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Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan September 2010

Made possible by National Endowment for the Arts grant funding through the Center for Creative Solutions at Marlboro College Graduate Center Supported by Windham Regional Commission with cooperation from the Town of Brattleboro

Michael Singer Studio North Wilmington, Vermont


Table of Contents Page

Topic

4

Executive Summary

6

Introduction

8

Background

10 16 18 20

Existing Conditions • Structures • Immediate Context • Challenges and Opportunities

22 26 34 36

Amenities and Uses • Public • Semi-Public • Private

38

Long-Term Phasing

40 42 44 46 48

• • • • •

50

Public Private Partnerships and Possible Financial Structures

63

Recommended Next Steps

65

Appendix

Phases 1-3 Phase 4 Phase 5 Phase 6 Phase 7

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Executive Summary The Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan effort was funded by an FY2010 National Endowment for the Arts Grant administered by Marlboro College and the Windham Regional Commission. The 1.3 acre site is owned by the Town of Brattleboro and located along Depot Street overlooking the Connecticut River. The Vision Plan was produced by Michael Singer Studio North with support of Windham Regional Commission. Michael Singer Studio is appreciative of the input and important information received from The Town of Brattleboro and especially from the town’s Planning Department. This report does not represent official Town of Brattleboro policy and was not commissioned by the Town. This document is delivered as a suggested “Vision” that is based on Michael Singer Studio’s research, interviews, and engagement with the community. The riverfront site is comprised of several parcels of land acquired by the Town of Brattleboro at different times. It houses four structures in various states of disrepair: the Gasworks Building, Scale House, Archery Building at 26 Depot Street, and Bob’s Garage. This condition will change in the near future with the removal of the Gasworks Building, Scale House and Bob’s Garage, leaving the site open to the riverbank and views of the River. These structures will be removed as a part of the Union Station project which is scheduled to begin in spring 2011. Within the immediate vicinity are the Hinsdale Bridge, Merrill Gas Property, the railway tracks serving passenger and freight trains, and an Amtrak train station. Beginning in 2015 a new Hinsdale Bridge will be constructed and when complete the existing Hinsdale Bridge is slated to be closed to vehicular traffic and to remain for pedestrian and bicycle use only. When the new bridge serving vehicular traffic is built over the southern area of the Merrill Gas Property, a portion of this property will most likely be purchased by the State of Vermont. Depot Street provides access to the Merrill Gas Property which is bound by the railway tracks. There are several challenges at the site including its long and narrow proportions, the singular vehicle access outlet (Depot Street), limited infrastructure and municipal services, and lower parts of the riverbank that lie within the 100 and 500 year floodplains. Report Vision The main objective identified in this study is to reconnect Brattleboro with the Connecticut River by taking advantage of the riverfront site’s proximity to downtown. The site is located about 20 feet below the lowest portions of Main Street. Once the Gasworks Building is removed there will be an unobstructed view of the Connecticut River and the northern third of the site from Main Street and Bridge Street. In addition to being immediately adjacent to the very core of downtown, the site offers the only public access point to the river in the downtown. In order to ensure and emphasize this connection we strongly recommend maintaining open public space allowing riverfront views and access as well as public programming at the northern area of the site. The intent for the remaining site is to provide examples and precedents of potential uses that can be expanded upon during future phases of planning and design. It is important to have

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Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


on-site uses and activities complement downtown businesses and to make sure they do not jeopardize Main Street commerce and vitality. Three types of amenities and uses have been identified for the overall site: public amenities and uses, semi-public amenities and uses, and private amenities and uses. For semi-public uses a portion of the indoor spaces should be devoted to serving the community and may include subsidized rental spaces for non-profits, shared event and meeting spaces, business incubators and so on. Preferably such uses should relate to existing local and regional organizations, strengthening their ongoing efforts. While the site as a whole should serve the public benefit, a moderate amount of private activity may be necessary in order to subsidize other uses and reduce the financial load of site development and operations. Private use examples may include market rate residences, office spaces, commercial and retail activities, and live/work spaces for artists and artisans. Public access to the riverfront should remain throughout the site.

Phasing Given the current underutilization of the riverfront site it is critical to consider its transformation as part of a long-term phased process. The report recommends phasing scenarios based on financial structures under which a specific project may materialize. Included is a description of an economic proforma analysis for the site based on data received from the Town Planning Department. The proforma compares two different models for financing a development project in the site. The comparison indicates that development on site must be supported by public funds. In late July 2010 Marlboro College’s Center for Creative Solutions conducted a nine-day workshop addressing the immediate future of the riverfront in lieu of the buildings coming down and the Union Station project completion. The results of this workshop provided the town with many ideas for temporary programming at the site that have also been included in an exhibition designed for community interaction and engagement. The exhibition is located at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, overlooking the riverfront site. The Washington DC based Sustainable Cities Design Academy also accepted the Brattleboro riverfront site for a three-day workshop from August 11 to 13, 2010. The Director of Town Planning, the Associate Director of Windham Regional Commission and Michael Singer Studio participated in this workshop. Clearly, this “new place” in the Town has captured the interests of a wide range of stakeholders, community organizations, and the town’s residents. The contents of this report are presented as a “vision” with guiding principles for the future.

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Introduction Vermont

New Hampshire

BRATTLEBORO

CT ve

Ri r

I-91

Massachusetts 5 Miles

Brattleboro, Vermont is the most populous town in Southern Vermont and a well used waypoint for those traveling along the Connecticut River Interstate 91 corridor. Brattleboro’s history is rooted in industrial activity related to the Connecticut River, as made apparent by the historic mill buildings, most of which have been adapted to contemporary uses. Throughout the years, technological development brought other energy sources and alternate transportation possibilities to the area, and the river lost its prominence as the regional lifeblood. Most downtown activity is currently centered along Main, Elliot, and Flat Streets; across the train tracks and uphill from the river. At the southern end of the downtown core, Bridge Street runs a mere block in length, towards the river and Hinsdale Bridge which leads to New Hampshire. At this point, directly south of Bridge Street, lies the only public access riverfront site adjacent to downtown Brattleboro. The purpose of this report is to summarize work done by Michael Singer Studio in the context of a 2009-2010 National Endowment for the Arts Grant project with the intent of developing a long-term vision for the Brattleboro riverfront site.

Brattleboro Riverfront and Downtown from the Connecticut River Island

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Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Brattleboro Downtown area Riverfront Site New England Youth Theatre Brattleboro Food Co-Op Brattleboro Museum & Art Center Marlboro College Graduate Center Base map provided by Windham Regional Commission 1000 Feet

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Background 1998: Union Station Project Begins

This project exists within a context of several other completed and ongoing efforts: •

Since 1998 the Town of Brattleboro has been involved with planning and design for the riverfront site in conjunction with the “Union Station” project for the Amtrak passenger train station. Union Station is one of several components of the Multimodal Transit Facility project that includes the structured parking garage between Flat and Elliot Streets. The Union Station project was originally intended to include significant modifications to the Amtrak station facility. The proposed modifications have been removed from the project scope due to actual or perceived conflict between freight trains and passenger ADA platform requirements, as well as budgetary constraints. Currently, the Union Station project focuses on traffic arrangements along Bridge Street (especially at the railroad crossing), the removal of existing parking along the east side of the Union Station building, and the creation of parking capacity on the riverfront site across the railroad. It is debatable whether train station parking is best situated across the railroad from the station itself, if parking should be removed from an area where no passenger platform is currently planned for, or whether the highest and best use for the riverfront site includes parking capacity for a non-on-site-use. However, a majority of the riverfront site was acquired using Federal Transit Administration funding and must thus provide support to the Multimodal Transit Facility. Therefore, Union Station parking capacity is to be located on the riverfront site. As part of Michael Singer Studio’s involvement with the fall 2009 Environmental Protection Agency site cleanup grant (see below), parking capacity designated to support the Union Station project was successfully decreased by 50%.

In 2004 Building a Better Brattleboro engaged in a riverfront planning and development workshop which looked at the town owned as well as other riverfront properties.

