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The Commons
News

State plans to rent space in Brattleboro's Municipal Center

Consolidation of offices would ease public access

Originally published in The Commons issue #433 (Wednesday, November 8, 2017). This story appeared on page A1.



BRATTLEBORO—By the end of the year, state officials expect to sign a lease with the town to rent approximately 10,000 square feet of the municipal building at 230 Main St.

State Commissioner of Buildings and Services Christopher Cole submitted a letter of intent, dated Oct. 5, with some details on the proposed lease agreement. In the letter, Cole wrote, “It is the State’s intent to formalize a lease within 45 days of the signing of this Letter of Intent.”

The Brattleboro Police Department’s recent move to 62 Black Mountain Rd. leaves a large part of the first floor of the municipal center vacant. Once the state moves in, they will occupy about one-quarter of 230 Main Street, on a portion of the second and third floors.

A stable tenant

“We’re excited to be working on this with the state because of the stability” of having them as a tenant, said Brattleboro Town Manager Peter B. Elwell.

“We’re not likely to vaporize,” said Agency of Administration Director of Planning and Property Management Bill Laferriere.

Laferriere said the state plans to rent space in the municipal building on a long-term basis. Although the two parties are still working out the agreement’s details, both Elwell and Laferriere confirmed the final document will likely be a 10-year lease with two five-year renewals. “This is pretty standard,” Laferriere said.

The state will pay the town $16 per square foot for the space, with slight increases likely each year. According to the letter of intent, prior to each five-year option period, both parties can renegotiate the rental rate.

The next step, Elwell said, is to approve the lease, and both parties are working out the details.

The letter of intent holds the town responsible for providing the state “a fully renovated building in which indoor air quality [equals] outdoor air quality,” and this includes, “on the exterior, an upgraded parking lot and renovated front stairs.”

At the next Town Meeting, voters will decide whether to approve the capital expenditures for this work.

“We’ll need to borrow for construction,” said Elwell, but it’s too early for exact figures, he noted.

“We’re working on it,” Elwell said.

Town officials won’t be working on it alone. The state will pay half the cost of “fit up” for the leased area, half the cost of upgrading the parking area, and a proportional share of improvements to common areas such as hallways, restrooms, and the elevator.

If all goes as planned, Elwell said, design work and construction should happen in the spring and summer of 2018, with a move-in date of July 1, 2019.

Consolidation

Both Laferriere and Elwell said consolidation is a major benefit of this arrangement.

The state leases about five properties for a total of 15,000 to 20,000 square feet throughout Brattleboro, Laferriere said.

If they can consolidate these offices at 230 Main Street, which is adjacent to the state office building at 232 Main Street and across the street from the state courthouse, “we can put state employees on the same campus,” Laferriere noted. This will make it easier for clients to utilize state services.

“It’s co-mingled. It’s one-stop shopping,” he said.

Brattleboro’s need for a tenant for a large part of 230 Main Street was good timing for the state, Laferriere said.

“We’ve run out of space at the state building,” he said. “We had to move the Department of Labor to the Marlboro College [graduate center] building on Vernon Ave.”

When the space is ready at the municipal center, the state can move the Department of Labor’s offices there.

Although some variables of the plan are still in the negotiation phase, “what’s crystal clear is the consolidation of town offices on the first floor,” Elwell said.

Because the state wants to rent about half of the second and third floors, town offices on those floors will go down to the first floor, where the police department’s headquarters once were.

This will make those offices and the services they provide “immediately accessible to the public,” Elwell said.

The arrangement will likely require some private offices to move from the second or third floors, Elwell said. He has notified staff in the affected areas, and will continue working with them as plans unfold, he said.

New hope for an old building

By partnering with the state, Elwell said, “we can renovate an important public resource.”

Laferriere said the town’s willingness to rehabilitate the building is a selling point. Because the state’s space will essentially be in new condition, “this is desirable,” he said.

Although parts of the building — especially the basement — were plagued by dampness and mold, Laferriere said he and his colleagues were satisfied with the town’s mitigation plans.

“We did a facilities assessment on the building and there were no adverse findings,” he said.

“It’s a typical old building that’s been reasonably maintained,” Laferriere said. “The town’s plan for repairs is sound. As part of due diligence before getting into a long-term lease, we met with the town’s architect and contractor, and we have no concerns.”

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