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Lebanon sells land to developer for mixed-use apartment building

  • The Braverman Company is offering the City of Lebanon $1.5 million up-front to purchase the Spencer Street property and construct a four-story building with 94 apartments, shown in a rendering. Those units would be a mix of one- and two-bedroom units, the Stowe, Vt.-based firm said in a proposal to the city. (Courtesy The Braverman Company)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/17/2020 9:41:18 PM
Modified: 9/17/2020 9:41:08 PM

LEBANON — City officials decided this week to sell Lebanon’s former public works facility on Spencer Street to a Vermont developer who plans to build a four-story mixed-use building on the downtown lot.

The deal had been delayed as city officials negotiated so that eight of the 94 apartments planned for the property would be affordable housing. The City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to accept $1.5 million for the nearly 2-acre property at 20 Spencer St., which has sat vacant since 2012.

The buyer — Stowe, Vt.-based firm The Braverman Co. — hopes to start work on a 103,400-square-foot building next summer. The structure will include 94 apartments and about 4,500 square feet of retail and commercial space, as well as 146 on-site parking spots.

Construction will coincide with city-led efforts to reconstruct Spencer Street. Those projects, which will be paid for using proceeds from the sale, include repaving, new sidewalks and upgrades to the nearby Northern Rail Trail.

“The redevelopment of Spencer Street is a real opportunity for the city to create a new gateway into the downtown, and we’re excited to be a part of that,” Ken Braverman, owner of The Braverman Co., told the City Council.

The firm’s holdings include Keen’s Crossing, a 213-unit apartment complex that includes 9,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space in Winooski, Vt.

It also has more than 200 units in three buildings in South Burlington.

Braverman said he was attracted to the Spencer Street property because of its proximity to amenities downtown. City Hall and the Lebanon Mall are just over a quarter-mile away, and the new building will abut the rail trail, a 58-mile recreational path that starts north of Concord.

The developer also has an existing option to purchase and develop a neighboring former freight house at 10 Spencer St., which is privately owned, and turn it into 4,500 square feet of commercial space that could house a beer garden, brewpub or restaurant.

“Our vision is to kind of create a project that blends both old and new and provides exceptional pedestrian connections to the downtown,” Braverman said of the combined developments.

The 20 Spencer St. parcel was first put on the market in 2012, shortly after the city’s public works operations moved into a new building on Route 4. However, it wasn’t until 2017 that Upper Valley developer Mike Davidson made a $400,000 offer in 2017.

He proposed building 100 to 200 new housing units and about 200,000 square feet of office and commercial space in three separate five-story buildings.

But city officials declined the offer, saying it was too little for such a prime property and opened a bidding process.

Concord, Mass.-based Northland Residential also offered $400,000 to build 68 apartments in two connected four-story buildings, but the firm was beaten out by Braverman in February.

Negotiations were delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to City Manager Shaun Mulholland. The city, he added, also worked to include options for workforce housing in the deal.

At least 5% of units, or about 4 apartments, are to be affordable to those making 80% of the area median income — about $74,100 for a family of four living in Grafton County. Another 5% of units will be set aside for those who earn 100% of the area median income, or $92,600.

The new building will have a mix of one- and two-bedroom units, according to the development agreement approved by the City Council.

Once complete, the building is expected to be valued at $18 million and contribute about $580,000 a year to the downtown’s tax increment finance district, which is dedicated to funding infrastructure projects in the neighborhood.

“This is an example of one of multiple steps to redevelop our downtown area,” Mulholland told the City Council, adding the development also helps to alleviate the area’s housing shortage.

The new mixed-use building will require a site plan review by the Lebanon Planning Board before construction can start.

Braverman said he hopes to obtain needed permits by next spring and start construction in the summer or early fall.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

Valley News

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