BRATTLEBORO — Groundworks Collaborative is coming close to concluding a major construction project at 54 South Main St., where its seasonal overflow shelter and other services will soon be based.
“We’ve really made excellent progress on the new building,” said Josh Davis, executive director of Groundworks. “We couldn’t do it without the generous support of the town, our supporters at large, our donors in the community. We’re excited to have a grand opening at some point when it’s safe to do so.”
The start of construction was pushed back a couple of months to May due to the coronavirus pandemic. Other related challenges involved an increase in material costs and delays in procurement.
GPI Construction Inc. of Brattleboro and Duncan Wisniewski Architecture of Burlington were hired for the project. Davis called the architects “very familiar with services we provide and folks experiencing homelessness.”
GPI “has been a pleasure to work with,” Davis said. “They’ve done everything in their power to keep this project on schedule and the quality of the craftsmanship high.”
Although the new building would likely be ready to host the seasonal overflow shelter in January, Groundworks’ clients will continue staying in hotels. Davis said money from the Coronavirus Relief Fund was tapped for the program to keep people housed during the pandemic and funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be used starting Jan. 1 to keep it going.
A grand opening is anticipated as early as April and as late as summer. The building also will host the Drop-In Center daytime services and Healthworks, the embedded health care provider program.
Davis said that in non-COVID times, the new seasonal overflow shelter could sleep 34 people. Current restrictions would cap that at about half the figure now. Previously, the shelter was temporarily located at Winston Prouty Center for Child and Family Development on Austine Drive.
Phase 2 of the project was initially set to include renovating 60 South Main St., the neighboring property that was home to the Drop-In Center for years, for the offices of a case management team and Healthworks. But now, some more analysis and study is needed to see what makes the most sense.
“We are in the process of working with the Division for Historic Preservation for the state to figure out basically the fate of that building right now,” Davis said. “Our plan was to keep it and renovate it but as we’ve gotten further into the construction process, we have realized the significance of the deterioration of the building.”
Also unexpected was a new market tax credit worth more than $500,000, which was discovered and obtained with assistance from the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. Davis called the credit “much needed and much appreciated.”
Altogether, the project was estimated to cost more than $3 million. With plans for 60 South Main St. still in flux, fundraising can’t be declared a complete success just yet.
“But overall, I think we have done really well on fundraising,” Davis said. “We have a really generous community that has answered the call to support our efforts building a building that meets needs with significant dignity.”
The project received funds through the Vermont Community Development Program, which is operated by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development and administers federal grants made available by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through its Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Another big contributor was the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.
The town provided $250,000 using money from its revolving loan fund, which originates from CDBG money.
“We couldn’t do it without all the support,” Davis said. “So it was vital.”