The River Garden, on Main Street in Brattleboro. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
The River Garden, on Main Street in Brattleboro. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
Wednesday June 12, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Building a Better Brattleboro, the downtown business development group that owns the Robert H. Gibson River Garden, is close to deciding the fate of the Main Street property.

The ad hoc committee that has interviewed the three groups that are interested in taking over the River Garden is going to meet with the BABB board soon to go over its recommendations following the three closed-door interviews.

The ad hoc committee accepted the three requests for proposals and scored each one.

The committee also interviewed representatives from each group and now the ad hoc committee will come before the BABB board to share that information.

It ultimately will be up to the BABB board to make the final decision.

"There have not been any roadblocks, we are just trying to work with everyone's schedule to find a time to meet," said BABB Vice President Kate O'Connor. "Everyone wants to figure this out as soon as possible."

BABB purchased the former Rite Aid building in 1999 and has been trying to keep the property public, and make ownership economically viable, ever since.

The group announced earlier this year that it had been losing between $10,000 and $15,000 every year and it was time to find a new owner or manager of the property.

BABB has said that it could sell the property to a new group, or possibly retain ownership if an outside group came up with a viable plan to create enough revenue to meet the annul operating costs.

Three groups turned in RFPs before the April 30 deadline and O'Connor said the ad hoc committee met with the groups in May.

BABB originally said the winner would be announced in early June, and in a recent interview O'Connor said the BABB Board of Directors was eager to make a decision and begin working on the next step.

O'Connor declined to give out any information on the groups that submitted the proposals or on the members of the ad hoc committee.

She also said that once the winning group is announced it might take a little while to negotiate an agreement to transfer ownership, or to work out a management agreement.

But she said the decision could come soon on which group BABB will work with.

O'Connor also stressed that BABB was continuing to rent out the space and make it available until a final decision is made on its future.

The Vermont Legislature this session voted to relieve the owner of the River Garden from any responsibility of repaying the state for the $150,000 in public money that was used when the property was purchased in 1999.

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