BRATTLEBORO – The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) and M&S Development unveiled plans Tuesday for a $30 million community and economic development project that will harness charitable gifts, private investment and public funds to expand the museum’s cultural and educational offerings, draw more visitors to southern Vermont, and fill a need for new housing in downtown Brattleboro.
The centerpiece of the project is a new 55,000-square-foot building to be constructed at the foot of Main Street in Brattleboro, alongside a cascading waterfall in the Whetstone Brook. The building will contain state-of-the-art new museum galleries and classrooms, 24 apartments overlooking the Connecticut River, a café with outdoor seating, a rooftop sculpture garden, terraces, a footbridge and a kayak launch.
“This ambitious project will transform BMAC from a ‘hidden gem’ into one of America’s most vibrant regional museums,” said BMAC Director Danny Lichtenfeld. “It will provide opportunities for people from all walks of life to discover art as a lifelong means of expression, understanding and inspiration, and it will encourage enduring economic and civic vitality in Brattleboro and the surrounding region.”
The new building, which features museum facilities at street level and two floors below, with apartments on four floors above, was designed by Schwartz/Silver Architects of Boston, in collaboration with Stevens & Associates of Brattleboro.
“The architects’ brief was to design a bold, 21st-century building that offers a robust ‘Welcome to Brattleboro,’ while at the same time harmonizing with the town’s historic streetscape,” said Lichtenfeld. “It was also very important to us that the new building be open and inviting, with art visible from the sidewalk and across the street, even when the museum is closed. We know that art museums can be intimidating places, and we want BMAC to be as transparent and welcoming as possible.”
Lichtenfeld noted that another requirement of the design was that the building take maximum advantage of its waterfront location. “Brattleboro has a stunning waterfall in the heart of downtown, where the Whetstone Brook tumbles into the Connecticut River, but access is currently limited in such a way that very few people get to see it. It was therefore important to us that the new building be designed to enable museum visitors and the general public to get up close and personal with that dramatic feature of the natural landscape.”
To that end, the design for the new building includes broad terraces accessible from Main Street, leading to a footbridge that spans the Whetstone Brook. Plans also call for a kayak dock near the base of the waterfall.
In terms of what it will take for BMAC and M&S to turn their bold vision of arts-driven community and economic development into a reality, Lichtenfeld said, “This is a $30 million construction project. BMAC needs to raise $12 million in charitable gifts, and the housing ownership group led by M&S needs to secure $10-$12 million in equity and financing. We expect the remaining $6-$8 million to come from federal and state tax credits and grants. In addition, BMAC plans to raise $3 million in endowment funds, so our total fundraising goal is $15 million. Our capital campaign is off to a very good start, and we expect to continue raising funds through next spring.”
For more information, go online to www.brattleboromuseum.org.