By NORA DOYLE-BURR
Valley News Staff Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — Since January, when they opened, four newly renovated apartments in the Woolson Block devoted to young people between the ages of 18 and 24 have been full.
Even amid the hot housing market, two youths have so far graduated from these new units in downtown Springfield to living independently, marking the first successes of a new Youth in Transition program, which through a collaboration of several area organizations aims to help young people develop the skills they need to live on their own.
“Ultimately it’s about helping young adults … with any number of challenges succeed,” said George Karabakakis, CEO of Health Care and Rehabilitation Services, southeastern Vermont’s nonprofit community mental health agency that is among the organizations supporting these residents. “It’s really about connection and hope.”
The new units, which are part of a larger revitalization project in downtown Springfield, are owned by the Springfield Housing Authority. The Woolson Block was first built in 1868 by the president of a Springfield machine tool company and woolen mill, according to a news release from Evernorth, a nonprofit focused on affordable housing investments in northern New England. The three-story, Italianate-style brick building had fallen into disrepair in recent years.
In addition to the four apartments units designated for youth, there are 15 other apartments aimed at households earning 60% or less of the area’s median income, as well as more than 5,000 square feet of commercial space. The total price tag for the building’s redevelopment was $8.6 million, which came from a mix of public and private sources.