BRATTLEBORO – Entergy is selling its Brattleboro properties, including a former office complex and training center that had supported the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.
On one hand, it’s yet another sign of the end of the Vermont Yankee era. The structures were vacated this past spring, more than a year after the Vernon plant ceased producing power.
On the other hand, local officials view the sale as a chance to spur economic development. In all, more than 66,000 square feet of industrial building space is available on roughly 8 acres not far from Exit 3 of Interstate 91.
“Everyone involved is well aware of the potential for these buildings,” said Adam Grinold, executive director of Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. “We see it as a great opportunity and can’t wait to work with the new owner.”
Vermont Yankee shut down Dec. 29, 2014. While decommissioning is expected to take up to 60 years, big changes already have occurred.
Incremental staffing cuts have decreased Entergy’s local workforce from 625 in the summer of 2013 to just 136 in May of this year, when the latest layoffs happened.
Also, the plant’s regional footprint has shrunk dramatically with the federally approved elimination of a 10-mile emergency planning zone and other, internal emergency operations cutbacks.
Those changes have eliminated the need for Entergy’s Brattleboro properties, which are now being marketed through Burlington-based V/T Commercial Real Estate.
Entergy is offering the properties as a package deal, but there are three parcels: two on Old Ferry Road and one adjacent site on Glen Orne Drive. The land includes two buildings and a paved parking lot for 75 cars.
The office fronting on Old Ferry Road is a two-story building totaling 20,669 square feet. The structure on Glen Orne Drive is much larger, offering 45,904 square feet including 13,072 square feet of warehouse space.
In addition to Entergy’s offices, the complex formerly housed Vermont Yankee’s Joint Information Center, which was set up to distribute public information in case of an incident at the plant. Additionally, an elaborately outfitted training center had been located on site.
In preparing the property for sale, Entergy unloaded a large amount of office furniture, some of which went to area nonprofits and governmental organizations. One of the biggest modifications was getting rid of the training center’s simulator, which was sold to Xcel Energy Inc., a Minneapolis-based utility.
“The way we had configured it, (the simulator) was a replica of our control room,” Vermont Yankee spokesman Marty Cohn said. “Someone else could take the basic components and simulate other things.”
At this point, Cohn added, “it’s really a property that someone can move right into.”
The properties have been assessed by Brattleboro at a combined $4.5 million, but there is no asking price listed in V/T Commercial’s sales documents. Rather, the company is seeking offers by Oct. 28, with two property tours scheduled for Oct. 5 and Oct. 12.
“We did not put a price on it,” Cohn said. “We’ll see what the market will offer.”
As chairwoman of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel, Kate O’Connor is well-versed in Vermont Yankee shutdown issues. From the perspective of her day job as Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce executive director, she’s hoping someone will capitalize on Entergy’s now-vacant properties.
“I hope that businesses looking to start up, relocate or expand will look at that unique space and see opportunity,” O’Connor said.
Grinold said Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. has been talking to Entergy about the company’s Brattleboro properties since early last year.
“It was on our radar right away. These conversations were just about trying to gain an understanding of their plans,” Grinold said. “They’ve been very open and collaborative in discussing their process. They’ve also been very receptive to our input.”
While not commenting on whether he’s heard of any interest in the properties, Grinold said he’s hoping the site can host “higher-paying jobs” rather than simply serving as warehouse space. He said BDCC stands ready to assist whoever might consider such a project.
While southern Vermont’s economic issues have been well-documented, Grinold believes the Windham region can be attractive for businesses, especially when the population numbers and other resources of the tri-state region are factored in.
“We have the population, the workforce and the existing businesses,” Grinold said. “We really can compete with Chittenden County in our ability to deliver a workforce and be a primary location for business relocation.”