A dilapidated old home was torn down Monday in Rutland, Vermont, to make way for a brand new house that a lucky person or family will win — free!
The giveaway is part of Rutland's work to revitalize itself, build community pride, grow economic activity and promote energy-efficient home technology.
"It's a leading-edge technology house that's going to be absolutely fossil-free," Mary Powell, the CEO of Green Mountain Power, said of the home giveaway her company has helped spearhead. "We can't find another example like this anywhere in the country."
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The utility Green Mountain Power teamed with the city, the United Way of Rutland County, Naylor & Breen Builders, NBF Architects, and dozens of donors on a $400,000 project to build and give away a new residence on the Cleveland Avenue lot where the old home stood.
The new home will be a 1,500-square-foot, three-bedroom farmhouse with one and a half baths. It also will boast the latest in green energy amenities, GMP said, including a Tesla Powerwall for energy storage, solar panels, air-source heat pumps and a comprehensive insulation design.
In tearing down the junky old home, Rutland was doing more than improving on an eyesore. It's also looking to shed an old reputation and show others it wants to be a city on the rise.
"The quality of life was really deteriorating down here," said Mayor Dave Allaire of Rutland.
Allaire acknowledged that some once saw Rutland as a place in steep decline, struggling with drugs and other crime.
The mayor said there are good jobs to be had in the Rutland area, but not enough skilled workers to fill them.
"We've lost about 3,000 folks in population the past few years — something that's happening in the entire Northeast — and we're trying to reverse that trend," Allaire said.
With a revitalization plan underway to de-densify and invest in city neighborhoods, Green Mountain Power and its partners are now asking people from across the country to write an essay about why they'd like the high-tech house mortgage-free, and how they'd contribute to community life in Rutland.
The city is close to world-class skiing and other outdoor recreation opportunities in the Killington Valley, and Allaire said he is proud of Rutland's school system.
"I think what they can expect is a community that's the most welcoming community that I've ever lived in," neighborhood resident Carol Tashie said of applicants who hope to win the free home. "I think the community is more vibrant, more alive, and more optimistic than it was 10-15 years ago."
The essay contest closes May 18, and is open to U.S. citizens over the age of 21.
A committee of Rutland residents and business leaders will select a winner based on their applications, interviews and background checks, organizers said. They plan to hand over the keys to the winner by late summer.