Brattleboro board approves New England Center for Circus Arts project

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BRATTLEBORO >> Development Review Board members are used to looking over interesting designs for buildings in town. But juggling was something new.

New England Center for Circus Arts secured permission to build its new 8,400-square-foot facility on Town Crier Drive. A juggler performed tricks as the hearing began Monday night.

"It was sort of a sleeper lot here in Brattleboro," said Gordon Bristol, one of the representatives of the school. "There was a nice little 3-acre lot there."

The orientation of the building is expected to change a bit to meet land use regulations. Since the last updates to the regulations, which were adopted by the town in November, the parcel is now located in the Neighborhood Center District.

"We think that it's not going to be a very difficult thing. It needs to demonstrate that the western elevation is meant to be at least as significant from the street presence standpoint as the side. That's the key point here," said Brattleboro Planning Director Rod Francis.

The school also was agreeable to conditions from the board that require formal shared parking agreements with nearby landowners and construction of a sidewalk down to Putney Road but not along it.

The architect did not want to design a rectangular building, Bristol said, showing the board a metal facility with concave wings and windows "splattered in a way that does not make much sense but gives it a cool look."

"When you approach this building with the lights on inside, you'll see people up in the air. You'll see tumbling going on. You'll feel invited into the building," Bristol said. "Inside will be the only indoor trapezium (trapeze center) in the United States. We think that will bring some great popularity. There's a lot of demand."

The board saw a design with 30 parking lot spaces in two sections of the property, including handicap spots, and one delivery area. The school did not want some parking spaces behind the building, which is how land use regulations would dictate the arrangement. The board recommended that the school apply for a variance to address the parking situation.

Elsie Smith, co-founder of NECCA, said the hillside in the rear of the property is expected to become an outdoor performance space with an outdoor section of the building's wall set to be a feature for athletes to climb on.

Bristol said the facility will be only the second building in Brattleboro to have all solar lighting if all goes as planned.

"We have a sign permit. It will be going up in the fall," he said. "We plan to start (construction) at the end of this appeal period. We would begin in September on this building."

A full sprinkler system and a gravel road for fire truck access was another aspect discussed. Lighting and landscape designs are expected to come before the board at a future date.

Dumpsters will not be located on the property.

"Our usage is so small. We want to treat this as residential. We'll have the containers taken to proper disposal," Bristol said. "Our goal, with our alternative ways, is to not generate enough to warrant a dumpster."

Smith noted the school's "extensive walking and biking community" while mentioning that she was involved in talks with neighbors about using parking.

Call Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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