Brattleboro's bright future

Saturday January 5, 2013

"Every few years Brattleboro reinvents itself, and it feels like that is going on right now."

Christian Clines spoke those words to a Reformer reporter shortly after purchasing Maple Leaf Music on Elliot Street, last year.

While we haven't officially ranked, by importance, our top stories of 2012, as we worked on the compilation one story kept sticking out to us again and again: the renovation of Brooks House on Main Street into a consolidated college campus. Smack dab in the middle of downtown Brattleboro, no less.

In the wake of 2011, with its shootings and fires and floods, it was clear the county, as a whole, was eager to turn the page and forge ahead. In many ways, the re-envisioning of the Brooks House goes beyond development; it's a symbol of all the recovery our region has faced and continues to face.

But unlike many of the individual victories we have been privileged to report on -- rebuilt homes and bridges, roads and culverts -- Brooks House seems like so much more. When you consider what it means when a house or bridge is rebuilt, that action of rebuilding is a return to the status quo. In the case of the Brooks House, the rebuilding is not simply a return to form -- it's a representation of moving forward.

When Gov. Peter Shumlin made the announcement, early last year, of the creation of a consolidated campus for the Community College of Vermont and Vermont Technical College in Brattleboro, it was a welcome surprise to the region. The addition of the colleges will infuse new life and energy to the downtown area, and is already eagerly anticipated by many local groups looking to evolve with the new development.

"This is really going to make Brattleboro's downtown come alive," Martha O'Connor, a member of the Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees, told us this week. "I've never seen anything in my lifetime that people have been so excited about."

Or perhaps Craig Miskovich, a partner of Mesabi, Llc, which was formed to find financing for the rehabilitation of the Brooks House, said it best: "Brattleboro will become the college town it's always wanted to be."

It seems that every so often Brattleboro is able to reinvent itself through new energy. Following World War II, you had Blanche Moyse and other founding members of the Marlboro Music Festival move to the area, along with the founding of Marlboro College. In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the back to the land movement brought many communal farming folks to the area. Following the tech bubble burst in the late ‘90s, during the last recession, new innovations like the New England Youth Theater and the roots of Strolling of the Heiffers were taking shape.

Each time these "movements" left an imprint on the community. And while we'll try to not get too excited, this feels like another one of those times.

Change is coming ... and it feels good.


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