People gather at 26 Depot St., the Archery building, in Brattleboro, to tour the building last July. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer file photo)
People gather at 26 Depot St., the Archery building, in Brattleboro, to tour the building last July. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer file photo)
Thursday September 13, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- Two well known art groups have turned in their proposals for potential use of the town-owned building at 26 Depot Street, formerly known as the Archery Building.

Clayworks, a well established clay studio cooperative on Putney Road, and Fulcrum Arts, a collaboration of glassblower Randi Solin and ceramic artist Natalie Blake, both have visions for the riverfront property across from Union Station and want the town to back up their idea.

The proposals from the art groups were the only two submitted to the town before Wednesday's deadline.

Town officials would not release the proposals Wednesday until they had a chance to look them over first.

According to notes from a July 17 Arts Committee meeting, Clayworks wants to move its studio to the ground floor of the Archery Building and then open the second floor as gallery space.

Clayworks member Alan Steinberg told the Arts Committee that the clay studio could apply to become a Vermont State Craft Center, which would fit into the arts district which is being studied as part of a two year NEA grant that was recently awarded to Brattleboro.

Fulcrum Arts has been working to establish a downtown studio, gallery and craft school since 2005, when the group started considering the former TriState Automotive building near New England Youth Theatre.


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Environmental issues at TriState prevented Fulcrum from moving ahead there, and then a deal to purchase the former Sanel Autopart building fell through.

The group now wants to redevelop the building at 26 Depot Street.

Solin said the group would probably build onto the existing structure if the Fulcrum proposal is accepted.

She said the location near the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, and close to downtown, makes it ideal for the studios and classrooms that she and Blake have been wanting to bring to Brattleboro for seven years.

"This would create a destination for people interested in the arts," Solin said. "We think it's perfect. We want to develop the waterfront and we think we have a business model that works."

Almost two dozen people showed up for a tour of the facility on July 12 when the town opened it up for the first time, but only two proposals were turned in Wednesday.

The building might be the town's first train station, and it has been used for railroad storage, meatpacking, a beer and wine warehouse, and most recently as an archery shop since being built in 1849.

The town purchased the approximately 5,000-square-foot building in 2006 as it was working toward redevelopment of the Connecticut Riverfront property.

Since then the town has completed the project, which included removing other derelict buildings, improving the green space in the area and upgrading the parking lot and bus turnaround.

The town found out that the building had historic significance, but instead of investing in redevelopment in the structure it asked any individual or group in the area for ideas.

Those ideas were turned in Wednesday and now an ad hoc committee will go through the proposals and then make a recommendation to the Selectboard.

The committee will be made up of a members of the Union Station Committee, the Planning Commission, SBA Committee, Recreation and Parks Department and Arts Committee.

The committee will grade the proposals on how they conform to the town's request for proposal, which included specifics on how the developers would pay for renovation and maintenance, if the plan would be self-sustaining and how it would fit into the Town Plan.

The Selectboard has made it clear from the start that it was not willing to invest town money into the project.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279. Follow Howard @HowardReformer.