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New life for old Brattleboro building - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

New life for old Brattleboro building

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BRATTLEBORO, Vt. -

With sledgehammers in hand, Gov. Peter Shumlin and members of a newly formed development team, take whacks at the interior walls of the Brooks House, a building that sits at the crossroads of Brattleboro and will once again be back open for business.

"It's going to be a terrific inclusion into the town," said Jem Wilner of Penelope Wurr.

An electrical short sparked a devastating fire at the Brooks House in the spring of 2011. It's been boarded up and empty ever since.

"This is really an example of taking a tragedy, a terrible fire in our downtown and turning it into opportunity," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.

Five local businessmen formed a development team to take on the tall task. It's a $23 million project made possible, in part, from new market and historic tax credits.

"There's no return on investment, so it needed to be a group from the community to say we need to do this because it is important for the town," said Bob Stevens of the Brooks House Development Team.

Along with a mix of retail and residential space, the Brooks House will also be satellite locations for two colleges, Vermont Technical College and the Community College of Vermont. Hundreds of students will be coming and going.

"They come here to take a class, they go to a restaurant, they shop more, it brings them into downtown. So, we see it as a huge benefit to the local community," said Joyce Judy, the president of the Community College of Vermont.

And that includes downtown stores that have weathered fire and floods over the past several years.

"My mom, who is the owner of the store, was just saying a few days ago how excited she is to have these students coming into the town," Wilner said.

Construction on the Brooks House will begin immediately and in about a year's time, the building will be buzzing with college students and new tenants, bringing the Brooks House back to life.

The Brooks House is 75 percent rented but there are still apartments available. Click here for more information.

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