Winston Prouty Center campus celebrates full occupancy

By Chris Mays, Brattleboro Reformer, published November 28, 2022

BRATTLEBORO — Since taking over the former Austine School for the Deaf campus about six years ago, the Winston Prouty Center for Child and Family Development has diligently sought to fill all the vacant spaces with like-minded groups and people.

As of Monday, the campus had commitments to lease every single office space on the property.

“Understanding things can always shift and change, we are celebrating this moment and the strong team effort it’s taken to get us here,” Lisa Whitney, director of campus operations at the Prouty Center, wrote in an email to campus community members. “We started with some strong and committed foundation tenants upon our purchase of the campus in January of 2016 (and lots and lots of furniture to be moved and spaces to create!) and slowly and steadily kept having the right people find us to build this amazing community.

“We’ve grown on referrals from you and our community partners … by being creative and patient … [and] by having the autonomy of the Chloe Learey school of ‘I don’t know — let’s try it!’ leadership modeling and a trusting and supportive Prouty board.”

Learey is the executive director of the Winston Prouty Center. The center’s campus now houses 45 organizations, individuals or businesses.

Each day, about 225 adults come to the campus to work and more than 100 children receive educational programing services. The campus also hosts many community events, trainings and recreational activities.

In the email, Whitney said the center is “very grateful for your partnership in this great adventure and look forward to whatever the universe has in store for us next.”

The Winston Prouty center’s values are inclusion, learning, collaboration and persistence. Those values, Whitney told the Reformer, “have been our guideposts over the past six years and as we’ve found tenants willing to join us on this adventure.”

“We’ve worked to honor them by creating a diverse and inclusive community with a wide variety of businesses,” she said. “Our learning curve has been steep and fast moving. We’ve learned so much about this place and it’s just never ending.”

Whitney noted the luck her group has experienced with having individuals and businesses come a long at just the right time in many instances.

It has taken some time to get spaces ready to be leased. When the center initially purchased the campus, Whitney said, “large spaces in every single building were full of furniture, office supplies, books, dorm furnishings and beds and outdated equipment.”

“We’ve moved so much stuff and every space has needed updates,” she said. “We’ve done the vast majority of those renovations with our in-house team, when possible, and in an effort to save on costs. I think we are a little non-traditional in that way and tenants have been really patient and our full Prouty team has been essential to making this come together.”

The last of the center’s planned renovations occurred last month. Whitney said that “it feels good to be done with that work.”

“Our focus now is on caring for the campus spaces and making them more efficient and sustainable,” she said. “If we weren’t facing some deferred maintenance issues and large repairs like $30,000 rooftop HVAC units and $25,000 elevator motors, campus leases would basically cover the costs of running the campus.”

Her group is working closely with Kaplan HVAC Solutions and Efficiency Vermont on identifying projects to reduce fossil fuel use and energy consumption. The center recently received about $8,000 in grant funding through the Vermont Building Communities program. Whitney called such support “essential to our work in covering these expected capital improvements and unexpected emergency repairs.”

Thomas Hall tenants include the Winston Prouty Center, DOSA KitchenWVEW 107.7 FM, Secrest & Darrow, Austine Museum, Codestar Cyber Security, Awesome Animal AcademyEasterseals Vermont, writer Michael Antonucci, Deaf Vermont Advocacy ServicesVermont Medical Center & Primary CarePathways Vermont, and Frank Song Jr. Croker Hall tenants include, The Inspire SchoolBrattleboro Winter Farm MarketThe Garland SchoolThe Stone TrustShapeshiftersAdaptiva HR, Karen Blumberg, Liz Rodgers, Vermont Wilderness SchoolBonnyvale Environmental Education Center, and Village Community Closet. Holton Hall tenants include High 5 Adventure LearningBrattleboro Hearing Center, Lisa Kelly, Maggie Foley Consulting. Tamara Evanson, Twisted Roots Consulting LLC, landscape architect Monroe Whitaker, RR Sweetapple Redevelopment Consulting, Building A Positive CommunityHealth Care & Rehabilitation Services, massage therapist Kathryn Einig, Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, attorney Edmund A. Burke, Out in the OpenUniversity of Vermont ExtensionNew England Youth Theater costuming, Vermont Suitcase Company, Hammond & Heniz, and Families First. Ethiopian Community Development Council or ECDC is in the Wheeler House at 300 Maple St.