BELLOWS FALLS — The City of Rockingham’s ambitious $4.1 million project to renovate the historic Bellows Falls train station and breathe new life into it has received its first major grant.
Rockingham Director of Development Gary Fox said on Monday the town was notified last week that it had received a $200,000 grant from the Commerce and Community Development Agency for a development and construction grant. downtown revitalization. He said he was particularly encouraged because the city received the full amount it requested.
Fox said there were at least five different branches of government involved in reviewing the project, as it involves rail policy, historic preservation, as well as downtown redevelopment. He said a review of the National Environmental Policy Act would be done before signing the final grant documents.
He said he had already applied for funding to hire a consultant to do the environmental review, and he said he hoped it could be done in a few months. He said the demolition and cleanup of the Robertson Paper Mill, which was also located on the island, also required NEPA review, and he said it cost between $1,800 and $3,000.
He said the NEPA review would explore whether the project would impact endangered species, for example, impacts on the Connecticut River, and whether the project could affect endangered bats.
“Our project is unlikely to bother anything, but we need to know what they are,” he said.
The $200,000 grant would be used along with other grants, along with the $75,000 approved by Rockingham voters at the March town hall, to purchase the station and begin renovations.
The city wants to buy the station from Vermont Rail Systems and lease the underlying land from the state of Vermont. The plan does not include disturbing the ground under the station, which would be contaminated.
He said the station itself needed environmental remediation and there was also a lot of asbestos in the building. He said the city will also begin renovating historic windows in buildings.
Because the project would be partially funded by federal and state historic preservation tax credits, the state historic preservation office suggested the city drop its original plan to replace the historic windows with new ones. Windows. Instead, windows will be restored, he said.
Although the city has commissioned a preliminary feasibility study for a brewpub in part of the building, no final decision has been made on this plan. The Amtrak operation will only use a relatively small portion of the station.
In particular, Fox said, the century-old station needs about $50,000 to repair exterior brickwork and to repair a collapsed exterior wall in the basement.
Another key grant, $350,000, could come from the Northern Boundary Regional Commission, and another $50,000 from the USDA Community Facilities Grant, he said. He expects to hear from Northern Border by the end of July on this grant application.
The city of Rockingham has already applied for a federal grant of $1.8 million, a transit infrastructure grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which accounts for the bulk of the funding needed to renovate the station.