People gather at 26 Depot St., the Archery building, in Brattleboro, last summer, to tour the building. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
People gather at 26 Depot St., the Archery building, in Brattleboro, last summer, to tour the building. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
Friday February 1, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- A plan to develop a derelict building that the town owns has fallen through, and now the town is back to square one in its decades-long quest to complete redevelopment at the Union Station property.

Fulcrum Arts has decided that it will not move ahead with its plan to build an art gallery and school at the Archery Building, across from the Amtrak station.

Fulcrum Arts, which is headed by Randi Solin of Solinglass and Natalie Blake of Natalie Blake Studios, won the bid to take over the Archery Building and the arts group hoped that its seven year push to bring a high-end school and gallery to downtown Brattleboro was finally over.

The group had previously looked at two other properties, but both of those plans fell through as well.

Solin said that when she and Blake started talking with contractors it became quickly apparent that the project was going to be beyond their means.

Fulcrum Arts also had concerns about the parking and Solin said even if they were able to develop the building it still would not have been quite big enough for their needs.

"We decided it was a huge renovation project and it quickly started to feel overwhelming," Solin said. "We felt bad saying ‘no,' and it was hard letting it go, but it would have taken too much time."

According to Solin it was going to take almost $500,000 just to get the doors open.

While the business partners were getting their bid together to move into the Archery Building they said it would probably be their last attempt to develop the school and gallery.

Solin said Thursday that they are close to finalizing a new deal with a fourth potential property and she said that while she is not yet ready to go public with the information, she and Blake are hopeful that the fourth time would be the charm.

"We are not leaving Brattleboro," she said. "We are not giving up."

Now Brattleboro has to decide what it wants to do with the building.

After years of trying to raise the money, and get the permits, to develop the river front property, the town ceremoniously opened the green space and parking area this summer, promising to work with a developer to rehabilitate the Archery Building.

Selectboard Chairman Dick DeGray, who will be leaving the board in March, said the next board will have to decide how to proceed.

DeGray said he did not know if the town was going to go out with another RFP, or possibly go in another direction.

At the same time, DeGray said he was not surprised that the deal with Fulcrum Arts fell through.

The town has a long and tangled history in developing the property and he said the latest development was just "Act 10 in a 20 act production."

He said for a for-profit business like Fulcrum Arts, it can be frustrating to work with a municipality, which operate under its own timeline and regulations.

He also said in the current business climate banks are not lending out money and an expensive development project can be hard to pull off when there is not a well financed entity behind it.

"I'm sure the board will explore all the options in front of us," he said. "I am disappointed but I am not surprised. Everything is on the table. I'm not sure where it will take us."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.