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It’s official: Brooks House sold

Construction to begin in late-July

BRATTLEBORO—After months of delays, The Mesabi Group, LLC, announced on Tuesday that it has completed the closing process and it is set to move forward with the next phase of the Brooks House redevelopment.

A ground-breaking ceremony with Gov. Peter Shumlin is scheduled for Wednesday, July 17, at 1 p.m., at the River Garden on Main Street. Construction will begin before the end of July and should last roughly a year.

Mesabi is an investment group composed of Bob Stevens, Drew Richards, Ben Taggard, Peter Richards, and Craig Miskovich. They have taken on the task of reclaiming, renovating, and revitalizing the 1871 grand hotel. The investment group dreams of a mixed-use building with restored historical features and modern amenities.

To finance the $24 million project, Mesabi put together a complex package that includes common equity, senior and subordinated debt, private loans, preferred equity, a Community Development Block Grant, a town loan, and Historic and New Market tax credits, in addition to state funding for turning the second floor into the new home for a joint Community College of Vermont/Vermont Technical College campus.

The CCV/VTech campus will be the centerpiece of the Brooks House, which is undergoing a top-to-bottom restoration after a April 2011 fire ripped through the prominent downtown landmark, destroying 60 apartments and displacing 10 businesses.

“It was a long, difficult process to put together the financing for this project and here we are, nearly a year and a half later, and we’re finally ready for construction,” said Miskovich in a news release.

According to Stevens, whose firm Stevens & Associates is providing architecture and engineering services for the project, a large ground-floor atrium inside the building will serve as the main entrance from Main Street and the Harmony Lot, and will open inside onto the retail businesses in the building.

“Our design preserves many of the historic features that define the building, and restores some others, like the original storefront layout,” said Stevens in a news release.

The building has space for retail, restaurants, and offices, as well as one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Breadloaf Construction of Middlebury will serve as the construction manager.

“We’re excited to see the Brooks House begin to add to the vitality of downtown Brattleboro,” said Taggard. “Our intent is to rebuild the Brooks House so that it brings much more activity downtown than it did before the fire.”

According to Drew Richards, who, along with his brother Pete and his cousin, Taggard, are principal partners of The Richards Group, the response from prospective tenants has been “remarkable.”

“We’ve received commitments to occupy more than 70 percent of the building. It was a challenge to get commitments for a shell of a building that we didn’t own, but people are excited about the potential,” he said.

“The Brooks House redevelopment effort has benefited from a great deal of support both within and beyond our community, starting with Governor Shumlin’s vision for a downtown campus for the colleges,” added Peter Richards.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #211 (Wednesday, July 10, 2013).

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