Music Hall gets extension

MANCHESTER VILLAGE - While approval was recently given by the Manchester Village Development Review Board for the construction of an 85 room hotel on the site of the former Village Country Inn, attempts continue to save another prominent and historic structure.

In July the Music Hall across from The Equinox Resort & Spa - often referred to as the Opera House - was granted two six-month extensions to provide additional time to try to find someone willing to buy and renovate the building.

"The extension goes into Feb. 1, 2014 and then we can extend it again for an additional six months," said Executive Director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont, Paul Bruhn.

The Village's Development Review Board originally approved an application by the Equinox Resort & Spa to demolish the former Music Hall located across from resort in March of 2012. Shortly after The Equinox received the approval, though, the Preservation Trust of Vermont contacted them about delaying the demolition of the building so that they could potentially try to save it.

The one-year extension would be up somewhere around August of 2014. If a buyer has not been found by that time, Bruhn said that there is a very real possibility that the structure will be demolished.

In addition to providing the Preservation Trust with additional time to try to find a new buyer, The Equinox also contributed $25,000 - on top of the $15,000 put up by the Preservation Trust - to perform stabilization work on the building.

The Preservation Trust has been focusing on trying to find a non-profit entity interested in owning the building. If that were to come to fruition, Bruhn said that an agreement they have with The Equinox would result in the property being donated to the non-profit provided they are "willing" and have "the capacity to take the project on."

Earlier assessments done by Bread Loaf Corporation out of Middlebury estimate that it would take somewhere between $2 to $2.5 million to renovate the building.

The investment would result in the use of the basement, which could be used for office space, classrooms, and arts education programs among other things. The renovations would also include returning the next two stories to open space - similar to the way the building was when it served as a music hall - that could be used for numerous purposes, Bruhn said.

"It could be used for live performance. It could be used for community suppers. It could be used as gallery space. It could be used as a winter farmers' market. There's a whole range of things; community meetings," said Bruhn. "We think that there would be the potential of that space becoming a very active, important community space."

The Preservation Trust has had several conversations with potential buyers since April of 2012 - some of which Bruhn indicated had been promising.

"There were two discussions that were fairly serious that just didn't pan out for one reason or another," said Bruhn. "And we don't have anyone currently that we are talking with. We would like to explore the possibilities with anyone who might have an interest, whether it be a non-profit or a business."

Bruhn said that their preference would be for the building to be operated by a non-profit so that it could be a place that would serve the entire Manchester community.

Calls to General Manager of The Equinox, Mark O'Neill, were not immediately returned as of press time.

Village Country Inn

In the meantime, the demolition and start of construction of an 85 room hotel in the location of the former Village Country Inn awaits the outcome of an Act 250 decision. According to Coordinator of the Act 250 Commission for District 8, Warren Foster, it is uncertain when a decision on the project will be reached as further information is still needed from the applicant, 3835 Main Street, LLC.

The original plan brought before the Village DRB was for a 162 foot long hotel with five separate cottages. However, the plans were modified prior to being approved by the DRB reducing the length of the building to 150 feet and eliminating two of the cottages. The revised plan that Main Street LLC brought before the DRB also included 124 parking spaces, but the DRB imposed a condition on the application reducing the number of parking spaces to 108, according to previous reports.

A marble sidewalk will be extended 510 feet on the western side of Main Street that will connect with the existing sidewalk. The total amount of greenspace for the proposed project is 40 percent, which is well above the 30 percent minimum required by Village ordinances, according to past reports.

The entire cost of the project from start to finish is expected to be about $20 million, making it one of the biggest construction projects ever done in the Village. Clark French, a principal partner in 3835 Main Street, LLC, said he expects the project to create about 120 construction jobs and 98 permanent jobs once the hotel begins operating.

According to previous reports, if everything goes as planned construction could start around April 1 of next year. Construction of the new facility is expected to take about 14 months and the projected opening would take place sometime in June 2015.


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