BRATTLEBORO -- The investment group that hopes to purchase the Brooks House building in downtown Brattleboro has chosen a construction manager and contractor, and still hopes to start work on the fire-damaged building by the beginning of 2013.
Bread Loaf Builders, of Middlebury, will consult with designers to develop cost estimates, secure bids and finalize a construction schedule as investors continue working to complete the deal.
"When you take on a project this big you expect setbacks, but so far we have not come across anything that is insurmountable," said Allyson Wendt, marketing director for Stevens & Associates, the firm that is designing the property. "We haven't had any shocking, bad news that has held us up. The project is moving forward."
Bob Stevens, of Stevens & Associates, is one of the members of Mesabi, LLC, the development group that is working to purchase and rebuild the Brooks House.
The other members include Craig Miskovich, Ben Taggard, Drew Richards and Pete Richards.
Wendt admits that it is a "calculated risk" to hire a construction manager before the purchase is complete, but she said the investors want to re-open the building as soon as possible.
"We wanted to get them on board early, so as soon as we close we can go forward," she said. "Things are looking good and we are confident this will happen."
The historic Brooks House was severely damaged in a late night fire on April
Brooks House owner Jonathon Chase announced earlier this year that he was not going to be able to raise the money needed to rebuild the historic downtown property, and the Mesabi group has been working ever since to secure the financing for the purchase.
The total project is expected to cost about $18 million.
Wendt said designers are finalizing floor plans, which will include a two-story atrium inside the Main Street entrance.
The entrance, which is the building's original entrance and will be accessed through the space formerly occupied by Adagio restaurant, will have a coffee bar and will allow visitors to enter all retail spaces from inside.
Planners also want to put two new stories onto the rear single story structure and hope to create a park-like plaza in the Harmony Parking Lot.
Developers will be going before the Brattleboro Development Review Board Monday night for the first time to get local approval for the ambitious project.
Martha O'Connor said the Vermont State College Board of Trustees is expected to decide next month if a new downtown campus will be located in the Brooks House, or in the former Sanel Autoparts store on Flat Street.
The trustees have toured both properties.
O'Connor said the board is committed to bringing a new campus to downtown Brattleboro.
"The board is analyzing its options," O'Connor said. "I'm pretty sure that everyone agrees that this would be great for the state, and for Brattleboro and we have to have a financial package that fits. I'm optimistic that we are going to hear about this soon."
Wendt said that while developers hope the downtown campus is an anchor tenant for the Brooks House, developers will move forward one way of the other.
She said developers will build more office space at the Brooks House if the college moves to Flat Street.
The investment group is preleasing space, contingent on the deal going through.
Wendt said there is excitement and interest for the apartments, offices and retail space.
The first tenants could be moving in by the end of 2013.
"Everyone is excited about starting the construction phase," said Wendt. "Things are beginning to ramp up."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279. Follow Howard @HowardReformer.