Over 300 people crowded into the Brooks House Atrium to celebrate the Grand Opening of the Brooks House on Friday, October 3. The renovation cost $24 million. Speakers all praised the determination and can do attitude that it took to save the landmark building and make it a center of economic development in Brattleboro. Speakers included Governor Peter Shumlin along with Brooks House Development Bob Stevens and Larry Cassidy, along with Congressman Peter Welch, Joyce Judy, president of CCV and Dan Smith, president of VTC.
Governor Shumlin said: "Only in Windham County, only in Brattleboro, can you take on the impossible and make the dream happen."
A fire gutted the historic building, formerly a hotel, in April 2011. A few months later Tropical Storm Irene slammed the downtown area, causing significant flooding. Since that summer, the block-long Brooks House in the middle of Main Street has been boarded up and surrounded by tarps and scaffolding.
Bob Stevens of Stevens & Associates, Craig Miskovich of Downs Rachlin Martin, and Ben Taggard, Pete Richards and Drew Richards of The Richards Group joined together to buy, restore and renovate this downtown treasure.
While, as the group admits, it did not make economic sense, the five decided that saving Brooks House was critical to the future of Brattleboro. (The value of the building after the renovation will be $8 million. The cost of the renovation is approximately $24 million).
The investors saw a way forward by making use of Federal and State tax credits and a host of other financing sources. They turned to the community members to become shareholders. The State of Vermont supported the fit up of State College space. Vermont Rural Ventures and The Massachusetts Housing Investment Corp helped the Brooks House Development Team access New Market Tax Credits — federal tax credits available for projects in certain eligible population centers across the United States.
In 2013, New Hampshire’s Mascoma Bank agreed to become a lender to the project, along with Brattleboro Savings & Loan. The group closed on the deal in July 2013.
"It’s hard to believe this beautiful building we are celebrating today is the same charred, ruined structure I visited with Brattleboro officials and firefighters the morning after the blaze. Today is a remarkable moment, showcasing how much we can accomplish when everyone – government, businesses, local residents and many others – is committed to rebuilding and reinvigorating our downtowns. The new Brooks House now offers college classes, high-end apartments, shops, cafes and offices to Brattleboro visitors and residents. I am proud that the State of Vermont was able to partner and turn this vision into a reality. —The Honorable Peter Shumlin, Governor of Vermont.
Crowds filled the Brooks House Atrium to celebrate the Grand Opening of the Brooks House. photo credit Kayla Rice
After three and a half years, the lights are once again on in the Brooks House. The Brooks House Development Team would like to thank the community at large for all of its support in getting this cornerstone downtown building back on line.
Thanks to the support of funders, individual investors, and a great team of contractors, the building has been restored and updated. Classes have started at the new downtown joint campus of Vermont Technical College and Community College of Vermont. Most of the residents in the 23 apartments have moved into the upper floors of the building.
The streetscape is brighter with the opening of Duo Restaurant, WOW Yogurt, and Brilliance. Oak Meadow’s office space on the second floor will soon be complete, as will the new Turquoise Grill on the first floor, which will offer Mediterranean specialties.
The restoration of the historic storefronts and addition of a two-story atrium have brought grandeur back to the building. Built in 1871, the Brooks House has played a pivotal role in Brattleboro’s history. In its day, it was one of the premier hotels in New England and possibly the largest Second Empire style building outside of New York City, was a popular summer resort, well known in both Boston and New York, and the ballroom hosted lavish parties. It’s also had its fair share of fame. Rudyard Kipling used to play poker in the Tower Room and sip lager in the Tavern.
Residents, students, employees, and shoppers are once again moving through the building, adding life to Brattleboro’s downtown. A project this large and complex does not happen without a lot of support, and we are grateful for all the support we have received over the past several years. We very much hope to see you in and around the building, supporting our downtown as you have supported us. —Bob Stevens, Brooks House Development
Thank you to the construction team and all of the subcontractors for their outstanding skill and tireless dedication while rebuilding the Brooks House. Over the past 15 months you have transformed a fire damaged shell back into an iconic landmark. Our community will benefit for many decades to come from the new vitality that the residents, retail, restaurants, colleges and office tenants will bring to our downtown. —Ben Taggard, Brooks House Development
There is not a more important project for the Brattleboro area than the Brooks House. The five local gentlemen who took on this on this project are to be commended for their contribution to the community’s vitality, the commercial development and the educational opportunities that this
new facility will provide. It is an exciting project that will contribute to the areas well- being for many years to come. —Stephan Morse, Interim President, BDCC
From a merchant’s standpoint, the transformation of the Brooks House into an up-to-date multi-function complex helps establish Brattleboro’s downtown as a true destination for local residents as well as visitors and students. We’re already seeing more foot traffic on the street and the improvement to the Harmony Parking Lot area is very inviting. A rousing Thank You to all who made it happen! —Greg Worden, Vermont Artisan Designs, Brattleboro
It’s exciting to have the Brooks House open for business. The new and returning shops and restaurants, along with the Community College of Vermont, Vermont Technical College and Oak Meadow School add to the eclectic vibrancy of downtown and provide a boost to Brattleboro’s economy. —Kate O'Connor, Executive Director, Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce
The redevelopment of the Brooks House is a critical project for downtown Brattleboro but also for southeast Vermont. The conversion of the Brooks House to predominantly commercial/educational uses is great for the region as it provides a convenient educational hub in the heart of downtown. This makes it more convenient for adult students to access the educational resources but also the shops, bookstores, restaurants and other commercial activity for their educational and personal needs. This will bolster existing downtown businesses as well as attract new ones as we are already seeing with the addition of Duo Restaurant and others. Recreating great housing opportunities enables residents to enjoy the benefits of living downtown to enjoy the many amenities, including the educational resources. Having a predominant, visible location for the Community College of Vermont and Vermont Technical College sends a message that we are an educational hub in Windham County. We have six colleges in the region including two state colleges who will now but more visible and accessible.
