The white framed wooden building which dates back to the 19th century and has seen numerous different uses, from residential quarters to an entertainment venue, was slated for demolition as early as this summer. The Equinox Resort had secured a permit from Village officials earlier this year to take down the increasingly unstable structure, stating it was both a fire hazard and posed a potential risk to passing pedestrians.
Earlier this week, however, an agreement was struck between HEI Equinox LLC, the corporate owners of the Equinox Resort, and the Preservation Trust of Vermont, to give the old opera house one last lease on life. The trust has
"We approached them (HEI) and asked if they would consider letting us have a period of time to have an option on it and see if there might be a solution that would save the building," he said. "They seemed to be very open to the subject."
The trust and the Equinox will jointly put in about $40,000 to shore up and stabilize the building, which has several structural problems. Those include a substandard foundation and partially collapsed floors towards the rear of the building, according to
Ideally, the trust would like to find a not-for-profit organization to take over the building and fix it for some purpose. A farmers market might be one such use, Bruhn said by way of example, but he and his organization were still in the very early phases of putting out feelers to determine the level of interest that might be out there, he said.
The building would then be turned over to the new non-profit ownership free of charge, he said.
If a non-profit organization could not be found before the option agreement with the Equinox expires - currently it runs through the end of the year but could be extended another six months - a private, for profit entity would also be considered. In that event though, the building would be sold for a negotiated price, and some restrictions put in place to avoid a business that would be a direct competitor to the Equinox, he said. Another potential alternative is for the trust to purchase the building from the Equinox for $1, but Bruhn said they were not interested in owning the building - their mission is to rehabilitate and restore them, he said.
The more likely scenario, if new owners can't be found, is that the building would be demolished, and this was a course of action the trust has agreed to support if it comes to that, he said, emphasizing that the Equinox had been very cooperative and helpful.
"We're going to be in the process of having many conversations with people in the Manchester community to see if there are organizations that might be interested in the building," he said. "We think the best way to save the building might be to do a simple renovation which would involve restoring the exterior and making the basement level and usable."
The second floor of the building - originally a large open space - was divided at some point into a two-floor area. This additional "floor" would be removed, and the top floor mothballed, under the renovation plan envisioned by the preservation trust and the Equinox, Bruhn said.