Brattleboro Retreat to lease closed retirement home to host traveling workers

The Holton Home, incorporated as the Brattleboro Home for the Aged and Infirm in 1892, will serve as temporary housing for traveling health workers. Photo by Kevin O’Connor/VTDigger

BRATTLEBORO – Brattleboro Retreat, the state’s largest psychiatric hospital, will lease the recently closed Holton Home, an assisted living facility, to serve as temporary housing for visiting doctors and nurses.

The beautiful Greek Revival stone building on Western Avenue, seen by drivers heading downtown from Interstate 91, has been a public face in the local community since it opened as the Brattleboro Home for the Aged and Infirm in the 1890s.

But recent cost challenges and staff shortages forced its owner, Garden Path Elder Living, to close the 35-room retirement home this past spring.

Enter M&S Development, a local firm best known for renovating Brattleboro’s Brooks House and Bennington’s Putnam Block. Signing a 10-year lease to manage the building, Retreat will rent it out to mobile workers who need housing for at least three months.

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“Our aim is to support Retreat as it increases staffing levels while helping Garden Path rebuild its revenue to pre-pandemic levels,” M&S President Bob Stevens said in a joint statement. “Because Holton Home will cater mainly to mobile health professionals, I hope this will help the community by freeing up local housing for long-term rental.”

All parties are hailing this program as a win.

“This project allows us to get back on track financially,” said Garden Path Executive Director Bob Crego, whose nonprofit also operates the Bradley House residential care facility.

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The Retreat, meanwhile, has struggled to hire enough staff as it tries to return to its pre-pandemic occupancy level of 100 patients by June 2023.

“There is nothing more painful than hiring new employees, only to have the housing barrier prevent them from accepting the job,” said Retreat Vice President Erik Rosenbauer. “I see this project as a way for the Retreat to return to full recovery and fully meet the needs of our community and the entire state of Vermont.”

A recent city study found an urgent need for at least 500 more local homes, prompting another nonprofit, the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust, to hope to convert the building into apartments.

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“It is disappointing that the Housing Trust and Garden Path could not reach an agreement on Holton Home,” said the trust’s executive director, Elizabeth Bridgewater. “But despite that, this project contributes to building public housing, and that is a positive result.”

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