In 2007 Michael Singer Studio and LOCAL Architecture Research Design completed a report titled “Imagining a Riverfront Site”. The report summarizes a series of community meetings and workshops that looked at possible redevelopment densities and uses for the site. Imagining a Riverfront Site was sponsored by Marlboro College and the Arts Council of Windham County, with financial support from Entergy and the Thompson Trust. This report demonstrates the extensive community participation and input component of this project, and is available through the Town of Brattleboro and Windham Regional Commission.

2004: Building Better Brattleboro Workshop is held 2007: Imagining a Riverfront Site community meetings and workshops take place

Community Workshop as part of the 2007 Michael Singer Studio and LOCAL Architecture Research Design work for “Imagining a Riverfront Site”

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Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Windham Regional Commission began managing several brownfield related studies for the site, including Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments, and corrective action plan.

In fall 2009 Michael Singer Studio provided consulting services as part of Windham Regional Commission’s Brownfield Program for the benefit of the ongoing Union Station project. This project fed directly into this report by allowing for increased interaction and collaboration between Michael Singer Studio and other planning, design, engineering and environmental professionals working on the site. Michael Singer Studio’s close out memo for the Environmental Protection Agency site cleanup grant project is available in the appendix to this report.

One of the goals of this report is to consolidate existing conditions and past work done on the site into a single document that can provide a base line for future redevelopment.

Two alternative site plans for the Building a Better Brattleboro Waterfront Design Workshop, 2004 Page 9


Existing Conditions


Existing Conditions The riverfront site is adjacent to downtown Brattleboro directly to the south of the Hinsdale Bridge. It lies between Bridge Street to the north and Merrill Gas to the south, and bound by the western bank of the Connecticut River and two parallel pairs of train tracks. The approximate 56,680 square foot site (1.3 acres) is long and narrow (about 420 by 130 feet) and is comprised of several parcels of land acquired by the Town of Brattleboro at different times and for different purposes, as well as Depot Street - a public road which is the only vehicular access to the south and abutting properties. The site houses four structures in various states of disrepair. A significant portion of this linear site is covered with asphalt at various stages of disrepair. This paved area is fairly flat and holds 11 three hour metered parking spaces, 20 town permit parking spaces, and 1 accessible parking space. The eastern side of the site is overgrown and drops towards the river’s edge. River currents are considered dangerous and the river is shallow at this point. As part of Windham Regional Commission’s efforts, the site has been tested for contamination by various parties over the last several years. In fall 2009 New England EnviroStrategies combined and summarized all site testing results.

Aerial perspective view of riverfront site looking east towards the river Page 12

Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


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RIVERFRONT SITE

Flood Hazard Area diagram (left) shows the 100 year flood areas in dark orange, the 500 year flood areas in light orange, and structures within the flood areas in red. The entire riverfront site and all associated structures are shown within flood areas. Diagram provided by Windham Regional Commission and should not be assumed to have accuracy greater than 40 Feet. Disturbance Area diagram (right) shows soil contamination levels as summarized by New England EnviroStrategies from all previous testing done. Main “hot-spots” are adjacent to the Gasworks Building. Another lesser “hot-spot” not shown here, was verbally described as “somewhere between orange and red” and located at the northwestern corner of Bob’s Garage. Page 14

Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Scale House Bob’s Garage

Archery Building

Gasworks Building

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Existing Conditions: Structures Gasworks Building also known as Brattleboro Gasworks This is a 1-1/2 story brick and timber roof former gas plant building where coal gasification processes were employed in the past. One of the by-products of the gasification process is coal tar, which is found on portions of the site. The site is regularly monitored for coal tar and is listed as Vermont Hazardous Waste Site. The 2001 Environmental Assessment report created as part of the Multimodal Transit Facility defined the Gasworks Building as a potentially historical resource (a copy of the Environmental Assessment Report is available through the Town of Brattleboro and Windham Regional Commission). However, the town purchased this property and structure in the late 1980’s, with State of Vermont funds, for the explicit purpose of demolishing it in order to make room for a new Hinsdale Bridge landing. This plan never materialized, and the town made two failed attempts to redevelop the building and retain its historic value. A December 2009 engineering report deemed the Gasworks Building structurally unsafe citing sub-code load capacities, crack patterns in the masonry, and dry rot in the timber roof structure. The report saw no possibility to preserve any part of the building and recommended it be razed. A copy of the engineering report is included in the appendix to this report. Scale House Due to its deteriorated state, this timber structured former scale house has no remaining historic value and is slated to be demolished. The property was purchased by the town using Federal Transit Administration funds as part of the Multimodal Transit Facility project. Archery Building at 26 Depot Street This 1-1/2 story timber structure building is the former home of an archery and outdoor retail outfitter. Some claim it is the 1849 first railroad station, and was moved to its current location in 1882. The 2001 Environmental Assessment report created as part of the Multimodal Transit Facility defined it a potentially historical resource. The property was purchased by the town using Federal Transit Administration funds as part of the Multimodal Transit Facility project. A December 2009 engineering report found the building to require significant structural repairs as well as costly architectural, ADA, building code, HVAC, plumbing, and electrical upgrades, all of which would be necessary to preserve the building. A copy of the engineering report is included in the appendix to this report. Bob’s Garage also known as Bob’s Service Station This 1 story concrete block building housed an automotive repair shop and is now used for town fleet storage. It is of no historic value and slated for demolition. It is built against the Archery Building and thus detracts from the latter’s potential historic value. The property was purchased by the town using Federal Transit Administration funds as part of the Multimodal Transit Facility project.

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Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Brattleboro Museum / Union Station

Town Owned Site Extents

Merrill Gas

Scale House Bob’s Garage

Archery Building Gasworks Building

50 Feet

Riverview Restaurant

Existing Conditions: Brattleboro riverfront site existing structures, river’s edge, railroad tracks, and property lines

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Existing Conditions: Immediate Context Hinsdale Bridge The Hinsdale Bridge spans the Connecticut River connecting downtown Brattleboro with the Connecticut River Island and the State of New Hampshire. A new bridge, which would be State of New Hampshire property, is proposed south of the waterfront property. The intent is then to maintain the existing bridge as a pedestrian and bicycle only bridge, connecting downtown to recreational public open spaces on the island. A preliminary plan for the proposed bridge made public by the State of New Hampshire confirms its future location, and meeting minutes from a State of New Hampshire Public Hearing verify its high priority. These documents are available in an appendix. Riverview Restaurant at 2 Bridge Street Riverview Restaurant and associated property are located across Bridge Street to the north of the site, and are privately held and operated. Railroad Tracks and Crossing (note disused eastern set of tracks on right)

Union Station Building / Brattleboro Museum and Art Center: View from the East

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Merrill Gas Property Merrill Gas is a privately owned riverfront property bordering the site to the south. Merrill Gas is a well established and respected locally owned propane and propane accessory provider. The Merrill Gas property is outside the scope of work of this project and report, and no attempt is made to promote changes to tenure, ownership, or use of the property. However, with the intended construction of a new Connecticut River Bridge and its planned landing on the Merrill Gas property, it is an eventuality that part of the property will be taken for the new bridge project. This report is charged with taking a comprehensive long-term view of the riverfront site, which includes the possibility of the Merrill Gas site being repurposed. The 2004 Building a Better Brattleboro workshop put forth concepts for the Merrill Gas site as well.

Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Railroad Tracks Two sets of parallel railroad tracks define the western edge of the site. Brattleboro Museum and Art Center also known as Brattleboro Union Station at 10 Vernon Street Brattleboro Museum and Art Center and Union Station is the historic railroad station. Its western façade (away from the site) is 1-1/2 stories. As it is built into a steep slope, its eastern façade is 2-1/2 floors high, with a lower floor facing the railroad tracks and the riverfront site at grade. The building’s main occupant is the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center (entrance from its western façade along Vernon Street). An Amtrak train station operates out of the lower level of the eastern façade of the Brattleboro Union Station. The station is open to support the once a day northbound and once a day southbound Amtrak Vermonter Train Line, for up to 4 non-consecutive hours daily. The station does not offer ticket sales or baggage services, nor does it have an ADA platform. It does, however, have about 2 Amtrak employee and 2 short-term parking spaces reserved in the limited area between the Union Station and the railroad (amounts are not firm as signage is not clear or consistent). The Brattleboro Museum and Art Center has 2 reserved parking spaces in this location as well. The ongoing Union Station project proposes to remove these parking spaces from the area between the building and the railroad tracks, and provide for Union Station parking capacity on the riverfront site.

