Town to submit train station grant application

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BELLOWS FALLS — The town of Rockingham is chugging ahead with plans to evaluate the historic Union Station, with an eye toward its purchase and renovation.

The town wants to leverage a Town Meeting appropriation of $12,500 to land a federal grant to be used toward the eventual rehabilitation of the historic Bellows Falls train station.

The Rockingham Select Board unanimously approved the town's development department to apply for the grant, which would essentially double the money used to evaluate the building, first built in 1849 and heavily renovated in 1921 after a big fire. Its formal name is Union

Station, according to the grant application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, rural development business program.

Gary Fox, Rockingham's development director, told the board that the estimated total cost of the project would be $26,600, including participation from the Windham Regional Commission's brownfield's program at $2,100. The town is applying for $11,550, Fox said. "We are leveraging the funds approved at Town Meeting," Fox said.

The grant application was approved with little discussion.

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Under the proposed time frame, WRC would conduct the first phase of a contamination evaluation starting in July, with a commercial appraisal coming in the summer, and pre-architectural assessment, also in the summer.

According to the grant application, the current owner of the train station is no longer interested in owning it, and under the plan, the town would purchase it and renovate it, and in addition to serving as the transportation hub of the town, including Amtrak and Greyhound bus service, there would be space for other businesses.

By the town owning and restoring the station, it would "increase the vibrancy and economic activity" in the downtown Bellows Falls business area, and specifically the historic Island district.

Amtrak is expected to add a second daily train through Bellows Falls in the near future, when through travel to Montreal is restored. Currently, The Vermonter, which starts in Washington, D.C., ends at the Canadian border.

The grant application is due March 31.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or 802 556-2147.


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