Brattleboro Food Co-op building wins national Creating Community Connection Award

The Brattleboro Food Co-op / Windham & Windsor Housing Trust building has received its second national award for design.

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BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Food Co-op / Canal & Main Apartments building has been recognized by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the American Institute of Architects as a national model for affordable housing.

The Windham and Windsor Housing Trust / Brattleboro Food Co-op collaboration was one of two projects across the country to receive the 2015 HUD Secretary's Housing and Community Design Award for excellence in affordable housing design.

"The Brattleboro Food Co-op is, of course, very pleased that the Co-op building received this prestigious award," Co-op Shareholder and Community Relations Manager Sabine Rhyne said. "After three years in this highly efficient beautiful building, we can easily forget what a gift it is to be able to work and shop in it. Our thanks to Gregg Gossens and Associates for all of their conscientious work which continues to garner notice."

The co-op building and Step Up on 5th in Santa Monica, California, were each recognized for design and for the ways the buildings have become integrated into the communities where they were built.

The Co-op / WWHT building received the 2015 Creating Community Connection Award, which recognizes projects that incorporate housing within other community amenities for the purpose of either revitalization or planned growth.

"We know that our co-op is intertwined in our community in so very many ways, but we have a microcosm of our community right here in our building," Rhyne said. "Some of the tenants in the WHHT Canal & Main apartments spend quite a bit of time here in the Co-op, and we've come to adopt them fondly as part of our immediate family."

The Brattleboro Food Co-op, Windham & Windsor Housing Trust and Housing Vermont partnered to redevelop the site in downtown Brattleboro, which included the co-op's former building and a dry cleaning facility. The four-story, highly energy-efficient, green building provides 33,600 square feet of retail and office space for the Co-op on the first two floors and 24 affordable apartments in the top two floors.

The Co-op building also won the 2012 Environmental Protection Agency's National Award for Smart Growth Achievement for Main Street or Corridor Revitalization.

The Smart Growth awards are given for creative, sustainable initiatives that better protect the health and the environment of our communities while also strengthening local economies, according to the EPA.

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"The Cooperative Building, with its retail store and housing, has had such a positive impact on the downtown community since it opened," said Windham & Windsor Housing Trust Executive Director Connie Snow. "It's a real honor to see the building recognized nationally once again."

The co-op's most recent award specifically targets the building as "a model of energy efficiency, using both conventional and innovative systems, such as heating the entire building with reclaimed waste heat from the store refrigeration system. The collaborative design process was a critical factor in making the project a model for responsible building practice and smart growth."

"Let's face it; most design awards are beauty contests, but this award recognizes how this building has been integrated into the community and we are quite proud of that," said Gregg Gossens, one of the founding architects at Gossens Bachman Architects, the firm that designed the building. "We did not want to build something that stood alone, we wanted to do something that connected to the community and that's what makes this award special for us.

Gossens said he and members of his staff visited Brattleboro and held meetings with co-op and WWHT staff, and with community members to try to understand what the highly visible building would mean to downtown.

The site, previously contaminated, was cleaned up. The old co-op building was moved away from the nearby brook to protect the water from pollution and the building from flooding. Storm water runoff is treated and filtered by a green roof, permeable surfaces in the parking lot, and a 20-foot buffer strip in the new public park created along the Whetstone Brook. Recycled heat generated by the Co-op's refrigerators heats the store and the apartments and provides hot water.

Construction materials included locally harvested and milled flooring and slate siding manufactured in Vermont. The apartments have continuous fresh air ventilation with heat recovery and the Co-op uses a solar photovoltaic system to generate electricity. These features have cut per-square-foot energy costs by approximately 50 percent, which helps keep the apartments affordable and saves 21 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

The Step Up on 5th building in Santa Monica won the 2015 Excellence in Affordable Housing Design Award, which recognizes architecture that demonstrates overall excellence in terms of design in response to both the needs and constraints of affordable housing.

"Affordable housing represents a gateway to greater opportunity. These two projects are a powerful reminder that bold vision and innovative design can shape communities of promise," said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. "I congratulate these winners on their achievements and I'm proud to honor them for their commitment to inclusive development."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be contacted at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.