MONTPELIER -- Two colleges will hold classes this fall in downtown Brattleboro in the newly renovated Brooks House, which was almost destroyed by fire just a few months before the community was hit by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene.
The Community College of Vermont is moving this weekend from its old location on the edge of town. The Vermont Technical College began moving into its portion of the building last week.
CCV, which has about 7,000 students each semester at different locations across Vermont, is sharing 18,000 square feet of space on the first two floors with Vermont Tech, which is based in Randolph.
Classes will begin in the coming weeks.
"It's exciting because this space is so modern, so student friendly and high tech," said Clifford LaPlante, who is overseeing three Vermont Tech nursing programs on the site. "It's going to enable us to provide such a quality education in a great environment."
The building isn't quite finished, said LaPlante, who has been working on the design. Businesses and apartments will be ready in the next few weeks, LaPlante said. A formal ribbon cutting will be held early this fall.
It's a rebirth of sorts for downtown Brattleboro, which was hit by the April 2011 fire and, four months later, by Irene.
"From my perspective, the importance of the Brooks House coming back online simply cannot be overstated," said Patrick Moreland, Brattleboro interim town manager.
Before the fire, the 140-year-old, five-story Brooks House contained nearly 60 apartments and about a dozen businesses on the lower floors. The fire, which started on the upper floors, was traced to an electrical issue.
Gov. Peter Shumlin toured the area the day after the blaze and called it "a really tough blow" for Brattleboro.
Funding for the $24 million renovation was finalized last year.
"This move puts CCV right in the heart of downtown Brattleboro, and we expect the college to have better visibility and a stronger tie to the community in this new location," CCV President Joyce Judy said in a statement.