Rockingham discusses possibilities for Bellows Falls Train Station

Rockingham discussed the upcoming vote on the acquisition of the Bellows Falls Train Station and its potential for businesses inside the premises. Photo provided

ROCKINGHAM, Vt. – On Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, the Rockingham Selectboard discussed a feasibility analysis for the Bellows Falls Train Station by Banwell Architects.

In 2020, Rockingham residents approved $12,500 for an environmental feasibility study of the Train Station. The town’s commitment leveraged matching funds from Windham Regional Commission.

Last year, during the public process for the Rockingham Area Wide Plan, many residents supported the addition of a brewpub on the island and acknowledged that the train station was one of the town’s assets.

Architectural Designer Matt Giffin presented the preliminary floor plan design for the brewpub. Banwell Architects had designed Outer Limits Brewery in Proctorsville, a 7 – 10 barrel facility, and Giffin said that the Train Station could accommodate a 3 – 5 barrel brewery. The plan included renovation of the building, the addition of a kitchen, restaurant, and barrel room, and decreasing the size of the waiting room and bathrooms.

Rick Cowan said that historical memorabilia would be part of the purchase. Giffin said they had found many historic items, including photos and travel logs.

Chair Peter Golec asked about the condition of the building. Giffin said the roof had been recently replaced and that it had “good bones,” but that repair was needed for masonry, exterior brickwork, and the basement. Giffin said the plan included replacing the windows, insulation, electrical, and plumbing, but that his goal was to maintain the historic character as much as possible.

Bonnie North asked if the brewpub was a locked-in project. Municipal Manager Scott Pickup said it “was a viable option… [but] not the only option.” He explained that the goal was for it to be more than just a waiting room.

Giffin explained, “Whether or not it’s a brewery… the idea is [that the building only needs to] function as a train station about 20%. The other 80% can be leased.”

Resident Ellen Howard asked about parking. Pickup said that through the Area Wide Plan they had identified additional parking expansion and were having ongoing conversations with Vermont Rail. He explained, “These are 3 – 5 year projects… we have the time to give you a more comprehensive plan on parking and impacted concerns.”

Charlie Hunter said, “It’s important to realize just how dynamic the future of passenger rail is in this region.” He acknowledged that the train station was a welcoming gateway to downtown. Hunter wondered about trying to predict a future tenant, but was glad to see the feasibility study. Hunter said, “Spending such a small amount of money, the $75,000, opens up this pot of money and preserves an iconic building in town.”

Pickup said Banwell’s charge was to provide an option for the Train Station as a contributing factor for the vitality of the Island District. North agreed this could draw people to town and wanted residents to know that this was an option and the kind of potential possible for the station.

Development Director Gary Fox will be available at the Town Information Meeting on Monday, Feb. 28 and at the polls at the Masonic Temple on March 1 with displays and information. Article 9 will be voted on by Australian Ballot: Shall the voters of the Town of Rockingham raise and appropriate $75,000 for the purchase of the Bellows Falls Train Station for the purposes of future preservation by utilizing existing grant funding opportunities.

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