BRATTLEBORO—The future is looking brighter at Bradley House.
A December merger with Brattleboro’s Holton Home has brought stability to the longtime residential care facility. And a much-needed structural overhaul and expansion project — which will add seven rooms to Bradley House, as well as new dining facilities — is scheduled to start later this year.
On July 6, Gov. Peter Shumlin traveled to Brattleboro to announce more than $2.8 million in community-development grants for residential and commercial projects across the state. Among the awards was a $450,000 grant to support Bradley House’s pending renovation.
“The staff and the residents are like a family here,” Shumlin said, standing on the retirement home’s front stairs. “What this money will ensure is not only that we modernize ... but that we can add some more beds so that more people will have a great place to live and to thrive and to be so close to the downtown.”
Not a moment too soon
The community development grant comes at a critical time for Bradley House. The Harris Avenue structure has served as a retirement home since the 1960s, but Bradley House was struggling last year when its administrators approached Holton Home to inquire about a merger.
That merger took effect Dec. 31. Linda Rice, a Holton Home board member who helped lead the merger process, said maintaining local ownership of Bradley House was a priority.
“We came over here, we met some of the residents, we looked around, we looked at the condition of the building and we said, ‘This is the right thing to do,’” said Rice, who chairs the board that now oversees both Holton Home and Bradley House.
Cindy Jerome, who serves as executive director of both facilities, praised the staff and residents of Bradley House. But she said the building, which dates to 1858, “needs a lot of work.”
Hence the upcoming improvement project. “The whole building needs new wiring, new plumbing, a new fire alarm system,” Jerome said.
A new heating system will be installed, along with insulation and energy efficient windows.
Bradley House also is expanding its footprint. A 9,000-square-foot, two-story addition will house new resident rooms as well as a new kitchen and a dining/multipurpose room.
As a result, Bradley House’s capacity will increase from 28 to 36 residents, and the equivalent of 3.5 full-time staffers will be added.
“It looks like we’re still on track for starting the first week of November,” Jerome said. Construction of the addition will come first, with Bradley House residents expected to move next year into the new portion of the building to allow for renovations in the old section.
The project — which still requires approval by the Brattleboro Development Review Board — is scheduled for completion in December 2017.
The total price tag is still a moving target, with estimates ranging from $4.8 million in town documents to $5.3 million in a project summary distributed at the July 6 ceremony. “We’ll be doing a capital campaign, and we’re also taking out a mortgage,” Jerome said.
Bradley House has gotten a head start with grant funding including the state’s July 6 $450,000 announcement; a $507,000 grant from the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board; and a grant of up to $50,000 from the town of Brattleboro.
“This is a wonderful facility,” said Brattleboro Selectboard vice-chair Kate O’Connor. “It allows people who can live independently to be able to do that with just a little bit of extra help.”
Seven other towns land funding
In addition to the Bradley House announcement, seven other towns landed state community development funding July 7. The money is allocated to Vermont annually via the federal Community Development Block Grant Program, with state officials then deciding who should receive the cash:
• Arlington received $375,000 to be used as a deferred loan to Shires Housing and Housing Vermont, which are partnering to rehabilitate 22 rental units in Arlington, Bennington, and Shaftsbury.
• In Bradford, a $450,000 deferred loan will go to Downstreet Housing and Community Development to rehabilitate 21 apartments for seniors and families in Bradford Village.
• Bennington’s $250,000 allocation will be granted to NeighborWorks of Western Vermont to fund a pilot program encouraging “small-scale rental property owners” to invest in their apartments.
“We’ve seen what’s happened with Brattleboro — what I call the rebirth of Brattleboro since the burning of the Brooks House, since the tough times we had with Irene,” Shumlin said. “It’s happening all over Vermont, and Bennington’s a part of making sure that we have jobs and job creators able to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got housing in our downtowns.’”
• Lunenburg will give its $550,000 allocation to Northeastern Vermont Development Association, which in turn plans to loan the money to Kingdom Pellets to start a softwood pellet mill that is expected to create 21 full-time jobs in Gilman.
• Rochester’s $455,000 will go to Rochester Community Care Home, which is undertaking “critical safety improvements, energy improvements, and modernization” at Park House, a senior housing development.
• Rutland is getting $250,000, which Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging will use to renovate a 5,000-square-foot Maple Street property to serve as the council’s headquarters.
• St. Johnsbury landed a $29,535 grant to complete an assessment of the town’s housing stock.