Tucked into a mini-shopping complex in St. Albans, more than 600 customers can walk through the doors of Ace Hardware on its busiest days.
"Ace was outgrowing their current space and thinking about leaving," said Dominic Cloud, the St. Albans city manager.
Cloud says the city will clean up contaminated auto shop sites by borrowing state property tax dollars through a process known as tax increment financing. Ace's owner will purchase the remediated site, relocating by about a block and keeping the business in town.
"We were willing to do whatever we could to help them expand in the city," Cloud said.
The hardware store will be more than twice as big as its current space.
The city bought the properties for $1.25 million. By the time the new business sits there, it should be worth an additional $250,000 for tax purposes, and increased value should pay back the state's investment.
Kevin Smith runs a nearby sports store and expects a boost as well.
"Not just from my business, but for all of downtown," he said.
Smith says downtown businesses feed off each other. But he says redevelopment can't end with the hardware store.
"We need two or three of these stores downtown which would qualify as anchor stores to get people in the downtown," Smith said.
"Ace is just beginning," Cloud said. "We're looking forward to announcing future deals in the coming months."
A state office building and new hotel are in the works, as the city rebuilds its downtown one business at a time.
Cleanup efforts on the site are expected to begin next month, with construction planned for late spring or early summer.
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