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The Sanel building on Flat Street, as described in the Brattleboro Downtown Historic District nomination form to the National Park Service in 1983, is a “utilitarian four-story, seven-bay, flat-roofed brick block.” Its formal name is the DeWitt block, named for the original owner, DeWeese DeWitt, who operated a wholesale grocery warehouse from the location.


State funds will rehab two buildings in Brattleboro

A 120-year-old grocery warehouse and a church turned performing-arts space will get state tax credits as part of program to put downtown buildings to more productive use

BRATTLEBORO—Two historic properties will be receiving state Downtown and Village Center tax credits.

The former Sanel Auto Parts building at 47 Flat St. will receive $168,478 in tax credits to support a top-to-bottom rehabilitation of the property.

It is slated to become the new home for the regional offices of the Vermont Department of Labor and the Vermont Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, as well as provide office space for the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation and co-working and business incubator space.

The Stone Church at 210 Main St., the former All Souls Unitarian Church, will receive $116,000 in tax credits to support façade repairs and code upgrades, including the installation of a sprinkler system, to the concert and event space.

These two projects were among 24 projects statewide that are sharing $2.8 million in state tax credits to help offset the costs of putting unused or underused buildings in the state’s downtowns and village centers back into productive use.

“Creating more opportunities for people to live and work in our Vermont’s downtowns and villages is critical to keeping young Vermonters here and drawing new families and business to Vermont to stay,” said Gov. Phil Scott in a news release.

“Without state revitalization programs like tax credits and Tax Increment Financing, recent projects like the Putnam Block in Bennington and the New Avenue House in St. Johnsbury would not be possible,” Scott added.

New life for old buildings

The Sanel Building, built as a wholesale grocery warehouse around 1900, will be redeveloped into the Southern Vermont American Job Center, at an estimated project cost of $7,090,399.

The four-story building will be totally renovated, and an elevator will be installed. The top floor will be set aside for mixed-income residential units, while the state agencies and BDCC will occupy the other floors of the building.

The Stone Church, a thriving music venue,is now in the process of completing $572,595 of upgrades to make it a modern concert and event hall that is ADA-compliant while preserving the Victorian Gothic architecture of the 1875 building.

Both buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Brattleboro Downtown Historic District.

Robin Johnson, the owner/manager of The Stone Church, told The Commons that the first part of the work — the code upgrades — are nearly complete. The sprinkler system and the outside work is expected to start in the spring.

“There’s a ton of competition among music venues in the area for bookings,” said Johnson. “That’s great for music lovers, but tough if you’re running a venue. In such a competitive market, you have to be better. We think we have great sound and a great building, and we hope to make this space even better.”

The Sanel Building, a 16,000-square-foot brick structure, has been vacant for about a decade after Sanel Auto Parts moved to a new location on Putney Road.

Peter Johnson bought the property, which sits behind his Elliot Street furniture store, Emerson’s, for $575,000 in January 2012. He sought to redevelop it into what he called “The Brattleboro Quad,” and touted it as a potential site for the Brattleboro campus of Community College of Vermont.

CCV instead opted to move from Landmark Hill into the Brooks House on Main Street.

After his site was rejected in the fall of 2012, Johnson told The Commons he would look into turning the Sanel Building and the area around it into a pedestrian zone, featuring restaurants, retail space, and high-end apartments. The building has been mostly unused since then.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #531 (Wednesday, October 9, 2019). This story appeared on page A1.

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