Interesting OP-ED

Martin Langeveld had a very interesting OP ED in the Reformer on Thursday March 28, 2013.

He started by taking BABB and the Reformer to task:

The board of Building a Better Brattleboro is proceeding with a request-for-proposals process for the River Garden without holding meetings for public input. “It’s time for Brattleboro to cut its losses and move on,” writes the Reformer editorial board with respect to the River Garden, urging the town to “figure out a way to add the River Garden back to its grand list and move on.”

The attitude at BaBB as well as at the Reformer seems to be that there will be no new ideas, so public meetings would just be a waste of time. This is unfortunate and short-sighted. The building is a public building. It has been open to the public daily for years and it hosts public events regularly. It is one of Brattleboro’s public spaces, and the public deserves to be consulted before it is turned over to the highest bidder.

He then goes on to suggest:

Rather than a new idea, I would like to suggest a process for getting back to an old idea, the original one for the River Garden. Here it is: What if the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC) took over responsibility for the space, and turned it into a retail incubator — a place to nurture startups that sell food, merchandise and services to the public?

He envisions:

— Startup food vendors. Think of them as indoor food trucks. Perhaps with a central, shared kitchen area.
— Startup retail vendors. Think of them as pop-up stores, something in between sidewalk peddlers and a full-fledged retail store.
— Some space left as a food court/gathering space, serving also as performance incubator space for startup performers: musicians, poets, actors etc.
— A modular design that allows easy swapping and and out of tenants
— A flexible leasing approach: month-to-month or quarter-to-quarter rather than annual.
— A built-in marketing plan (perhaps also handled by a startup marketing entity)

In the incubator mindset, I’d like to add that suitable wall space should be reserved for Brattleboro’s numerous artists to display their talents on a rotating basis at little or no cost…And that weekly concerts be given by Brattleboro’s numerous musicians, also at little or no cost.

What else can y’all think of?


Comments | 5

  • Good ideas

    … but BDCC and the Chamber weren’t in a position to do this.

    Last summer/fall, as one of the many things BaBB did to try to solve this, we discussed pulling the Chamber, BaBB, and BDCC all into the same location, and maybe even squeezing in the Arts Council. All three organizations could share resources, be downtown, and benefit from the synergy of being in a single location.

    I wanted to call it the B-Hive. It was an idea loosely based on BerkshireOne. It would be a hive of activity focused on business, marketing, arts, and Brattleboro, and could help with incubating businesses.

    BaBB has discussions with both, and the idea was generally liked, but neither organization was ready to do anything. It would also take some money to adapt the building and make space for everyone. (One idea was to build up in the back and add some upper floor space.


    Another idea was to find a monthly sponsor for the space, and granting window space to that sponsor. We thought space at the super busy intersection would be appealing, but were unable to get a year of sponsors together.

    Another idea was to make some sort of deal with the Winter Farmers’ Market, but as I recall, we were told they were already outgrowing the space and looking at other options.

    This is all in addition to the other things BaBB has tried over the years – event rental, storage space rental, food vendors.

    Food was hard because it all had to be prepared off-site (no fans, power, plumbing in place for a real kitchen).

    It’s a tough space.

    I was surprised no town reps tried to buy it at Town Meeting and turn it into a downtown covered park.

    • Good Ideas

      These ARE good. The space is too valuable to be turned into a pawn shop or something else ugly.
      I am particularly fond of the food aspect. Every week at the Farmers Market, several vendors bring in exotic ethnic cuisine you just can’t get anyplace else around here. Mmmm!

      Re the FM: I’ve heard they want a bigger space? Is there such a place downtown? How about running it two times a week with different vendors? Maybe one time for farm products and one time for artisans?

      • I love the idea of having a

        I love the idea of having a variety of food vendors there. I know several people in town who have smaller scale food business (myself included) who would love to have a “home” for their business without having to go into debt to renovate and rent a full retail space. Yes, it would mean that a kitchen and some food storage space would have to be put in the River Garden but it seems like an idea that should perhaps be given some serious consideration again. I owned and operated a full service catering company in Boston for over 2 decades and I operated from a large commercial kitchen incubator along with 20 other diverse food businesses. Obviously the size of the River garden would not allow for that scope but something that would accommodate 6 or 8 creative food businesses would, I believe, be a welcome addition to down town Brattleboro. It would be shameful to let this wonderful space just disappear from the community or be bought up by some private corporation.

        • Check with BDCC

          BDCC had some sharable kitchen space at the Cotton Mill not too long ago. Not sure of the status right now, but might be worth exploring with them.

          More to think about: One of the issues we debated in BaBB was, if part of the River Garden would be used for a new purpose and part of the room remains open to the public for bigger events, how does the space get divided up?

          Should the back be left open? The front? A corridor down the middle? How much should be open public space and how much could be used for retail or offices?

          • Thanks, Chris. I had actually

            Thanks, Chris. I had actually checked out the kitchen space at Cotton Mill and it’s not feasible for a number of reasons. To follow through on Martin’s ideas -I’m wondering if Brattleboro wouldn’t be more able to support having food vendors in the River Garden now as opposed to when it first opened. There are many more small food businesses in town now than in past years. Just look at all the great food trucks that appear in the Spring and summer. Maybe those folks would like to have a year round business as opposed to a weather dependent one. And there are many other food businesses – pie makers, bakers, burrito makers -who would be open to at least having a discussion about the River Garden. I’m thinking that just because something didn’t work 8 years ago(or whenever the River garden opened) doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not worth a second consideration.

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