Champlain Housing Trust Buys Former St. Joseph School For Planned Community Center

Jul 31, 2017

The Champlain Housing Trust announced Monday they have purchased what used to be the St. Joseph School in Burlington's Old North End.

The purchase will allow the community groups operating from the school to stay there long-term, said Champlain Housing Trust CEO Brenda Torpy.

Torpy said the current tenants — the Association of Africans Living in Vermont, the Family Room (formerly operated by the Visiting Nurse Association), and the Robin’s Nest Childrens Center — approached the housing trust after the Catholic Diocese put the building up for sale.

“The diocese had been good to them and let them stay there for a number of years and they’ve been able to grow their programs and really establish their work,” she said. “So they approached us about: Could we purchase the building so they could continue? And there’s also a lot of other space in the building that could have additional programming.”

As its name suggests, the Champlain Housing Trust is mainly dedicated to residential properties. The trust is not planning to add residential units to the St. Joseph School building, but Torpy said the purchase fits within the organization’s broader effort to improve living conditions in the community.

“Because we have like 400 homes in that neighborhood, and you know a neighborhood is as good as all the pieces,” she said, adding that the new purchase isn’t Champlain Housing Trust’s first non-residential effort. “We had done the McLure multigenerational center as well as the Chittenden County Food Shelf.”

"We have like 400 homes in that neighborhood, and you know a neighborhood is as good as all the pieces." – Brenda Torpy, Champlain Housing Trust CEO

Torpy said the buildings housing Vermont Legal Aid and Good News Garage — also in the Old North End — were also renovated for their current uses by Champlain Housing Trust.

“So doing community facilities where they enhance the mission as they do here, that’s in our wheelhouse too,” Torpy said.

The housing trust is setting rent for the existing tenants based on what they are able to pay, and Torpy said the arrangement makes sense in large part because Champlain Housing Trust is bringing on a new tenant: the City of Burlington.

“What really sealed the deal for us was: The Burlington parks and rec department had been looking for more indoor spaces to do broader recreational programming from sports to cultural and the arts, and for all ages,” Torpy said. “So they were excited to site there, and once they agreed to sublet the gym and some other program space, we knew we had the anchor that would really make this a true community center open to a very, very broad diversity of people.”

The Champlain Housing Trust bought the property for $2.15 million, but Torpy said the Champlain Housing Trust plans to spend about $7 million more renovating the building.

Correction 7:12 p.m. An earlier version of this post omitted a word in the name of the Robin's Nest Children's Center. The post has been corrected.