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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Get Your Creative Juices Flowing - The Future of Melrose Terrace

Calling all area residents!! Get your creative thinking caps on. The future of Melrose Terrace needs some attention and it is starting with you.

As we all know, Melrose Terrace in West Brattleboro was severely impacted by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011. Right after the Storm, BHA’s Commissioners pledged to repair Melrose so its residents had a place to live while BHA worked on creating new housing so that these residents would no longer be in a floodway. Plans are under way to construct a new 55 unit facility to be ready in January 2016. Plans will also be developed to move the other 25 units, the Brattleboro Housing Authority offices and maintenance building by 2018 at the latest.

So what then will be the fate of Melrose Terrace? Whatever re-use is in store, it will have an impact on the community in many ways - environmentally, socially, culturally, financially, etc. The process of looking at possible re-use must be creative, inclusive, comprehensive and thoughtful.

In the fall, representatives from the many technical, regulatory and financing entities with a potential role in the future of Melrose will come together to discuss re-use from their various perspectives. The basis of this discussion needs to be your ideas.

What is the best way to collect those ideas? A meeting is too restrictive -- only those available that day can attend, ideas often get bogged down in too much detail, some folks are reluctant to offer ideas for fear of ridicule - there are many reasons why a "meeting" won't be the best way to do it.

So BHA, Town of Brattleboro and West Brattleboro Association are asking for your ideas by any method you want. You can post your ideas here; email them to bha@sover.net; snail mail to PO Box 2275, W Brattleboro, 05303; call BHA at 254-6071 - or any other way. Get them in by August 29 so we can have them on the list of 100!

The ideas do not have to be detailed. As simple as "it should be a field", to a completely detailed plan. And they can be as wild as you like. There will ultimately be certain rules about what can be done but at this point we want all the ideas (the aim is at least 100 different ones) that are out there. Sometimes, for a really good idea, the rules can be modified.

So get the creative juices flowing and let's make sure that the future use of Melrose Terrace has had the best thinking of everyone in the area.


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Arts and crafts space

I love Melrose Terrace and enjoy visiting my friends who live there. It has a good vibe, despite and even because of the proximity of the brook. For that reason, I'd like to think it could be a place that could continue to be enjoyed. One thought that occurs to me is low rent space for artists and crafters with maybe some classroom/workshop space too. Keep it open studio so people could visit and potentially buy things. Be inclusive of all the arts and crafts as much as possible.

That's one thought of many. Like community gardens. Even if the buildings are torn down (which seems kind of wasteful to me) you could still grow food there.

Thanks for asking the community! I'm sure there will be lots of ideas.


Green Space

It's my understanding that once a HUD-related property is a designated and proven flood zone it can't be inhabited. Period. It has to be made into a green space. No?
So gardens, perhaps a county botanical garden?


So many possibilities

Seems like their could be three categories of suggestions: leave it as is, alter it in some way, or tear it all down.

"Inhabit" could mean permanent living, so anything short of that might be a possibility. (The way someone renting a room for a night or two has different rules and relations with the landlord than if they had been there 30 days.) Just a guess. Our role is to supply ideas… they can say no later. : )

Here are three ideas for the "torn down" option:

1. A park, designed to flood, with water features, bridges and stonework.

2. A community garden space for West B.

3. A drive in theater for home movies. Build a big screen and get a projector; allow home movies to be shown. Rent the place out for parties and special occasions.


Botanical artwork

How about taking down all walls, leaving the roof and supports, and planting a bunch of vines to create a botanical art piece? We could watch as the buildings get overgrown.

Or, let local artists create a spectacular mini-golf installation.

A bandstand with picnic grounds.

A dog park.


I bet we can come up with 100 ideas

Some more:

- a campground space, with income for the town

- a convention and meeting hall space available to rent

- the new jail, with kitchenettes for all!

- a paintball playground - run around the compound and colorize it.

- solar farm on stilts

- a quiet, large, electric vehicle go kart track park

- a West Brattleboro "common" with benches, fountains,



- a darkened space for night time star gazing

- a mini Cape Canaveral for model rocket launches

- a community corn maze in fall

- outdoor ice skating pond in winter

- a new location for a Farmers Market


Lions and tigers and bears (oh my!)

If I had my druthers, it’d become a zoo. A real one with elephants, giraffes, zebras and gorillas. But that’s unrealistic. It just ain’t gonna happen.

However, Melrose IS a community resource. We can’t just look at it as something owned exclusively by the Housing Authority. That’s the reason for this appeal for ideas. We want it to be something all Brattleboro can be proud of.

The BHA has begun a planning process…officially known as the Multiple Re-Use Planning Process or MRUPP (excuse me!).

MRUPP has three official co-sponsors: BHA, Town of Brattleboro and West Brattleboro Association. A small planning group of representatives from these co-sponsors will keep things moving. A larger group of specialists and stakeholders (State, Federal & Municipal agencies, non- profits, etc.) will meet several times this fall to discuss Technical, Regulatory and Financial issues which can be huge and complex. (The TRF Group). They will advise us as to what is actually possible and hopefully come up with several options that are actually do-able.

We want to help these guys out by providing them with ideas to contemplate. Imagine we can do anything. We want to put aside dwelling on what we can’t do. (The TRF Group will tell us that). There will ultimately be certain rules about what can be done but at this point we want all your ideas (the aim is at least 100 different ones) that are out there. Sometimes, for a really good idea, the rules can be modified.

