BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center and M&S Development revealed plans for a new 55,000 square-foot building downtown Tuesday, complete with galleries, classrooms, apartments and more.
The structure is the “centerpiece” of a $30 million development project that museum Director Danny Lichtenfeld said in a news release “will transform BMAC from a ‘hidden gem’ into one of America’s most vibrant regional museums.”
The museum is currently within Brattleboro’s Union Station on Vernon Street, after being founded nearly 50 years ago to save that historic building from demolition, according to its website.
The new building, to overlook the Whetstone Brook waterfall off Main Street, would house museum facilities at street level and on the two floors underneath, and would have apartments on the top four floors. The property would also have a café; a sculpture garden on the roof; a kayak launch and a footbridge.
The building was designed by Boston firm Schwartz/Silver Architects, along with Stevens & Associates of Brattleboro, the release says.
“We love our historic home in Union Station,” Brattleboro Museum & Art Center Chief Curator Mara Williams said in Tuesday’s news release, “but it was designed to accommodate early 20th century train passengers, not 21st century art and museum-goers. Our new galleries will enable us to bring cutting-edge, immersive, interactive art exhibits to Brattleboro on a regular basis, as well as exhibits that require special technology or climate control.”
In addition, she noted, the new digs would provide “proper space” for the museum’s educational programs.
Following the expansion, the museum projects yearly attendance numbers to increase from 16,000 to about 35,000, according to Lichtenfeld.
“BMAC needs to raise $12 million in charitable gifts, and the housing ownership group led by M&S needs to secure $10-12 million in equity and financing,” Lichtenfeld said in the release, noting that the remaining money is anticipated to come from tax credits and grants.
With an aim to raise $3 million in endowment funds, the museum’s total fundraising target is $15 million, in a capital campaign already underway.
As for Union Station, the main gallery would be converted into a “long-term showcase” of works by artists Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason, according to the museum.
Lichtenfeld said the land, which has already been purchased, has two structures on it that will be taken down: An old brick building that’s been boarded up since 2004, and a one-story building that today houses a small restaurant, tattoo shop, massage practice and nail salon.
The brick building was owned by different electric utilities over the years and has been empty since 2004, Lichtenfeld said, and there’s some contamination in the soil below and adjacent to the building, which the center has received a $200,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up. He said the center plans to help the tenants in the other building, which was rebuilt after a fire in the 1970s, to relocate.
The center also plans to be mindful of the environmental aspects of taking down the buildings. “To the extent that we can salvage and re-use materials, we will,” Lichtenfeld said.
The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center is a contemporary, non-collecting art museum that was founded in 1972. M&S Development is a Brattleboro firm that opened in 2014 with the aim of spurring revitalization in economically distressed areas, according to its website.