Brattleboro and southern Vermont has taken its hits with the recession, the Brooks House fire and Tropical Storm Irene. From adversity comes strength and that is evident all around us. This is a huge commitment by a group of local investors who really stepped up to help build their town. These are business leaders willing to put their money in to the growth and rebirth of their community. That again sends a message that Brattleboro is alive and well. It also shows that investing in Windham County is a good idea. —Patricia Moulton, Secretary, The Agency of Commerce and Community Development
Jump-starting the economic transformation seen in Vermont's downtowns takes commitment and collaboration -- and requires public investment. The Department of Housing and Community Development was pleased to support the restoration of the Brooks House with Vermont Community Development funding as well as Downtown and Historic Tax Credits. It is exciting to see how the Brooks House has risen from the ashes, helping the economic thrive and creating housing choices, retail and jobs all within walking distance. Kudos to the development team for their commitment to taking on such a challenging project! —Noelle MacKay, Commissioner Department of Housing and Community Development
The redevelopment of Brooks House was essential to the foundation of a thriving downtown Brattleboro and promises to have a far reaching impact on the economic and social well-being of this beautiful town and the region. It is precisely the type of development for which the federal New Markets Tax Credit program was created.
And it is remarkable how five civic leaders who are vested in the continued health of this community came together, generated public support and assembled the resources to make it happen. This is what 'community' means when we talk about community development. --Joe Flatley, President and CEO of Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation
Housing Vermont has worked on other development projects in downtown Brattleboro, most recently the new building providing retail and office space for the Brattleboro Food Co-op and affordable housing created in partnership with the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust. We were pleased to work with the Brooks House developers and MHIC to bring the financing advantages of the federal New Market Tax Credits to this key community project so that Brattleboro's downtown can remain vibrant well into the future. Congratulations to all. —Nancy Owens, President, Housing Vermont
U.S. Bank is celebrating with the people of Brattleboro as this lovely city marks the return of its crown jewel. We are honored to be able to provide equity from New Markets and Historic Tax Credits that helped resurrect this storied structure from the grave and become an economic engine for downtown. —Laura Vowell, vice president of U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation.
The building also features 23 upscale apartments, 4,000 square feet of office space and 32,000 square feet of a mix of retail, restaurants, cafes and shops, including Duo, the esteemed Denver restaurant and Wow Frozen Yogurt, Brilliance rugs and jewelry shop, and Turquoise Grille. The building will be mostly completed and occupied by the grand opening. The newly restored formal lobby leads to a dramatic two-story atrium that connects to shops and a renovated plaza.
Commercial space is still available – two retail spaces on Main and one on High Street and below in the old historic Oak Room that later became the Moles Eye.
The Brooks House Redevelopment Project was made possible by the following:
Governor Peter Shumlin
Stevens & Associates
Downs Rachlin Martin, PLLC
Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation
Mara Williams Oakes
Art & Susan Greenbaum
Barry & Elsa Waxman
Jack & Judy Davidson
Janice Warren & Stephen Shriner
Lee & Byron Stookey
Mara Williams Oakes
Philip & Marcia Steckler
Stephan Morse & Jill Spiro
Trust Company of Vermont
Wolf Kahn & Emily Mason
Community College of Vermont
Vermont Technical College
Brilliance - Mike Kiziltan
Duo - Stephanie Bonin & Keith Arnold
Oak Meadow - Lawrence Williams
Wow Frozen Yogurt - Dan Whalen & Rich Wilson
Turquoise Grille - Mike Kiziltan
Brattleboro Savings & Loan - ATM
Joel & Marilyn Aronoff
John & Rebecca Keiler
Stephen & Mariette Sanders
Tom Bodett & Rita Ramirez
James Meltzer & Cindy Amidon
Jonas & Kim Murray
Tyler McGrath & Emma Laramie
Vermont Rural Ventures
Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation
Mascoma Savings Bank
Vermont Economic Development Authority
Brattleboro Savings & Loan
Town of Brattleboro
Vermont Community Development Program
Vermont Downtown Program
Federal Historic Tax Program
New Market Tax Credits
VERY TOP PHOTO: L-r Ben Taggard, Bob Stevens, (behind Craig Miskovich and Drew Richards), Governor Peter Shumlin, Congressman Peter Welch, Pete Richards. photo credit: Kayla Rice