury where Shumlin also announced the state is transferring ownership of the building to the Central Vermont Community Land Trust.
The trust hopes to break ground on the project, expected to cost a total of about $6 million, this fall.
"This represents the first project that will actually be built in Waterbury that’s going to deliver on our promise to rebuild Waterbury better than the way Irene found us," Shumlin said. "This is a big deal."
Some of the apartments, from one to three bedrooms, will be for people who were displaced by Irene and lost their homes, Shumlin said.
A portion of the building was constructed in the 1890s and an addition was added in the 1950s. Prior to Irene the building was used as state offices.
The $950,000 for Waterbury is part of $21.6 million in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds for Irene recovery from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Irene’s floodwaters forced the state to abandon much of the complex. The only building still in use houses the Department of Public Safety. Thousands of state employees who had worked in Waterbury are now working elsewhere.
The state has plans for a $124.7 million project for the rest of the Waterbury complex. The plans call for rehabilitating and flood-proofing some of the remaining structures, razing others and constructing a new office building beyond the reach of flood waters. It would be paid for with a combination of funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the state’s insurance company, and state money.
The state expects to reach an agreement by the end of the month with FEMA about the size of its contribution.