Brooks House project seeks more tenants
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | March 02,2013
Len Emery Photos
The Brooks Hotel on Main Street in Brattleboro, which was gutted by a large fire April 17, 2011, is now accepting lease applications for available housing units.
BRATTLEBORO — The developers of the 1871 Brooks House in downtown Brattleboro are hoping a leasing party later this month will help them find tenants for their vacant retail space.
Mascoma Bank, which is now the lead or senior lender in the $23 million project, has set a 70 percent lease standard before it starts releasing loan funds, said Allison Wendt, marketing director for Stevens & Associates, one of the partners in the project.
Mesabi LLC, a partnership of local businessmen, is hoping to revitalize the key downtown business block.
Wendt said the project is already 60 percent leased, with anchor tenants Community College of Vermont and Vermont Technical College, which have agreed to move their Brattleboro presence downtown.
Wendt said that since news of the leasing party March 14 in the River Garden in downtown Brattleboro became public, there has been more interest in the available retail spaces that are key to the project.
Wendt said only one tenant in the Brooks House before the April 17, 2011, fire was returning, Brillance.
“Nothing is more depressing that empty storefronts on Main Street. We’ve been through that,” she said.
One key, new tenant is a new restaurant with old Brattleboro roots. Stephanie Bonin, the daughter of the former owners of the Book Cellar, the iconic Brattleboro bookstore that was put out of business by the fire, is moving back to her hometown with her husband and children with their popular Denver restaurant, Duo.
Bonin has rented one of the most visible spaces in the Brooks House, first-floor space that at the time of the fire was occupied by Dragonfly Dry Goods.
Wendt said Duo would be using more space, about 2,250 square feet of space, than Dragonfly, a small, specialty goods store, but its main entrance would be the same.
Wendt said the main entrance to the Brooks House is going to be relocated to the former location of the Adagio Restaurant on Main Street.
Wendt said Mascoma Bank, headquartered in Lebanon, N.H., but with a large presence in both Vermont and New Hampshire, was more comfortable with the new market tax credit program, a major federal tax incentive that is helping to finance the project.
Commonwealth Yogurt, a relatively new yogurt firm in Brattleboro, also used new market tax credits to finance the construction of its facility.
According to the Windham Regional Commission’s website, new market tax credits are a program established by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 2000 to help low-income and impoverished areas in the United States create jobs and wealth. Several towns and areas of Windham County have received the designation, which is keyed to data collected by the U.S. Census.
Also assisting in the financing is Brattleboro Savings & Loan, she said.
The project was originally expected to start construction in December, but addditional financing was necessary and construction is now expected to start in May.
The leasing party and community open house will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 14, Wendt said.
“Part of it is really a community update,” she said.