Master plan eyes ‘neighborhood’ of housing at Winston Prouty Center

By Chris Mays, Brattleboro Reformer, October 17, 2022

BRATTLEBORO — A plan is being developed to transform part of the Winston Prouty Center for Child Family Development campus into as many as 300 housing units.

“We’re pushing forward with it,” said Chloe Learey, executive director at the Winston Prouty Center. “Master planning is really that process of going through what are all the things we would want and what fits and what’s on the landscape and where are the wetlands and how much is it going to cost?”

The focus of the plan, which Learey hopes to complete in April, is on the main part of campus rather than out in the wooded areas. She said the infrastructure is already in place and would need to be upgraded to accommodate the new units.

The design is intended “to build a neighborhood essentially,” Learey said. She called the 300 units “our working number.”

The planning process is estimated to cost $200,000. Grants and donations are being sought to assist with the project.

Two secretaries — one from the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, and one from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources — recently visited the center along with the regional director of the United States Department of Agriculture and representatives from the Vermont Housing Finance Agency and the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board. Learey said the officials were able to see the site, understand her group is serious about pursuing the project and invited to help.

Learey noted how Gov. Phil Scott’s administration talks about the need for 5,000 housing units across the state and a housing assessment in Brattleboro pinned the local number at a minimum of 500 units.

“This is a big chunk out of that, if we can make it happen,” she said. “So we’re just putting one foot in front of the other, doing the master planning, figuring out what’s possible and then inviting people to help us build it, because we will need all the help we can get.”

Two firms are working on the planning process. Mark Westa at Elan Planning, Design and Landscape Architecture and Kyle Murphy at KaTO Architecture are co-leading the project.

Westa, a landscape architect, was a member of the Prouty center’s campus advisory group that looked at long-term planning. Murphy, an architect, designed Founder’s Hall at Burr & Burton Academy in Manchester and is working on housing issues in Manchester.

Learey said her group feels a sense of responsibility or “a moral imperative” to take on the project.

“We are willing property owners in this process,” she said. “And if we don’t investigate what’s possible here, that feels like we’re sort of shirking our responsibility. This is an important contribution to our community.”

Public meetings are planned as part of the master planning process.