Friends of Algiers Village lauded
GUILFORD - There have been many participants in the effort to revitalize Algiers Village.
But the nonprofit Friends of Algiers Village Inc. has been the driving force in that work, from developing a plan for several key properties to taking ownership of and revitalizing Guilford Country Store.
Twice this month, the Friends have gained recognition for that work through awards from Preservation Trust of Vermont and Windham & Windsor Housing Trust.
"It is no small task to reinvent the heart of a small Vermont community," Preservation Trust administrators said in a short video announcing their award. "But the dedicated Friends of Algiers Village have done just that."
Friends of Algiers was founded a decade ago, and the group has had direct involvement in a number of big changes since then:
-- Revitalization of the bright yellow Tontine Building at Route 5 and Guilford Center Road. Now owned by Windham & Windsor Housing Trust, the building hosts seven apartments.
-- New housing on two nearby parcels on Guilford Center Road. Friends of Algiers purchased the former warehouse site, played a role in cleaning up the property and held it until Windham & Windsor Housing Trust began construction of new apartments there.
-- Rehabilitation of Broad Brook House at Guilford Center Road and Route 5, where the Guilford Country Store closed in 2010.
The Preservation Trust's video describes the next steps: "Friends of Algiers Village stepped up to the plate, reasoning that saving this historic beauty -- the 1817 Broad Brook House -- was a key component to maintaining the historic character of the Village of Algiers."
Friends of Algiers didn't just take ownership of the aging building: Volunteers worked and fundraised relentlessly, renovating the structure from top to bottom in an effort to bring the store back to life. That work paid off last June, when Marc and Suzanne Tessitore reopened Guilford Country Store.
"It seems to be meeting many needs," said Fred Humphrey, a Friends of Algiers board member. "I personally have not heard one single negative comment, and I've heard lots of praise."
Humphrey added that, "there's no question, we did the right thing."
The Preservation Trust of Vermont seems to agree, honoring Friends of Algiers and Guilford Country Store at a conference earlier this month in Island Pond. The award is "for outstanding work in preserving Vermont's architecture."
The award also "was recognizing what the store did for the economic vitality of the village," Humphrey said. "This was not only preserving a building ... but also, it was meeting some economic need."
Humphrey said the Preservation Trust lent valuable assistance to Friends of Algiers during store renovations.
"They're a small staff, but they've got all the right connections," he said. "We could not have done the store project without their guidance and help. They've been critical to our work."
There also is a strong partnership between Friends of Algiers and Windham & Windsor Housing Trust. On Thursday, at the trust's annual meeting in Brattleboro, Friends of Algiers received the Thomas C. Yahn Housing Leadership Award "in recognition of your demonstrated commitment to building an inclusive and vibrant community in the Village of Algiers."
In remarks prepared for that event, Connie Snow, the housing trust's executive director, recounted the history of Friends of Algiers. With several key Algiers parcels up for sale, members "realized that they could either allow the future to unfold in a random fashion in the village, or they could take charge," Snow wrote.
"They partnered with the housing trust to get a planning grant and to create a master plan for the village. And they raised funds to purchase three of the five available parcels, so that they could act as an interim owner to give the community the time to plan. Their vision for the village included reopening the general store, it included affordable housing, municipal water and green space," Snow said.
"Communities are a work in progress, but that vision has clearly unfolded," she wrote. "In 2013, the town of Guilford and Friends of Algiers were successful in extending municipal water from Brattleboro into Algiers. The Brattleboro bus now makes a loop through the village. Last summer, Windham & Windsor Housing Trust opened 17 new apartments on the land that Friends of Algiers had land-banked, and that building is now providing great housing opportunities. And, following an enormous effort on the part of Friends of Algiers, the Guilford General Store reopened and is soon to celebrate its first year of business."
Anne Rider, a member of both Friends of Algiers and Guilford Selectboard, offered thanks to the housing trust for its investments in the village.
"From my point of view, the partnering with Windham & Windsor Housing Trust to bring the water line to town was a huge benefit to the whole town," Rider said, noting that the line was extended to serve Guilford Volunteer Fire Department and Guilford Community Church.
"To me, it was really the collaborative aspect that was so exciting," Rider added. "All of these little pieces really came together."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.
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