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Closer to a home

Brooks House project secures additional funding

BRATTLEBORO—Look up at the Brooks House at the corner of Main and High Streets and you’ll see a sign of hope: large red and white banners stretch across the empty structure’s brick walls left battered by fire last year read, “Now Leasing.”

The investment partners behind the Brooks House rebuild, Mesabi, LLC, say they have received commitments for about 80 percent of the $18 million project.

Mesabi consists of Bob Stevens, PE, of Stevens & Associates; Craig Miskovich of Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC; and Ben Taggard, Drew Richards, and Peter Richards, who are all vice-presidents and principals at The Richards Group.

Fire ripped through the 1871 Brooks House in April 2011, displacing residents and businesses. A spark from a staple through an electrical wire sparked the blaze. Owner Jonathan Chase, who inherited the former hotel from his father Norman, said he would rebuild.

Chase stripped the fire- and water-damaged interior down to the building’s wood and brick skeleton.

Later, Chase surprised the community when he announced he would sell the building to Stevens and Miskovich.

Mesabi anticipates securing the remaining funding to purchase the Brooks House from Chase this fall. The group anticipates starting construction in November. The work will continue until December 2013, and the building will be open to tenants in January 2014.

Funding so far has come from a variety of sources. According to a press release from Stevens & Associates, tax credits and loan commitments make up the bulk of the funding; individual investments and grants comprise the rest.

The project has been approved for New Market Tax Credits through the Burlington-based nonprofit Housing Vermont’s Vermont Rural Ventures. According to Housing Vermont, Congress created the NMTC in 2000 to spur investment in rural and urban low-income communities. As the investment corporation, Mesabi will receive a tax credit worth up to 39 percent of the project’s cost spread over seven years.

According to the press release, the Brooks House’s listing on the National Register qualifies the building for the National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Tax Credits. The design team “must retain certain features of the building — the brick work, window size and shape, and iconic tower and penthouse” to receive the tax credit.

These restrictions do not hold for the fire-damaged interior.

Brattleboro Savings & Loan has made a loan commitment to the project.

“Brattleboro Savings & Loan has a long history of community involvement and redevelopment funding, and we’re very pleased to be working with them,” said Miskovich in the press release.

The investment team is also securing pre-lease options for commercial and retail spaces, and has seen a great deal of interest in the residential spaces, confirmed Stevens & Associates Marketing Director Allyson Wendt.

According to the Brooks House project website, the 12 retail spaces on offer range in monthly rent from $1,900 to $4,400. The Oak Room, the original basement barroom of the hotel and most recently the home of the former Mole’s Eye restaurant will rent for $3,500.

Residential spaces range from $710 a month for a studio apartment to $2,100 for the three, two-story penthouse and tower apartments that include a washer/dryer, exclusive parking space, and roof-top deck.

Ten office spaces are also available.

Wendt is working on the LEED certification for the building.

“It’s really exciting,” she said. “It will be a live building again.”

The spaces available for pre-leasing include retail, office, restaurant, and coffee bar spaces, as well as some of the high-end residential spaces.

The company is still negotiating with Vermont State Colleges. It hopes the Brooks House will “prove a good fit for Community College of Vermont and Vermont Technical College,” said the company in a press release.

According to Wendt, VSC is working on a feasibility study for a downtown college campus. The Brooks House and the former Sanel Auto Parts building on Flat Street are reportedly the two sites that VSC has focused on.

Wendt said that the Brooks House will have enough space to meet the needs of VSC and other tenants.

To obtain a space, potential tenants will sign an option to lease and offer a deposit. Some tenant customization of spaces can take place during the overall renovation of the building, which could lead to cost savings for tenants.

In addition, the energy efficiency of the building will be much greater than it was before, lowering operating costs. Interested businesses should visit www.brookshouse.com for more information.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #161 (Wednesday, July 18, 2012).

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