The Hardwick Yellow Barn project, which supporters predict will bring hundreds of jobs to the Northeast Kingdom, has won another federal grant.
The Northern Border Regional Commission has awarded the town of Hardwick $1 million toward the retrofit of a historic yellow building on Route 15 and an industrial facility planned next door.
“It’s great news, of course,” Town Manager Shaun Fielder said Monday.
The $1 million is “being put toward our total cost to get to the start line of breaking ground,” he said.
The Yellow Barn project has been in the works for more than two years. Planners see it as a way to bring more tourism to the Northeast Kingdom and expand the town’s existing food- and agriculture-based economy.
Last November, two regional titans in the cheese industry confirmed they plan to become tenants of the new facility: Cabot Creamery and Jasper Hill Farm. The Center for an Agricultural Economy, also in Hardwick, will manage the site on a day-to-day basis.
Alison Low, a senior planner with the Northeastern Vermont Development Association, said project planners sought the $1 million grant because of a budget gap.
The price tag last fall had been about $8.6 million, but according to Low and Fielder, construction costs have since increased $1.3 million, an increase directly attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The project now is expected to cost about $11.9 million, and construction is expected to begin in October.
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In all, about $12.2 million has been drummed up from government and nonprofit awards, tenant investment and financing.
While the pandemic has delayed construction plans, Fielder said it has also increased the importance of the venture.
“What’s been interesting at the local level is the importance of local food and the local food systems,” the town manager said. “If you look at some of the problems we’re seeing at the local level with the demand on food banks … anything with a food-type system is going to be a need.”
Low, who has been involved with site planning and grants, said the Yellow Barn is a priority for her organization, which supports economic development in the Northeast Kingdom.
Cabot and Jasper Hill are expected to create between 50 and 60 jobs, mostly full time, when the site opens. Planners estimate the project will result in 105 new local jobs within five years.
“We are hoping to make Hardwick a cheese destination,” Low said. “This is one of the last developable sites for industrial development in Hardwick, but it’s also in a critical location — it’s right on the (Lamoille Valley Rail Trail).”
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