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Unveiling of New Museum Building Project 11/19/19

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A plan to bring new housing and gallery space to downtown Brattleboro could transform Main Street, said Bob Stevens, of Stevens and Associates and M&S Development. "We have a saying that retail doesn't work in downtowns," he said. "If you want retail, if you want an attractive downtown, you need to bring people down here for other reasons." Stevens said a project he and Danny Lichtenfeld, the director of the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, have been working on since 2013 does just that. On Tuesday, Stevens and Lichtenfeld announced a partnership that is aimed at revitalizing a corner of downtown. The $30 million project calls for the demolition of the Barrows Block and the Arch Street building, replacing it with state-of-the-art gallery space and affordable housing and market-rate apartments and condo units. "This will have an economic ripple effect through the rest of downtown," said Stevens before the press conference. "And as the downtown economy goes, the rest of the economy goes." The centerpiece of the project is a new 55,000-square-foot building to be constructed at the foot of Main Street, alongside a cascading waterfall in the Whetstone Brook. The building will contain gallery space and classrooms, 24 apartments overlooking the Connecticut River, a cafe with outdoor seating, a rooftop sculpture garden, terraces, a footbridge, and a kayak launch. The project was designed by Schwartz/Silver Architects of Boston, in collaboration with Stevens & Associates. "The architects' brief was to design a bold, 21st-century building that offers a robust welcome to Brattleboro, while at the same time harmonizing with the town's historic streetscape," stated BMAC Building Committee chairman Jim Meltzer in a press release announcing the partnership. "It was also very important to us that the new building be open and inviting, with art visible from the sidewalk and across the street, even when the museum is closed. We know that art museums can be intimidating places, and we want BMAC to be as transparent and welcoming as possible." "We love our historic home in Union Station," stated BMAC Chief Curator Mara Williams in the press release, "but it was designed to accommodate early 20th-century train passengers, not 21st-century art and museum-goers. Our new galleries will enable us to bring cutting-edge, immersive, interactive art exhibits to Brattleboro on a regular basis, as well as exhibits that require special technology or climate control." Prior to the press conference, Lichtenfeld said that having new, climate-controlled space will allow BMAC to borrow art from other institutions that in the past have declined to loan art for display in "a 100-year-old train station," he said. The current space at the corner of Vernon Street and Bridge Street will host a rotating selection of the art work of Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason, said Lichtenfeld before the press conference. "We have made an arrangement with them and their families to borrow art from their archives on an ongoing basis." Lichtenfeld believes when the project is complete, it will more than double annual attendance at BMAC, from 16,000 to 35,000. "People who travel to Brattleboro to visit the new BMAC will eat in local restaurants, stay in nearby hotels, visit Brattleboro's amazing galleries and breweries, and shop in its stores," stated Stephanie Bonin, executive director of the Downtown Brattleboro Association, in the press release. "Their dollars will in turn translate into increased spending capacity for local residents and workers and, ultimately, more jobs." To make the $30 million project a reality, BMAC needs to raise $12 million for the new gallery space and another $3 million for its endowment. So far, said Lichtenfeld, it's raised $2.5 million. The housing ownership group led by M&S will need to secure another $10 to $12 million in equity and financing. The remaining $6 to $8 million will be secured through federal and state tax credits and grants. M&S Development was formed in Brattleboro in 2014 by Stevens and local attorney Craig Miskovitch following the rehabilitation of the Brooks House, which was gutted by fire in the spring of 2011. A group of five local investors, including Stevens and Miskovich, formed Mesabi, which leveraged historic and new markets tax credits, conventional financing, a community development block grant, town funding, individual investors and owner equity to finance the $23.6 million project. The BMAC project is currently in the fundraising stage, said Lichtenfeld. "But we have enough in the way of funding commitments and confidence in fundraising that we hope, by next summer, to be in final design and seeking permits."

Production Date: 
Tuesday, November 19, 2019 - 14:45

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