An iconic Brattleboro building that was gutted by fire two years ago is moving closer to making a comeback.
Since 2011 the historic Brooks House and its many storefronts and apartments have been a dark spot on Brattleboro’s Main Street.
A group of local business leaders has formed a company, Mesabi LLC, to restore the building. They hoped to purchase it in December, but the closing was postponed when a key part of the financing fell through
Brattleboro engineer Bob Stevens, one of the developers, says Mascoma Bank has signed on as lead lender in the $23 million project.
"But one of the conditions of financing was that we had pre-leased the building to roughly 70 percent of occupancy. We have commitments for leases that amount to about 60 percent as we sit today, but we need another ten percent of the space to be leased before we can close and start construction," Stevens explains.
The developers are planning an open house for prospective tenants on March 14. Among those already committed are the Community College of Vermont and Vermont Technical College. The colleges plan to establish a shared Brattleboro campus in the building.
Stevens says it wouldn’t be feasible to rebuild the local landmark without the tax credits, grants, and loan programs the financing involves.
He sees the Brooks House as source of activity and prosperity for the town.
"We have to do this. What choice do we have? We have to find a way to do it because we can’t really let that building sit empty," Stevens says.
If the necessary leases come together, the group hopes to purchase the building in April and begin construction in May.