Brooks House project a go
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | March 20,2013
Bob Stevens of Stevens Associates of Brattleboro explains details of the redevelopment of the Brooks House during a community open house last week at the River Garden.
BRATTLEBORO — Bob Stevens is a happy man.
Stevens, one of the principals of the development group that wants to rebuild the gutted Brooks House in downtown Brattleboro, said last week’s renting party was a grand success.
“We had a really exciting event Thursday and we have commitments that have pushed us over the threshold,” said Stevens, adding that his group plans on closing on the purchase by the end of April, with construction starting immediately afterward in May.
That threshold was set by Mesabi LLC’s main bank, Mascoma Savings Bank, which wanted the $23 million project 75 percent rented before releasing the construction loan. Construction will cost $16.5 million.
“It will make the lenders happy,” Stevens said Tuesday morning.
The Brooks House was gutted by a fire in April 2011, and a local group stepped in after the original owner abandoned plans for rebuilding the historic hotel after about a year.
Mesabi LLC is made up of Stevens, who runs an engineering and architectural firm in downtown Brattleboro, and local attorney Craig Miskovich, and three local business owners: Drew Richards, Peter Richards and Ben Taggard.
Brooks House still has some residential and retail space available, but he said practically all of the space designated for offices has been rented. So much so, that Stevens and his partners are thinking about re-instating a plan to put a third story on a wing off the Harmony Parking Lot to accommodate offices.
“We have verbal commitments that have pushed us over the top. And we have several more that we are meeting later this week,” he said.
Renting retail space still remains a big challenge, he said, with only three of the eight retail spaces rented.
“Retail space has not gone as fast as the rest,” he said, noting the project only has a few apartments but has five retail spaces left.
Only three are rented, he said. But he said the group was talking to a women’s clothing store and that someone was interested in the space formerly occupied by the Moles Eye Cafe, which was in the basement of the building.
A lot of the old retail space in the back of the building has been taken over by the Community College of Vermont and Vermont Technical College, which have become anchor tenants in the revitalization effort. The two colleges are expected to bring about 300 students daily to the downtown area, a big boost to Main Street.
Construction will take a year, Stevens said. The main contractor for the project will be Breadloaf Construction, he said, and it is already soliciting bids for electrical, mechanical and sprinkler work. He said during the summer he expects there will be a couple hundred workers on the project every day.
Stevens said one portion of the building, the so-called Ballroom, which covered 4,000 square feet, was going to be taken by a local office, and wouldn’t have to be cut up into smaller spaces.
“It was that space that pushed us over the spot,” he said.