Designs sought for $16.5M Brattleboro Museum & Art Center project

BRATTLEBORO — A request for bids going out for potential work at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center offers a glimpse into the ambitions of museum officials and a group with ties to the Brooks House redevelopment project.

"We're in a feasibility stage for what could be a big, big project: Expansion of the museum, some new construction, some renovation that we've been working on for a while — it goes back to why we acquired the building on the Whetstone Brook in the fall of 2015," BMAC Director Danny Lichtenfeld said, referring to the Arch Street property being cleared of environmental contaminants. "But we're still in the early stages of trying to get a handle on how much money we can raise and how much of it we can actually pull off."

M&S Development is described in bid details as a real estate developer specializing in mixed-use downtown revitalization and an affiliate of Stevens & Associates. After the Brooks House fire in 2011, Stevens assisted with architecture, engineering and development services, according to the Brattleboro-based firm's website. Bob Stevens and Craig Miskovich, Brattleboro residents, are the principals of M&S.

The museum and M&S are looking for an architecture firm "with significant experience in museum design to provide conceptual design services." The listing on Vermont Business Registry and Bid System features a total construction cost estimated at $16.5 million, which Lichtenfeld calls "really, really preliminary."

Major project components include a new approximately 45,000-square-foot building at the intersection of Main Street and the Whetstone Brook, which would host museum galleries, retail space, a cafe and upper-story apartments; renovation of the approximately 4,400-square-foot Arch Street building, which would have museum galleries, classrooms and artist studios/workshops; and renovation of the existing museum to improve the entry, accessibility and the ability to hold events. Another item is a new pedestrian bridge that would be constructed over the confluence of the Whetstone and Connecticut River to link the museum to the new building.

Once preliminary plans are developed, Lichtenfeld said, budgets can be refined and potential donors can be alerted to see whether there will be enough interest to complete the project in its entirety. M&S would own the new apartments, and the museum would own the rest of the building and the others.

The project is not going to happen overnight, Lichtenfeld said.

"I'm not exactly sure of the timeline but I think it's something we would be working on in 2019 and 2020," he said.

About two dozen architecture firms in the Northeast were sent information in the bid. The design phase is expected to take six to eight months starting in March 2018.

The Arch Street property will get cleaned up no matter what happens with the bigger project, Lichtenfeld said. Work is just getting started now on a federally funded process to address the building that has been an electric power generating station and substation, machine shop and grist mill in previous years.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency provided the museum with a $200,000 grant last year after tests found that soil, groundwater and building materials were contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals and polychlorinated biphenyl.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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