Brooks House deal could close next week

Thursday June 20, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Investors who are trying to redevelop the fire-damaged Brooks House on Main Street say the complicated business deal could close next week, with construction crews starting to rehabilitate the building as early as next month.

Brattleboro's historic Brooks House has been closed since a five alarm fire significantly damaged the structure on April 17, 2011, displacing up to 60 tenants and 10 businesses.

Bob Stevens, one of the investors involved in the deal, told the Brattleboro Selectboard Tuesday that while investors hoped to purchase the building in December, and then again in March, the final pieces are finally in place.

"We're in a pretty good mood today," Stevens the board. "We think the budget is finally balanced and we feel like we are very, very close."

Stevens and Craig Miskovich, two of the partners involved with Mesabi LLC, the corporation formed to help raise the approximately $23 million needed to complete the deal, were at the Selectboard meeting Tuesday to ask for another $50,000 loan from the town.

The town already agreed to loan the group $100,000 out of the Community Development Block Grant fund, which is a fund made up of money other lenders pay back, through the town, on federal loans.

None of the money loaned to Mesabi, LLC, comes from municipal taxpayers' money.

On Tuesday the board unanimously agreed to loan Mesabi, LLC the additional $50,000.

"The decision we make requires us to consider if the town should be involved with a private venture," Selectboard Chairman David Gartenstein said before the board vote. "Clearly, the Brooks House building is vital to the success and the health of the downtown area and we have been committed to making sure the property is redeveloped. This is an opportunity to help the town move forward and it seems to me that if we have the CDBG money it is worth the risk to see that building rehabilitated."

About one year after the April 2011 fire building owner Jonathan Chase announced that he was not going to be able to finance the redevelopment of the property.

Mesabi, LLC was formed to raise the capital to purchase the property from Chase and rehabilitate it.

Since then Community College of Vermont and Vermont Technical College announced that they wanted to site their facilities in the downtown building.

Stevens said previously that the residences and businesses are more than 70 percent pre-leased

At the meeting Tuesday Stevens said the delays in the project added more costs and that is why he was asking the town for an additional loan.

He said that while the final deal was very close to being completed, investors had to fill an approximately $300,000 gap in funding caused by the delays.

All of the banks involved with the deal had reached their limits and Stevens said the additional $50,000 the group was asking for was a small, but very significant, hurdle they need to get over to finalize the purchase from Chase.

He said the group also found additional investors and put more of their own money into the project to complete the deal

"This is a huge project, and this is one very important piece," Stevens said. "We are really ready to go now."

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


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