Merrill Gas Property

View West from Hinsdale Bridge Pedestrian Walkway towards the Site

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Existing Conditions: Challenges and Opportunities The site offers a variety of challenges and opportunities

Riverfront site is beyond two sets of railroad tracks

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Challenges • Proportions: The long and narrow proportions of the site offer challenges in layout and site planning. • Circulation: The site’s singular vehicle access outlet poses difficulties when accommodating for vehicular circulation and emergency vehicle access. This is compounded by the site’s proportions. • Infrastructure: Available infrastructure and municipal services are limited. Anecdotally, there is only one 3/4 inch water line on site, and no sewer connection. • Contamination: Site soil, groundwater, and existing structures embody varying types and degrees of contamination. • Current Uses and Access: Current uses on site include surface parking, structured vehicle storage, and access to private property with an industrial use to the south. There is also evidence of squatting in the Gasworks and Archery buildings - an issue of possible immediate catastrophic outcome. Access to the river’s edge is limited due to the overgrown and dangerously steep slope of the bank. • Flooding: The lower parts of the river bank lie within the 100 and 500 year floodplains. Exact limits of the floodplain may not be available at a scale appropriate for specific design. • Railroad Tracks: The railroad tracks challenge pedestrian and vehicular access to the site.

Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Opportunities • Location: The site’s location along the Connecticut River is unique in downtown Brattleboro and offers the only public access point to the river. In addition, it is immediately adjacent to the very core of downtown. The site is also a visual connection to the river; when the Gasworks building is removed and the overgrown river’s bank is tamed, open views of the river will be available from the intersection of Main and Bridge Streets. The site is adjacent to educational and cultural institutions, Marlboro College Graduate Center and the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center. • Orientation: The site’s long and narrow orientation parallel to the river maximizes potential riverfront interaction and views. • Flooding: While some of the site is within the floodplain, it seems this is limited to the lower parts of the steep river bank and not the fairly flat upper area, which is the bulk of the site. • Riverfront Access: It has been confirmed that in terms of contamination, state and federal regulations, and Army Corps of Engineers directives, it is possible to construct a walkway along the river’s edge provided its foundations minimize soil disturbance and it does not overhang beyond the river’s high water mark. Pedestrian access to the river will drastically increase the site’s level of amenity. • Topography: The site is located about 20 feet below the lowest portions of Main Street and downtown. In addition, there are few, if any structures facing the river directly west of the site. Therefore, new structures on site can reach 3-4 stories before obstructing views of the river.

Vibrant Main Street in immediate proximity to the riverfront site

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Amenities and Uses


Amenities and Uses

The Town owns land along the river that is easily accessible from Main Street and within walking distance to the downtown’s most desirable cultural, retail and transportation areas. This site is valuable as a gateway to the water and trails, provides public space, and can be supported by carefully placed uses that can help support this unique public amenity

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The main objective is to reconnect Brattleboro with the Connecticut River by taking advantage of the riverfront site’s proximity to downtown. The future holds promise of a pedestrian only Hinsdale Bridge leading to the Connecticut River Island and its open green spaces. This implies a conceptual “blue” pedestrian corridor connecting the island and river through the site, to the Brattleboro Museum, up along Bridge Street / Whetstone Brook and through the Brattleboro Food Coop site, to the Multimodal Transit Center (the multi-story parking structure between Eliot and Flat Streets). This “blue” corridor intersects with the vibrant Main Street and serves as a pedestrian, visual, and activity connection to the site and river. In order to ensure and emphasize this connection, riverfront views, access, and programming must remain as public as possible at the northern area of the site. When reimagining such a unique place it is important to draw from a mix of uses and activities that will complement each other; to consider potential uses and users through an inclusionary and not exclusionary prism. Rather than focusing on narrow “programs”, this report takes a wider approach and considers “amenities and uses”. There are a great many potential uses and users of the riverfront site and it is important to find a balance between public open space and more private programs that help support it. The intent is not to define a narrow list of beneficiaries to the site’s repurposing, but rather provide examples and precedents of potential uses that should be expanded upon during future phases of planning and design. It is important to have on-site uses and activities complement downtown and to make sure they do not jeopardize Main Street commerce and vitality. Three types of amenities and uses have been identified: • • •

Public Amenities and Uses Semi-Public Amenities and Uses Private Amenities and Uses

Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


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Amenities and Uses: Public The main objectives of the site’s redevelopment include the creation of visual and pedestrian connections between downtown and the river. A visual connection can be created by maintaining the northern edge of the site along Bridge street so that views of the river can open from Main Street. Another connection can be made along the river’s edge by constructing a riverfront walkway. Therefore, the two primary components of open space on site should be a riverfront walkway and small plaza fronting Bridge Street. The majority of the riverfront area of the site can be kept in the public realm and easily accessible. Public amenities include an open view of the river from the western end of Bridge Street, a riverfront walkway, well defined vegetated and paved public spaces that can provide for a variety of activities, parking for on-site and Union Station needs, vehicular access to adjacent properties to the south, as well as pedestrian paths, river views, seating, lighting, and shading as necessary and possible. In addition, the site design should engage and educate visitors through public art and showcase the history of the river, site, and town, as well as demonstrate visible environmentally responsible practices such as ecological and river bank regeneration, passive and active solar heating, passive ventilation, stormwater treatment, etc. The following pages provide precedents for public uses and amenities such as:

A riverfront walkway would reconnect downtown Brattleboro with the Connecticut River. The Town of Brattleboro Conservation Committee is responsible for the areas recreational trails. The riverfront site, with its central location to the town and Am Track Station is an ideal location to provide information on the areas many trails. An information kiosk or shelter can be located at the site.

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• • • • • •

Riverfront Walkways Waterfront Edge Regenerative Design River Bank Plaza with Integrated Features Public Art

Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Amenities and Uses: Public - Riverfront Walkways

The Housatonic River Walk in Great Barrington, Massachusetts was constructed and is maintained primarily by volunteers, and has restored and made accessible a large portion of the in-town stretch of the river. The regenerated banks of the river have shaded paths for public access and interpretive educational signage at key locations. The river walk connects downtown Great Barrington to the Housatonic River.

Water of Leith Walkway is a pedestrian and bicycle walkway that runs along the Water of Leith River in Edinburgh, Scotland. The 12 mile long walkway offers beautiful river views and proximity to the water Page 27


Amenities and Uses: Public - Waterfront Edge and Regenerative Design

Riverwalk Floodwall by Michael Singer (above and top left) is a successful alternative to an Army Corps of Engineers’ sheer concrete floodwall in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This 600 foot long infrastructural public art and pedestrian amenity was able to realize a reclamation, preservation, and sculptural project that focuses citizen attention on a natural and historic place central to Grand Rapids. Sculptural elements function as floodwall, stormwater filtration system, and ADA walkway to the river’s edge. The Riverwalk Floodwall became the precedent for further development of the river’s edge and walkways in Grand Rapids, and aided the economic revitalization of the downtown. Sundspromenade by Jeppe Aagaard Andersen is a public park and water edge in Malmo, Sweden. The design allows for people to interact with the water through a series of concrete and wood decking steps Page 28

Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Regenerative design is the practice of enhancing ecological health through appropriate design features. Specifically at the riverfront site, regenerative design may include measures for stabilizing the riverbank, removing toxins from the soil, and more. Bank stabilization is described visually and through precedents on this page. On-site soil contamination, a result of the coal gasification process that took place in the Gasworks Building, can be treated over time through phytoremediation (research suggests that poplar trees and zucchini plants draw relevant toxins out of the ground). Phytoremediation requires a long-term commitment and does not provide immediate results. However, combining such efforts into an integrated design approach that includes public art, public education, and public amenity will contribute to creating a unique place in the region.

