After four years of planning, construction, and collaboration, the DeWitt Block on Flat Street in Brattleboro is back in business.
Built in the early 1900s, the building was first a grocery store and warehouse. Over the decades it changed hands a couple times, housing Angell’s Automotive Service, an art gallery, a nightclub, and eventually was used just for storing furniture. In 2012, the building was shuttered, falling into extreme disrepair. The blighted site was contaminated, too.
Skye Morse of M&S Development had a vision to restore the DeWitt Block and turn it into commercial space and housing. The historic structure is in the heart of the downtown, a dense area featuring mixed commercial, residential, and retail development. Morse knew he needed a lot of partners to make this $10 million project happen. That led to a public-private partnership with 30 different organizations including lenders, housing agencies, utilities, the Town of Brattleboro, the federal government, and the state of Vermont.
All told, the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) committed $1.6 million dollars to this project from several sources: a Community Development Block Grant and Downtown and Village Center Tax Credits from the Department of Housing and Community Development; the State Brownfield Revitalization Fund run by the Departments of Economic Development and Environmental Conservation; and an economic and infrastructure development grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission.
ACCD Deputy Secretary Tayt Brooks was at the ribbon cutting for the DeWitt Block and said, “For years this block was a diamond in the rough, the perfect location to contribute to a livable, workable, and walkable downtown – something we are passionate about at the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.”
The result of that collaboration and hard work is a vibrant, light-filled, brick building complete with an elevator. M&S was able to reuse enough of the building’s historic windows to cover two sides of the structure. The rest of the windows are new.
On the first floor is a small business support center and co-working space featuring private offices and workstations. The Boys & Girls Club just down the street plans to walk over on occasion so kids can do homework there.
The upper floors contain 15 apartments – a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units. Each has its own heat pump and some of those big, beautiful windows. Four of the units are for individuals experiencing homelessness. The other 11 apartments are considered affordable with an income eligibility range that accommodates low-income and middle-income folks.
Workers are putting the final touches on the building and expect to be finished by Thanksgiving. Tenants are set to move in in December.