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Vermont's Iconic 'Yellow Barn' to Be Transformed Into Food Business Accelerator

Wed August 17, 2022 - Northeast Edition #19
Evernorth Rural Ventures

The project will preserve and renovate the historic Yellow Barn and construct a new building next door with two anchor tenants. (Coe + Coe Architects rendering)
The project will preserve and renovate the historic Yellow Barn and construct a new building next door with two anchor tenants. (Coe + Coe Architects rendering)

An innovative public/private partnership is set to fund the redevelopment of Hardwick, Vt.'s iconic "Yellow Barn" into a food business accelerator business and retail shop in one of the state's poorest areas.

Evernorth Rural Ventures, with offices in Burlington, Vt., and the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation (MHIC), have announced the closing of $11.4 million in federal New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) allocation for the redevelopment, Evernorth noted Aug. 15 on its home page.

The NMTC funding supports the construction of a new 25,137-sq.-ft. food-business accelerator building and the adaptive reuse of the historic and vacant 4,762-sq.-ft. yellow dairy barn for use as a store — collectively called the Yellow Barn Business Accelerator.

The project is the culmination of a six-year effort spearheaded by the Town of Hardwick, the Northeast Kingdom Development Corporation (NKDC) and the Northeast Vermont Development Association.

Situated on 4.7 acres of land in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom (NEK), the accelerator project aims to be a catalyst for innovation, sparking growth of the region's farms, small-scale and larger food manufacturing, and job creation.

The business accelerator is scheduled to open next spring, according to Evernorth.

"We are proud to be a part of this project that supports farmers, agriculturally based businesses and food processing to create economies of scale and reach markets outside of the NEK and Vermont," explained Beth Boutin, vice president of Evernorth. "This investment not only supports the individuals who will work here and their families, but the entire community and beyond."

Yellow Barn to Highlight Vt.'s Food, Farm Offerings

The partnership's vision of the agricultural-economic campus is to create a place where food businesses can grow and a point of interest where visitors can learn about Vermont's agricultural products, which will be enhanced by its location on the popular Lamoille Valley Rail Trail.

"It is with great excitement that we witness the start of construction at the Yellow Barn project site," said Eric Remick, chair of the Town of Hardwick Select Board. "Yellow Barn will add much needed commercial and retail space, providing a very positive impact in our rural town. We are fortunate to have so many dedicated partners whose steadfast support have helped bring this project to fruition."

Evernorth said that the project will not only operate a food business center but preserve and renovate the historic Yellow Barn and construct a new building next door with two anchor tenants — the Hardwick-based nonprofit Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE), and Cellars at Jasper Hill, a cheesemaker in the small community of Greensboro, Vt.

CAE will operate much-needed community cold storage for local farmers and food producers, while scaling up Farm Connex, a delivery service for small and medium farms and food businesses that would otherwise not have a way to get their products to market.

The Cellars at Jasper Hill will centralize order fulfillment and storage from multiple locations, improving efficiency and setting the company up for continued growth.

Once renovated, the historic barn will become a retail destination operated by Cabot Creamery for its signature dairy products and to showcase other local agricultural products.

"MHIC appreciates the opportunity to work with Evernorth and the community leaders who shaped this project over many years to meet the region's needs, creating the conditions for lasting growth in the agricultural and tourism sectors, adding jobs and preserving the working landscape," said Deborah Favreau, MHIC's chief development officer. "Additionally, we are pleased to fill a gap in the financing structure with a $4.85 million bridge loan that includes participation by Evernorth Loan Fund and Vermont Community Loan Fund."

Yellow Barn Project Has Many Supporters

Capital One also is investing in NMTC equity to help finance the expansion. The complex financing package includes several state and federal entities, including the Vermont Economic Development Authority, the U.S. Economic Development Association and the Preservation Trust of Vermont, among others.

The NKDC is a non-profit that serves as a catalyst for economic development efforts in the state's Northeast Kingdom, especially those built through public-private partnerships such as the Yellow Barn. It is the primary entity to secure bridge financing during the development of the project and the construction period, according to Evernorth.

The U.S. Treasury's NMTC program, which began in 2000, is designed to spur economic development activity in poor communities throughout the country. These low-income communities often have good, viable business and economic development opportunities, but limited access to capital. NMTC addresses this gap by providing the incentive of a federal tax credit to individuals or corporations that invest in a community development entity.

Since 2008, Evernorth Rural Ventures has facilitated $232.5 million in affordable capital and $424.7 million in total development activity in Northern New England. That financing has provided 72,000 people in low-income communities with access to higher education, healthcare, fitness, and other social services. Evernorth also has created more than 67,200 sq. ft. of healthy food space and 53 new apartments, 20 percent of which are affordable. This financing has created 4,200 jobs and 1,750 construction jobs.

MHIC is a private, nonprofit lender and investor specializing in financing affordable housing and community development throughout New England. Since its founding in 1990, the Massachusetts agency has provided more than $3.4 billion in financing to preserve or create 26,500 homes and 7.3 million sq. ft. of commercial and community space.

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