Riverbank erosion control may not be apparently needed. However, with the removal of overgrown vegetation, development of landscape features such as a pathway, and increased visitorship, the steep riverbank may indeed require erosion control. Due to the coal tar deposits and the need to avoid their disturbance, typical engineering solutions may be inappropriate at this site. Erosion control through ecological regeneration is a preferred course of action. Methods such as “Willow Spiling”, where living plant matter is woven into an earth retaining system minimizes soil disturbance, can support steep slopes, and may prove to be a community building opportunity since construction can involve volunteers. Photo to the right is from a Willow Spiling event at Kew in London, England. Image on the bottom right shows a woven willow system being backfilled and beginning to sprout

Bank Restoration Installation II (right) in San Anselmo Creek, California restores the ecological balance of compromised environments by reestablishing banks through the placement of green willow branches, mud, rocks and other natural materials found on site. Artist Daniel McCormick describes this piece as “…intended to give advantage to the natural system, and after a period of time, as the restoration process is established, the artist’s presence shall no longer be felt”. Page 29


Amenities and Uses: Public - Plaza with Integrated Features

A small public plaza at the north end of the site along Bridge Street will open views of the water and provide Brattleboro with a connection to the Connecticut River. Such a space should include integrated design features that educate the public and highlight site and regional history. In order to insure the riverfront is a true amenity to the community, it should be programmed to include a high level of activity. A critical mass of activity on site is important to have the entire riverfront be alive and worthy. Therefore, a variety of uses should be supported and encouraged at the plaza and riverfront. These may include passive recreation, playground, skate park, outdoor amenities for seating and picnicking, and shelter.

Barcelona, Spain has many waterfront plazas. Top image on this page shows a small section of a larger plaza that incorporates vegetated areas and moveable seating, creating a comfortable place for passive recreation. The Malmo, Sweden waterfront by Jeppe Aagaard Andersen (image to left) features a small plaza with built in steps and seating. Shadley Associates’ design for The Park at River’s Edge in Medford, Massachusetts (opposite page top right) features integrated seating and landscape areas. Educational features such as regional and historical signage, special paving elements, and unique surface and material treatments should be used in an integrated manner to showcase the site and region’s natural and cultural history, including past structures and property lines, areas of contamination, etc (respectively opposite page top left at the Bellows Falls, Vermont Visitors Center; bottom right in New York, New York, and bottom left in Barcelona, Spain) Page 30

Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


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Amenities and Uses: Public - Public Art

City Light City Bright in Seattle, Washington by Nancy Blum (left) and Witness in North Vancouver, British Columbia by Katherine Kerr (above) are examples of public art’s ability to integrate into a place, deal with the seemingly mundane, and educate visitors.

Sonic Pool in Children’s Garden, Huntington Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California (left) and Basin of Attraction in Artpark, Lewiston, New York (far left) are examples of environmental public art by Ned Kahn. Sonic Pool is a 5-foot diameter stainless steel bowl which is continually filled to the brim with lake water and vibrated with an airpowered oscillator. Intricate wave patterns on the surface of the water reveal the resonant patterns of the bowl. At certain resonant frequencies the water is splashed up into the air. Visitors can reach into the water and feel the shape of the wave vibrations. Basin of Attraction is a sixfoot diameter spiral-shaped stone basin filled with water from the Niagara River which forms into a whirlpool. The whirlpool changes in intensity in response to fluctuations in the rivers currents. The basin was constructed of granite found on the site. Page 32

Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Marina Water Muse in Tempe, Arizona by Laurie Lundquist provides a place to listen to the murmur of running water as it travels through a water cleansing system through a series of channels, basins, and siphons, evoking different visual and acoustic conditions. Much of the sculptural water element is actually unseen but rather heard through a series of grates and wells, creating a completely new experience of water.

Public art has the potential to reveal history and heritage as well as provide new perspectives about how we see and experience a place

It’s helpful to give artists a clear sense of the goals for a public art project and provide themes to choose from. The challenge for the artist is to create a work that engages our senses and helps us know familiar places in new ways

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Amenities and Uses: Semi-Public A portion of the indoor spaces should be devoted to serving the community and may include subsidized rental spaces for non-profits, shared event and meeting spaces, business incubators, kitchen coops, and so on. Preferably, such uses should relate to existing local and regional organizations, strengthening ongoing efforts. As an example, Youth Services is hoping to begin a youth related incubator program in downtown Brattleboro. Being able to accommodate such a use on site may be very valuable.

Above: working in a kitchen co-op, below: Ozarks Small Business Incubator

Business Incubators Business Incubators provide a variety of services and support to entrepreneurs aimed at insuring their success. Companies that graduate incubation programs tend to have an overwhelming success rate. Services provided by business incubators vary widely and may include help with business basics, provide structured networking activities and aid with marketing, shared office and clerical support, and loan and guarantee programs. There are a great many business incubators nationwide, many of which are cushioned in the context of institutions such as universities or economic development corporations. Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation provides many of the services and support provided by Business Incubators. Non-Profit and Lower-Cost Office Spaces Non-profit and lower-cost rental office spaces can target emerging ventures and/or nonprofit organizations, thus providing an important service to the community. This may or may not occur in the context of a business incubator. Kitchen Coops Kitchen coops (or Kitchen Incubators) are shared commercial grade licensed kitchen facilities. These can be used by retail, wholesale, and catering food businesses who do not have the capital to invest in a commercial grade facility or lack the capacity to maintain licensure. Given food safety regulations, kitchen incubators are well used by start-up food businesses, and have the added benefit of being able to provide similar to those of a business incubator. Some kitchen coops are affiliated with food coops or economic development corporations.

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Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Box Office by Joe Haskett, founding principal of Distill Studio (www.distillstudio.com), is a low rental office space project in Providence, Rhode Island geared at emerging ventures. Modular construction using shipping containers brought construction costs down to below $150 per square foot. Careful design considerations and advanced computer modeling indicate a 30%57% reduction in energy consumption, providing significant operational savings and decreasing overall ecological footprint (photos taken during various phases of construction between the winter and spring of 2010).

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Amenities and Uses: Private While the site as a whole serves the public benefit, a moderate amount of private activity may be necessary in order to subsidize other uses and reduce the financial load of site development and operations. Private uses may include market rate residences, office spaces, commercial and retail activities, and live/work spaces for artists and artisans. These of course should exist in a mix-used and mixed-income context as to maximize public benefit and fit with a character of Brattleboro. Private uses are complimentary to, and not in opposition with semi-public and public uses.

HIP’s Artists’ Housing in Mt. Rainier, Maryland by Wiencek and Associates (above left and top) was developed and is owned by the Housing Initiative Partnership, Inc., an innovative non-profit developer. Such private development is indeed a complement to and supports public benefit. The project received numerous awards including the National American Institute of Architects’ “Show You’re Green” Award, The Washington Business Journal’s Best Real Estate Deals for the Best Sustainable Growth/Environmental Impact Award, National Association of Local Housing Agencies’ Meritorious Award, Housing Association of Nonprofit Developer’s Best Project in Maryland, State of Maryland’s Smart Growth Award, and the State of Maryland’s American Institute of Architects Honor for design.

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This private office park site (above and to the left) provides free public parking and pedestrian through-paths using a small footprint and thus remains open and provides public amenity

Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


The Exner Block in downtown Bellows Falls, Vermont houses artists’ live/work spaces, a gallery, and retail storefronts. The project was made possible by Rockingham Arts and Museum Project, Housing Vermont, and the Rockingham Area Land Trust

WĀV (Working Artists Ventura) in Ventura, California is a mixeduse mixed-income LEED certified project that includes artists’ live-work spaces. Designed by Santos Prescott Architects and developed by Place; a nonprofit organization that works with cities to create leading-edge communities that promote the arts, environmentalism, and social justice.