Officially, HUD has informed us that the population currently residing at Melrose (a “protected” group consisting of elderly and/or disabled persons) can no longer be housed there. After all is said and done, HUD will have no official interest in the site going forward. (However, it is possible there will be future involvement). Specifically, they have NOT told us that it can’t be inhabited, only by a “protected” group.

There are two restrictions, one on public money being used on the property, and another on lenders who are federally insured or regulated.
There might be exceptions. Private investment would be allowed. The property can be owned by anybody.

Full disclosure: I am a member of the BHA’s board of Commissioners. Like the guy from the “Hair Club”, I am also a customer – I live at the Elliot High Rise.


My ideas

I feel that the highest and best use for this property is what it is now, a community. It’s almost an island consisting of 8 acres and 16 buildings used as multiple dwellings. In addition there is a 4 bay maintenance garage plus an administrative building with offices and a community room.
The dwelling units are smallish, with a living room, one bedroom and a small kitchen – too small for comfortable family occupancy, but cozy for couples or individuals.
I’d like to see some sort of co-op or land trust owning this community such that the owners are the occupants. A small grocery with a deli and a restaurant would be nice. The maintenance garage could be leased to provide income, preferably to then-existing owners as an auto repair shop or something equally useful.


A Dream

I'd seriously love to see it remain what it is, a residential place. If possible, I'd buy and stay here. These buildings are solid and this little bend in the brook is really rather lovely.
What I'd hate to see? Everything torn down and McMansions built on the land once it's raised above flood level.


time for some more

- a TV or movie set. Rent it out to Hollywood for them to use as a setting for a movie or TV show. (Heck, Melrose Place already sounds a bit like the title of a good night time soap opera.)

- a place for billionaires to come (at high cost) to experience what it is like to be a not-rich American for a week. They get stripped of all luxury, assistants, drivers, chefs and so on as they check in. They can live off a stipend of $30 a day. The high fees for participation pay for locals to drop by, invite them to potlucks, and so on at great compensation. If they can last a week, they can "graduate".

- an outer parking lot for cars when we ban driving in town

- the location of the West Brattleboro monorail station

- allow it to flood and have a local cranberry bog or fishery

- Brattleboro's sculpture garden

- a site for a regular local flea market

- a site for a small energy plant using a series of in-stream micro generators - water moves over them and power is created.

- new offices for the state officials who want to tell us how to use the area

- a heliport

- West B "town offices"

- a mini village built on stilts

(We're up to 35 or so… 65 more ideas please!)


blue skying

- give it to the career center or shop class as a permanent hands-on learning center, to be kept up and improved by students for decades to come; the business classes can solve paying for it long-term.

- a place where I can teach or encourage other people to brainstorm and suggest ideas

(maybe I should list some bad ideas to provoke responses….)

- a workhouse/prison for bad children


The Flooded West B. Rez

It's about time that I chime in.
Did everyone forget already how flooded that space was? Or, did you even see it? I'd put money down that it will flood again within 10 years.
Oh...if we have to brainstorm, here are just a few of my ideas:

--Suboxone Clinic
--Methodone Clinic
--General Drug Rehab Clinic
--Ethics Training Center
--Small Business Development Center
--Etiquette School for the Disenfranchised
--Center for Ghetto Studies for the Enchanted (Jaded) classes
--Vt. State Corrections: West Brattleboro Branch



- A planetarium location

- A location for a Brattleboro weather station for VPR

- A themed restaurant where you reserve a room, not just a table.

- A skatepark

- West B Chicken Farm - free eggs for neighbors

- A location to study how floods impact buildings

- A butterfly sanctuary

- Location for seamstresses, tailors, sewers, knitters, and such to work together and develop a modern line of made-here items

- A center for makers in southern Vermont.

- A place for town bonfires

- Lift the buildings, build waterways beneath, create a pond-loving, water-filled community.

- new home of new Vermont Wheel Club (bikes)

- a community media center, with internet connections for iBrattleboro, radio studios in West B for WVEW, and extra studio/editing space for BCTV.

- A non-farmers market - for selling everything else

- a place for church picnics

- affordable practice rooms for guitarist, drummers, and bands.


For now...

For now…do nothing. But join an effort to include the property in a complete strategic town plan. Brattleboro has a lot of assets. They include three large schools and related buildings, the police and fire stations, the municipal building, Austine, SIT, Melrose, Hayes Court, public works property, the ski jump, the Retreat and, of all things, a ten million dollar economic aid windfall. Probably a lot more I haven't thought of. But everything is under different jurisdictions and ownerships. Consequently each new project is isolated and detached. Every improvement is good but, taken together, does not produce a strong or cohesive community. The whole is less than the sum of its parts. We're like that committee trying to design an elephant or some such thing. One improvement after another and yet unemployment runs high and unabated, household income declines, businesses come and go like the foliage, the war on drugs enters its fifth decade, civic involvement declines…and the beat goes on tho perhaps a little weaker year by year.

There are still a fair amount of assets in Brattleboro. We still have the resources to direct ourselves to the future we want. IF…we can put ourselves on hold, take stock, unleash creative capacities and devise an action plan that we can all endorse. We should save our money and resources until we feel like we are functioning better as a community than a wide array of constituencies focussed on what is best for themselves.

If the BHA cannot stand to allow a piece of its jurisdiction to lie fallow for a while it should consider allowing the community decide the solution. After the 100 best projects are proposed there should be a series of publicly accessible elimination votes. The first round reduces the projects to 50. The second round to 25. The third round to 10. The fourth round to 3. The fifth to one. The project that goes forward will be the one the community wants.


And the winner gets...

An all expenses paid vacation at Beautiful Hayes Court!

(Gratuities not included).


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