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Brooks House sale to close soon

Construction set to begin by mid-July

Commons news editor Randolph T. Holhut contributed to this report.

BRATTLEBORO—Mesabi LLC, the investment group behind rehabilitating the Brooks House, anticipates closing on the project within a week.

Bob Stevens, one of Mesabi’s members and principal at Stevens and Associates, told the Selectboard at its June 18 meeting that the group is “on the brink of closing on this project.”

Mesabi LLC is made up of Stevens, local attorney Craig Miskovich, Drew Richards, Peter Richards, and Ben Taggard, all of The Richards Group, a Brattleboro-based insurance and financial services firm.

They have spent almost two years putting together the financing for the $24 million project to rehabilitate the 1871 hotel into a mixed-use building with retail space, apartments, and the new downtown campus of the Community College of Vermont and Vermont Technical College.

Mesabi still must purchase the property from Jonathan Chase.

Mesabi also asked the town to increase the amount it would loan the project by $50,000, to be repaid over 10 years at 3 percent interest. The Selectboard approved an additional $50,000, raising the total in loans coming from the town to $150,000.

Stevens said the project needed the extra funds as the project has taken longer than expected to get off the ground, which increased costs.

Breadloaf Construction of Middlebury will be the principal contractor on the project. On Monday, Miskovich said he anticipated construction will begin in mid-July and should be completed by July 2014.

Miskovich, Taggard, and Drew Richards met with U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., who helped secure federal tax credits and funding for the project.

The project was approved for New Market Tax Credits through 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.

The Brooks House’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places also qualified 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.

And, last fall, the project received a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant.

A five-alarm fire in April 2011 heavily damaged the historic building and displaced businesses and residents.

“I remember coming down right after the fire and going through the building when there was still water dripping from the ceiling,” said Welch. “I knew that somehow, some way, this building would be restored. These tax credits help create the opportunities for local people to take the lead on projects like this.”

He praised Mesabi for its courage in taking on the daunting job of restoring the historic downtown landmark.

“You guys are making it happen,” he said. “It’s really impressive.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #209 (Wednesday, June 26, 2013).

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