There are several nonprofit organizations dealing with the creative community, most notable is Artspace based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Artspace’s mission is to: ”create, foster, and preserve affordable space for artists and arts organizations. We pursue this mission through development projects, asset management activities, consulting services, and community-building activities that serve artists and arts organizations of all disciplines, cultures, and economic circumstances”

The 12 Container House by Architecture and Hygiene features this semi-public / semi-private interior space within a private development project, demonstrating that private uses need not exclude public spaces

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Long-Term Phasing


Long-Term Phasing Given the current underutilization of the riverfront site it is critical to consider its transformation as part of a long-term phased process. Phasing should include considerations for: • • •

generating positive interest in the site within the community, creating an immediate critical mass of activity on site, and building flexibility into the revitalization process

Several catalytic steps have been identified. Some of these are recommended while others are an eventuality: Phase 1: Demolish the Gasworks Building The Gasworks building has been deemed beyond repair and in risk of collapse, and is positioned at a prime location for an open public space that reconnects downtown to the river. Therefore, the Gasworks building should be demolished as soon as possible. In May of 2010 the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation notified the Town of Brattleboro that the federal government has no jurisdiction over the Gasworks building and its potential historic value. Subsequently, Town of Brattleboro Selectboard voted to demolish the Gasworks Building. Removal of the Gasworks Building will take place shortly after completion of this report. Phase 2: Complete Union Station Project This report questions the placement of train station parking across the railway tracks from the train platform. However, as it is now designed it is an eventuality that the Union Station Project parking area will be completed as planned in the immediate future. Michael Singer Studio’s previous work with Union Station Project Advisory Committee, Town Leadership, Windham Regional Commission, New England EnviroStrategies, and Stevens & Associates, PC brought about two positive changes to the Union Station Project:: • •

Union Station parking capacity has been reduced by 50% from its originally intended capacity, freeing up a significant amount of space for public amenity at the riverfront Passive landscape-based stormwater management practices (also known as Low Impact Development) have been incorporated into the project, demonstrating an above standard commitment to environmental considerations

The Union Station Project includes the demolition of Bob’s Garage and the Scale Building on site, and will prove to be an important catalyst in the long-term repurposing of the riverfront. Phase 3: Claim Riverbank Remove brush and conduct overall riverbank cleanup to make it visible and open to public access. This should be done in consultation with a regenerative landscape design practitioner and as part of a community based volunteer project. Riverbank stabilization through environmentally regenerative non-intrusive methods such as Willow Spilling (as mentioned in “Amenities and Uses”) should take place at this point. Willow Spilling can be a community building activity engaging stakeholders and the general public in reshaping its riverfront. Page 40

Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Brattleboro Museum / Union Station

Union Station Parking

Union Station Parking

Merrill Gas

Turnaround

Archery Building

Riverview Restaurant Cleaned and Visible Riverbank

50 Feet

Phases 1, 2, and 3: riverfront site after demolition of Gasworks Building, completion of the Union Station parking formalization project, and riverbank stabilization (based in part on digital files provided by Stevens & Associates, PC)

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One possible use for the plaza and nearby landscaped area is a playground and skate park. Skate parks can be temporary and mobile and need not imply a significant investment, permanent use, or single user type (bicyclists and rollerskaters/rollerbladers use them as well). They provide a much needed amenity to a diverse age group (as first generation skateboarders age and younger children are drawn to the sport) and are complimentary to other open air uses such as playgrounds and parks. Many skate parks are made of temporary structured ramps at no cost to the community and through arrangements that protect local government from liability. Above left: volunteers fabricating skate park ramps in Wisconsin, above right: children at play in a municipal skatepark in Missouri.

A simple riverfront path introduced along Bank Restoration Installation II (by Artist Daniel McCormick, as described in “Amenities and Uses)

Phase 4: Create Open Plaza and Riverfront Path or Walkway An open plaza at the north end of the site will maintain open views of the water from downtown and help reconnect the town to the river. The plaza should provide seating and perhaps outdoor amenities such as playground and skate park, and include features such as public art and design elements that reference the site’s history (including the Gasworks Building) and educate the public. These can be incorporated into an open air pavilion. A simple path should provide access to the river’s edge, and may be incorporated into the riverbank stabilization system. A boardwalk comprised of a series of universally accessible ramps can be built. Elements introduced in this phase then include: • • •

a plaza with seating and the possibility of active uses, an open air pavilion, and a simple path along the river or a constructed boardwalk

Open air pavilion can provide shelter, house interpretive exhibits and trail information, include seating, and maintain open views of the river

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Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Brattleboro Museum / Union Station

Parking

Parking

Merrill Gas

Turnaround

Archery Building

Plaza Area

Path

50 Feet

Riverview Restaurant

Open Air Pavilion

Phase 4: riverfront site with the introduction of a public plaza and riverwalk

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Phase 5: Remove or Reuse Archery Building A critical mass of activity must be promoted on site in order to maintain it as a public amenity. This requires a density of activity that is higher than an open park area. Therefore, it is important to have indoor spaces that can provide a lively combination of complimentary uses. The primary issue to determine is how much indoor space should be provided. This report recommends a high level of activity be introduced to the site through complimentary public, semi-public, and private uses as described in “Amenities and Uses”. This will help keep the plaza and walkway lively, well used, and safe. The existing Archery Building does not have sufficient indoor area to support a critical mass of activity, requires a significant amount of investment in order to allow its adaptive reuse, and its interior architecture limits diverse programming. Additionally, while small in area, it is located in a manner that is less adaptable to new structures on the site. The following are potential options for the Archery Building: Option A: Remove Archery Building This report recommends that the Archery Building be removed from the site as to enable the highest level of public amenity along the riverfront. The structure’s historic value should be referenced through educational measures such as landscape and public art features in the site’s redesign. Option B: Relocate and Reuse Archery Building It is possible that the demolition of the Archery Building will not be sought after by Town leadership and the public, as community members and decision makers may choose to reuse the building. In its current location the Archery Building is not visible from downtown. Therefore, if the Archery Building is preserved, it is recommended that it be relocated to a more visible location to justify the financial investment in its adaptive reuse. This will also enable the introduction of a new structure on site, capable of housing the necessary uses dedicated to maintaining the riverfront as an active public amenity.

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Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Phase 5 Option A: Remove Archery Building and enable future increased use and amenity in new building (shown here diagrammatically only)

Parking

Turnaround

Parking

Plaza Area

Possible New Building

Pavilion

Path

Phase 5 Option B: Relocate Archery Building to a more prominent location that aids in shaping the public open space, and enable future increased use and amenity in new building (shown here diagrammatically only)

Parking

Turnaround

Parking

Possible New Building

Path

Relocated Archery Building

Plaza Area Pavilion

75 Feet

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View of Marlboro College parking area and south end of Merrill Gas site. Connecting both sites with a pedestrian bridge over the rail lines would enable the underutilized parking area to serve riverfront uses.

Phase 6: Construct Relocated Hinsdale Bridge The construction of a new Hinsdale Bridge and its associated schedule is in the hands of the State of New Hampshire and thus outside the control of the Town of Brattleboro. However, based on State of New Hampshire Department of Transportation documentation, the new bridge’s western landing will occur south of the riverfront site, connecting directly to Vernon Street adjacent to the Marlboro College Graduate Center Building. A New Hinsdale Bridge creates or makes possible additional major changes to the site’s context. These are outlined below: Phase 6A: Keep the “Old” Hinsdale Bridge Open to Non-Motorized Uses Once traffic is rerouted through a new bridge, the existing river crossing can be designated for pedestrians, bicycles, and other non-motorized users, linking downtown with the Connecticut River Island. This idea has been in discussion for many years and should be formalized into a specific plan. Phase 6B: Designate a Pedestrian and Bicycle Path This path should run along the river as well as connect downtown across the “Old” Hinsdale Bridge. The riverfront site can become a trail head for bicyclists and hikers. Phase 6C: Repurpose Merrill Gas Site Based on the 2004 Building a Better Brattleboro workshop, it is an eventuality that part of the Merrill Gas property will be taken for the new bridge project, and that the property will be repurposed. Should that occur, new private and public amenities and uses, as well as a significant amount of redevelopment, will be able to take place on the Merrill Gas site. Uses and amenities on the Merrill Gas site should include: • • • • • •

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Connection to the pedestrian and bicycle paths Emergency vehicle and bus turnaround (as to serve on site uses and enable removing it from the town owned riverfront site) Public park Public river access including boat launch in calmer waters south of site Pedestrian connection over the railroad to the Marlboro Graduate Center and associated parking lot Private residential development that will support and subsidize public amenities throughout the community and especially the riverfront area

Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Pedestrian Connection to Marlboro College Parking Lot

Marlboro College Graduate Center

Union Station

Turnaround Removed New Hinsdale Bridge 100 Feet

New Building Plaza Area

Phases 6 a, b, and c: Extended riverfront site including New Hinsdale Bridge and pedestrian and bicycle connections throughout. Shown here with a new building on site. Turnaround removed

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Phase 7: Full Reuse of Riverfront Site Full reuse of the riverfront site is not contingent upon the construction of a new Hinsdale Bridge. However, there are several components to the site’s repurposing that would significantly benefit from a new Hinsdale Bridge and its currently planned landing south of the site: •

• As described in Amenities and Uses, vehicular parking can be accommodated for at grade, “tucked under” the second floor of a building. Such a solution would most likely need to be used along the western edge (facing Depot Street and Union Station Parking) of any new structure on site

Pedestrian Dominated Riverfront: Once a new bridge is completed and the old bridge can be designated as non motorized traffic only, the entire riverfront site will drastically transform due to the sharp reduction in higher speed through-traffic. This will promote a safer pedestrian friendly area for the public to enjoy Removal of Turnaround: Once the Merrill Gas Site is open for redevelopment it will need to accommodate an emergency vehicle turnaround. The Town should mandate or incentivize relevant parties to make that turnaround public, freeing up the Town owned riverfront site from needing to accommodate the turnaround Public Private Partnerships: The Town may become involved with the redevelopment of the Merrill Gas Site through land ownership or the provision of development incentives/regulations that will promote appropriate repurposing of the site that compliments the Town owned riverfront site and downtown

There are three basic possible scenarios for site reuse: • • •

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Archery Building Removed and New Building Introduced: This option provides the highest amount of usable indoor space, generating a significant level of activity on site and maintaining an open riverfront Archery Building Relocated and New Building Introduced: This option provides a high amount of usable indoor space Archery Building Relocated: This option provides a moderate amount of usable indoor space

Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Phase 7 with New Building: Should Archery Building be removed in Phase 5, full site reuse would include a significant amount of indoor uses which compliment the outdoor public areas including plaza, riverwalk, and park area

Parking

Parking

New Building 13,400 Sq Ft Footprint

Park Area

Plaza Area Pavilion

Path

Phase 7 with Archery and New Building: Should Archery Building be relocated in Phase 5, full site reuse would include a significant amount of indoor uses which compliment the outdoor public areas including plaza, riverwalk, and park area, keeping the Archery Building adjacent to the plaza

Parking

Park Area

Parking

New Building 10,000 SqFt Footprint

Archery Building

Path

Phase 7 with Archery Building Relocated: With the Archery Building relocated, a higher quality public realm is shaped due to the positive definition of the plaza at the northern end of the site and the parkland at its center

Parking

Pavilion

Parking

Park Area

75 Feet

Plaza Area

Archery Building Approx. 3,400 SqFt Footprint Path

Plaza Area Pavilion

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Public Private Partnerships and Possible Financial Structures


Public Private Partnerships and Possible Financial Structures A community and public benefit based redevelopment effort for a site such as the Brattleboro riverfront requires a survey of existing financial conditions, and an outline of potential financial opportunities. Therefore, this section includes a discussion of recommended financial structures under which the project can materialize, a limited economic proforma analysis for the site, and a discussion of government and other financial resources and opportunities. Possible Financial Structures There are several possible financial structures and models through which to realize a redevelopment project such as this: • Free Market Land sold to private party that develops the site as they see fit given relevant regulations. Given the riverfront’s importance and potential impact on the community, as well as the process through which funds were obtained for its purchase, this alternative is not recommended. • Prequalified Developer Land sold or leased to private party which has been vetted and prequalified to develop the site within certain parameters and goals as defined by the town. • Developer Bound to Plan Town creates a detailed plan and project description as part of a Request for Proposals and makes it available to potential applicants. The land is sold or leased to the winning applicant who is responsible to develop the site as detailed in the project description. • Town as Developer Town maintains ownership and control of the property, and acts as its own developer. This would require the town to use in-house or subcontract development and project management capacity. Given the nature of the site and its long-term value to the community, it is important to maintain public control of the development. Therefore, the Free Market model is not recommended. The Prequalified Developer model, while allowing for vetting and goal definition, does not keep control of the site in the town’s direct hands. The two latter structure models are varying types of public / private partnerships which can be compared in the following table:

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Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Financial Structure Positive / Negative for‌ Positive Developer Bound to Plan

Negative

Public (town)

Town leads project planning and design and selects developer based on price and competency; thus controlling project’s intended outcome. Town does not provide funding or assume risk.

Potential complications with Federal Transit Authority with regard to land ownership or leasing. Theoretically town does not assume risk. However, provisions should be made to protect the public from the developer going defunct or otherwise not completing the project.

Private (developer)

Developer is working off of a fixed site and building plan, and thus has only limited need for pre-development expenses and does not have to face public or regulatory resistance.

Developer provides funding and assumes risk. Restrictive project with limited flexibility and ability to respond to economic changes.

Town as Developer Public (town) (using development project manager subcontractor)

Town does not lose control of prop- Town must provide funding and aserty, maintains controls over devel- sumes all financial risk. opment / project manager, can use its bonding capacity to help finance the project, and does not lose ownership of property (thus triggering complications with Federal Transit Authority).

Private (development proj- Development Project Manager pro- Limited fee-based return. ect manager) vides professional services and does not have to provide funding, assume risk, or face public or regulatory resistance. As detailed above both scenarios have negative and positive qualities to both the town and the developer (or development project manager). Generally speaking, as a party’s exposure to risk rises, so do the potential benefits. Another comparison of the two above structures is possible through the development proforma which follows.

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Development Proforma Analysis Assumptions for the proforma analysis were provided by the Planning Services Department of the Town of Brattleboro

In this context, a proforma is a tool used by planners, developers, and other professionals to assess financial costs and benefits of potential projects. Essentially, a proforma is a series of tables which calculate the costs of building, maintaining, and financing a new structure against rent and other income over time. A proforma relies on many variables such as typical construction costs, loan interest rates, and average rental rates, to name only a few. As economic conditions change over time and cannot be predicted, the variables entered into the proforma are considered assumptions based on current conditions These assumptions, wherever possible, were based on data collected from recent development projects in Brattleboro. However, information available for Brattleboro was limited due to the small number of recent larger scale projects. Due to assumptions’ inherit potential to be outdated or inaccurate; any proforma is an incomplete tool. However, proformas are effectively the only objective tool available to assess the financial merit of any land development project. Most importantly, proformas are able to highlight a project’s potential risks and provide good indication of its qualities. One of the most convenient features of a proforma as a tool is its ability to compare different approaches to the same project. One can compare the long term benefits of building a smaller vs larger building, or placing more of a down payment vs taking out a bigger loan. The proforma, albeit incomplete, can give an objective analysis of a project as well as allow for a comparison between projects. A proforma comparing the two highlighted financial structure possibilities (Developer Bound to Plan vs Town as Developer) is summarized in the following table. As the proforma compares two financial structure approaches, the test case development project is based on a 23,000 square foot building that was chosen because it provides a fairly high level of build out for the site and thus is an extreme condition for both high costs and high revenue potential (it is also a reasonable full redevelopment of the site given possible building footprints). The test case assumes a mix of office/commercial, residential, live/ work, lower rate office rentals for non-profit organizations, and public open space. The physical attributes of the development of the compared scenarios is consistent, therefore, allowing a comparison between the financial structures.

