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Brattleboro Celebrates Brooks House Reopening

Courtesy Brooks House Development
Gov. Peter Shumlin officially opens the renovated downtown block with Bob Stevens, a leader of the restoration effort. Far left, investor Ben Taggard, far right Pete Richards, another key investor.

Brattleboro celebrated the reopening of an important downtown building Friday. The historic Brooks House was heavily damaged by fire in 2011. But now it’s back in business. 

The 140-year-old landmark, with its store fronts and ornate towers, stood vacant for three years after the fire. It left a big hole in Brattleboro’s downtown. The building cost $24 million to restore, significantly more than its listed value. The project was spearheaded by local investors, and financed through tax credits, grants, loans and government programs.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, who is from the Brattleboro area, pushed for Community College of Vermont and Vermont Technical College to become the building’s first tenants. The colleges opened in August. At the

"The obstacles were tremendous. And everybody came together and said, 'We will not take no for an answer!'" - Gov. Peter Shumlin

Grand Opening Friday, Shumlin praised area residents who committed to high-end apartments long before the building came together. He talked about the Brattleboro native who owned a restaurant in Colorado, but returned to open a  new restaurant in the building where her mother once owned and operated a popular Brattleboro book store.

"The obstacles were tremendous," Shumlin told the crowd that gathered in atrium of the newly restored building. "And everybody came together and said, 'We will not take no for an answer, we’ll use our imaginations, we’ll do things that have never been done before.' It’s really a remarkable story."

The building has a ground floor restaurant, a yogurt shop and several other businesses. All but one of its apartments have been rented.

Susan Keese was VPR's southern Vermont reporter, based at the VPR studio in Manchester at Burr & Burton Academy. After many years as a print journalist and magazine writer, Susan started producing stories for VPR in 2002. From 2007-2009, she worked as a producer, helping to launch the noontime show Vermont Edition. Susan has won numerous journalism awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for her reporting on VPR. She wrote a column for the Sunday Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. Her work has appeared in Vermont Life, the Boston Globe Magazine, The New York Times and other publications, as well as on NPR.
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