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Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Equity Investment

Interest Rate

Length of Loan

Leveraged Internal Rate of Return*

Unleveraged Internal Rate of Return*

Total Cashflow

Developer Bound to Plan

$2,067,820

6.50%

10 Years

NA

-6.85%

-$3,092,548

Town as Developer

$2,061,977

3.00%

30 Years

1.60%

0.93%

$1,066,353

(the full base test case proforma, as well as assumptions, is available in the appendix) The two financial structures offer completely different characteristics. The Developer Bound to Plan scenario implies traditional financing with a market based interest loan and a typical length of loan. The combination of these attributes, along with local construction costs and rental rates, provides a cash negative outcome. This means that any traditionally financed development on site would be a fiscal failure. The Town as Developer option provides the ability to utilize the Town of Brattleboro’s ability to sell bonds, and thus finance the development through bond funds or associated loans. Bond based loans carry a significantly lower interest rate, and can be paid over a longer period. These attributes make for a positive, albeit low, financial return for a development project on site. In short, private financing at 6.5% over 10 years is bound to fail, while public financing at 3% over 30 years is indeed workable. Creative use of publicly available funding, as well as the benefits of public private partnerships is outlined in the following piece of this section.

* - Leveraged Internal Rate of Return and Unleveraged Internal Rate of Return are measures of a development project’s profitability or cost over time. The difference between the two is that the Leveraged Internal Rate of Return takes into consideration the cost (or benefit) of loan interest associated with leveraging debt to finance the project.

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Public Private Partnerships and Possible Funding Sources This section was provided by Susan McMahon, Associate Director of Windham Regional Commission

The implication of the proforma analysis above is that development on the site must be supported by public funds. These of course can be secured from a variety of sources and not only from the Town of Brattleboro. There are many precedents to publicly funded riverfront developments and amenities that generated significant increases in activity and commerce (Greenville, South Carolina and Chattanooga, Tennessee to name only two). In Vermont it is not an unusual technique utilized by many municipalities to encourage development that offers numerous public benefits and in locations where the town wants to grow. Windham Regional Commission utilizes their EPA Brownfields funds to assist both public and private developers in reusing former industrial properties. By utilizing its public grant money this program helps level the playing field by encouraging the redevelopment of these important sites in downtown and village areas instead of forest lands or greenfields. The Town of Rockingham working with Housing Vermont and Windham Regional Commission pursued public funding to develop the former Bellows Falls rail yard into a visitor center. The reuse has enhanced the revitalization of the area and spurred on a neighboring site that was redeveloped as a restaurant. There is a role to be played, especially in rural areas, by having a public entity bring in funding to spur on redevelopment in an area and/or bring down the overall cost of redevelopment. As mentioned above one source of public funding is a town’s bonding capacity. This source of funding while useful is not the only possible funding opportunities for the site. The following chart summarizes research to date on possible grants, loans or tax credits available to redevelop the site. Due to the Brattleboro riverfront location and/ or type of redevelopment, private entities may be able to access loans or tax credits that might not be available for the developer in another location. Appropriate funding sources for type of public or private entity is described in the following multi-page chart:

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Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Funding Source

Public / Private Limits / Comments

Vermont Community Loan Fund

Private

Below-market rates, typically 7.0% Terms range from several years up to 5 years, with extensions generally permitted for another 3 to 5 years. Amount not to exceed $1 million. Housing and Community Loans may be used for real estate acquisition, construction, rehabilitation, bridge financing and equipment purchase.

Local Development Corp Loans

Private

Up to $250,000 but can be more with agreement from Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA). Would need to work with Brattleboro Development Corp and VEDA.

New Markets Tax Credit

Private

Permits taxpayers to receive a credit against Federal income taxes for making qualified equity investments in designated Community Development Entities (CDEs). Thirty nine percent of the cost of the investment over a 7 year credit allowance period. The Brattleboro Waterfront is currently considered eligible for New Market Tax Credits. However, that may change once the 2010 U.S Census is calculated.

Public / Private

BEDI funds are used as the stimulus for local governments and private sector parties to commence redevelopment or continue phased redevelopment efforts on brownfields sites where either potential or actual environmental conditions are known and redevelopment plans exist. HUD emphasizes the use of BEDI and Section 108 Loan Guarantee funds to finance projects and activities that will provide near-term results and demonstrable economic benefits.

Tax Increment Financing (TIF)

Public

To provide revenues, beyond normal municipal revenue sources, for infrastructure improvements that serve a defined municipal district which will stimulate development or redevelopment within the district, provide for employment opportunities, improve and broaden the tax base, and enhance the general economic vitality of the municipality, the region, or the state (See 24 VSA §1893).The site is in the located in the designated downtown, which makes it eligible for TIF.

EPA Brownfield Funds

Public

This is for remediation only and only up to $200,000. Currently the only parcel eligible for this funding is the Gas Works parcel. Annual application for owner or prospective purchaser of the site and only available to non-profit or government entities.

Public / Private

Grants for remediation up to $200,000 per parcel for towns and non-profits. Loans for private developers up to $250,000.

HUD’s Brownfields Economic Development Initiative (BEDI)

Vermont Brownfields Revitalization Fund

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Funding Source

Public / Private Limits / Comments

Vermont Brownfields Technical Assistance Grant Program

Public / Private

Grants for remediation up to $200,000 per parcel for towns, private and non-profits.

Vermont Comm. Dev. Block Grants

Public / Private

Town needs to be the applicant. Grants to non-profits and towns and loans to businesses. Funding for economic development and housing up to $750,000.

US Dept. of Ag. Rural Dev. Loans

Public / Private

USDA has numerous loan programs available for both private and municipalities and depends on the project. As the program for the site is refined USDA staff in Brattleboro should be consulted.

Vermont Urban Community Forestry Grants

Public

Applications will require planting and tree establishment maintenance plans, and will need to be matched 50/50. The maximum grant amount is up to $10,000.

Vermont Designated Downtowns Tax Credit programs

Private

The site is in the designated downtown. A state tax credit of 10% for owners or long term lessees for the costs of substantially rehabilitating a certified historic building is available as an “add-on” credit for projects that qualify for the 20% Federal Reinvestment Tax Credit (RITC). Projects qualifying for the 10% credit will thus receive a net 30% credit. The federal RITC is available to owners and long term lessees for projects costs that meet or exceed the adjusted basis of an income-producing building that is on or becomes listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The credits are for all costs involved in rehabilitating a building, including exterior and interior improvements, code compliance, plumbing, and electrical upgrades. Design standards apply to this program.

Façade Improvement Tax Credit

Private

A state tax credit of 25% for owners or lessees of buildings built prior to 1983 that undertake projects that cannot qualify for the 20% Federal RITC and 10% State “add-on” credit above. Up to a maximum of $25,000. Design standards apply to this program

Downtown Transportation and Related Capital Improvement

Public

Grant program and up to $75,000 and 50/50 match. Could be used for pedestrian and streetscape improvements.

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Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Funding Source

Public / Private Limits / Comments

Cultural Facilities Grants

Public

Operated in partnership with the Vermont Arts Council, the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, the Vermont Historical Society and the Vermont Museum and Gallery Alliance, the program offers state grants to improve facilities used for providing cultural events and activities for the public. Includes wiring, heating, lighting, stage work, bathrooms and accessibility improvements. Structural work and routine maintenance are not usually funded. Range $750 to $200,0000

Chittenden’s Socially Responsible Banking Program

Public / Private

Deposit program supports community development lending in downtown revitalization, housing, agriculture, energy, environment, non-profits and education. Loans available for purchase of historic properties, rehabilitation, and new construction, bridge loans (to cover costs while waiting for grant funding or waiting for pledges to be paid in on a capital campaign), or lines of credit for working capital. Currently offering a special Downtown Revitalization Loan program for facade improvements, upgrades for accessibility and safety installations with special rates and terms. Eligibility: Individual business owners, small businesses, non-profit organizations, municipalities, and lessees.

The National Trust Loan Fund (NTLF)

Public / Private

NTLF specializes in pre-development, acquisition, mini-permanent, bridge and rehabilitation loans for residential, commercial and public use projects. Eligible borrowers include not-for- profit organizations, revitalization organizations or real estate developers working in certified Main Street communities, local, state or regional governments, and for profit developers of older and/or historic buildings. Range: $50,000 - $350,000

The National Fish & Wildlife Foundation Native Plant Conservation Initiative

Public

Program is currently available 2010. If available in 2011 it might be a good match for regenerative design implementation.

Preserve America Grant

Public

Preserve America grants support planning, development, implementation, or enhancement of innovative activities and programs in heritage tourism, including documentation of cultural resources, interpretation/education, planning, marketing, and training. Successful applicants will emphasize creative projects that involve publicprivate partnerships and serve as models to communities nationwide for heritage tourism, education, and economic development. Brattleboro is a designated Preserve America Community and eligible to apply. Range: $20,000 to $250,000 50/50 match required.

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Funding Source

Public / Private Limits / Comments

Federal Highway Scenic Byways

Public

The site is adjacent to the Connecticut River National Scenic Byway. The Vermont Scenery Preservation Council reviews and prioritizes for the annual FHWA Scenic Byway grant. A 20% match required. Designation can qualify byways for federal transportation funds to assist with improvements related to tourism, preservation, or resource conservation. The federal funds can be used for traveler facilities, interpretive centers, and rest areas, recreation area investments, protecting cultural and historic resources along the road and providing tourist information.

VT Recreational Trails Grant

Public

Will provide up to 80% reimbursement assistance for eligible projects. Applicants may request grants up to $20,000. Program provides funding for the acquisition and/or development of multi-use recreational trail projects. This also includes construction of small bridges, railings, ramps and retaining structures; bank stabilization, re-vegetation and erosion control; development and/or rehabilitation of trailside amenities and trailhead facilities.

Vermont Watershed Grants

Public

Projects that are watershed related and can include monitoring, education, conservation, recreation, and/or the identification and protection of historic and cultural resources. Range: Watershed Mini-Grants - $200 to $1,000 Watershed Grants - $1,000 to $5,000.

Land and Water Conservation Fund

Public

It is a reimbursement grant program that provides for land acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation areas. A 50 % local match is required.

Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC)

Public

VYCC crews complete work on public lands, waters, or building or on projects that have a clear value to community. They provide crew leaders, transportation and crews of 10-12 members ages 16-24. Contact VYCC directly with a project idea. They will provide technical assistance on finding funding for the project.

Vermont Transportation Enhancement (TE) Program

Public

Vermont’s TE grant awards are a minimum of $10,000. . Awards are capped at $300,000 in Federal funds. This program can be a funding source for activities such as new sidewalks, bike paths, historic preservation (transportation related), environmental mitigation, and more.

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Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio


Funding Source

Public / Private Limits / Comments

National Endowment for the Arts - Design: Access to Artistic Excellence

Public

To encourage and support artistic excellence, preserve our cultural heritage, and provide access to the arts for all Americans. An organization may request a grant amount from $5,000 to $150,000. Support is available to organizations for projects that do one or more of the following: • Provide opportunities for artists to create, refine, perform, and exhibit their work. • Present artistic works of all cultures and periods. • Preserve significant works of art and cultural traditions. • Enable arts organizations and artists to expand and diversify their audiences. • Provide opportunities for individuals to experience and participate in a wide range of art forms and activities. • Enhance the effectiveness of arts organizations and artists. • Employ the arts in strengthening communities.

HUD-DOT Community Challenge Grants

Public

Community Challenge Planning Grant Program will foster reform and reduce barriers to achieving affordable, economically vital, and sustainable communities.

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Recommended Next Steps The riverfront site along Depot Street is an underutilized site that is about to be transformed from a neglected industrial area to open space accessible and attractive to the community. This area will be a “new place” in the downtown. A phased approach will help realize the site’s potential. The first immediate step is the cleanup of the site and the construction of the Union Station project that will result in an open and inviting space with, perhaps, a park bench overlooking the River. While this action will bring about a transformation of the site, it is only the first step of many to come towards realizing the “vision” of this report and the results of the thorough community process stated in “Imagining A Riverfront Site” and again in 2010 through “Renewing The Riverfront” workshops. The following bullet points are recommendations for creating opportunities for this underutilized jewel of a public property based on this report’s research and design: 1. Town Selectboard should appoint a “Back To The River” Steering Committee charged with the implementation of projects and programs at the riverfront site. This includes an immediate study of the many opportunities for programs that catalyze change, soliciting proposals from organizations in the town with an interest in having a presence at the site, determining the infrastructure needed to accommodate temporary (up to five years) uses at the site, etc. The Steering Committee can also oversee a communications and branding campaign to market this new place; adding “Riverfront Town” to Brattleboro’s identity. 2. The town, working with Windham Regional Commission, should explore the larger context of the site. This context includes the planning and acquisition of the Merrill Gas property, identifying the opportunities resulting from the Hinsdale Bridge closing to vehicular traffic and the new bridge site, Marlboro Graduate Center’s plans for its property, interconnections with downtown cultural amenities, trails, businesses, and the Connecticut River Island. 3. Begin seeking grants for public improvements. 4. Anticipate future public/private sector participation for selected areas of development at the riverfront site (as described in this report) as well as for an expanded riverfront district in the town. Consider the possibilities for public investments to leverage future private sector development activity along the riverfront. Identify private development activity that is acceptable and compatible with public uses and open spaces within a larger riverfront district. Finally, experience demonstrates that most town governments are inundated by the daily chores of addressing immediate concerns and operations. There is currently an unfortunate consensus in the Brattleboro community that this “new place” in the town will remain an underutilized public property, and that will be its fate. However, Michael Singer Studio’s numerous interviews and interactions within the community reveal that, given an awareness of precedents and possibilities, this new place in the town has captured the interests and imaginations of a wide range of stakeholders, community organizations, and the town’s residents who would like to participate in and support the potential transformations at the riverfront site.

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Appendix The appendix to this report is available digitally and includes the following documents: •

Brattleboro Waterfront Cleanup August 19, 2009 Meeting Summary and Comments / Questions by Michael Singer Studio

Brattleboro Waterfront Redevelopment September 21, 2009 Meeting Summary by Michael Singer Studio

Design Services for Brattleboro Waterfront Brownfield Project Close-Out Memo by Michael Singer Studio, December 31, 2009

Development Proforma Analysis and associated assumptions

Hinsdale-Brattleboro Preliminary Plan, from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation website, April 30, 2009

Site Analysis Diagram, prepared as part of the 2004 Building a Better Brattleboro Waterfront Design Charette

State of New Hampshire Inter-Departmental Communication, Draft 2011-2020 TenYear Plan, GACIT Public Hearing, Executive Council District 5, September 30, 2009

Structural Evaluation of Archery Building & Gasworks Building by Colby Company, LLC, December 28, 2009

Youth Services October 9, 2009 Meeting Notes by Michael Singer Studio

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About Michael Singer Studio Michael Singer Studio is a multifaceted art, design, and planning studio focused on understanding and expressing each project’s environmental systems and interactions as well as exploring its social and educational potential. Michael Singer Studio projects are noted for specificity to the site, aesthetic beauty, functionality, and artful details in design and fabrication. The studio offers in-house architectural and landscape architectural design, planning, interpretive design, fabrication, and construction. Michael Singer Studio’s approach to planning, architecture and landscape design, and the environmental design of spaces focuses on 3 core principles that are embodied in the Studio’s work: Site Specificity: Each project is considered individually and crafted to address and interact with the site’s specific program, environmental systems, as well as social, economic, and institutional context. The Studio’s planners and designers study each project and explore specific opportunities to reveal a site’s full potential. Ecological Regeneration: For over 25 years artist Michael Singer has been a leading voice in the creation of spaces that actively regenerate the built environment. From water cleansing gardens to large-scale infrastructure projects, the Studio has always sought to shape environmental systems to improve ecological health, filter air and water, and create places for people to witness positive growth and change over time. Interdisciplinary Approach: The Studio’s approach to projects often engages a wide range of professionals to work in a collaborative design process. Large planning projects often engage anthropologists, urban designers, whole systems engineers, philosophers, scientists, and economists. The goal is to obtain a range of ideas and points of view that then become the Studio’s foundation for integrating systems and programs, creating new spaces that are unique and specific to their environment.

This Michael Singer Studio Project Team Includes: Michael Singer, Principal Jonathan Fogelson, Design and Planning - Project Manager Martin Melaver, Development Consulting Jason Bregman, Environmental Planning and Design Page 66

Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan - Michael Singer Studio

Profile for Michael Singer

Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan  

Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan

Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan  

Brattleboro Riverfront Site Vision Plan

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