In Press

Thorne Building Committee Sets Public Meeting Oct. 10 in Millbrook

[Reprinted from]

Northern Dutchess News & Creative Living

Volume 9, Issue 40
October 4-10, 2017

by Mary Keelan

At its first public meeting scheduled for the Millbrook Firehouse on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m., the recently formed Thorne Building Committee will convene and is determined to succeed where others have stumbled in revitalizing the historic Thorne Building in the Village of Millbrook.

The committee is chaired by Charles E. Pierce, Jr. and funded with a $100,000 planning grant through the Tribute Garden Foundation. Carole Martin, the Maine consultant who will guide the process in engaging the community, is planning an open meeting with all participating. In order to hear the views of as many voices as possible, she will facilitate a breakout into smaller groups, each led by one of the 12 members of the Building Committee who represent different sectors of the community.

When talking informally about the project, committee members emphasized that they are “committed to an open process,” which will guide them in eliciting “suggestions, views and hopes” from residents in diverse settings. Martin’s consulting theme is “Moving big ideas to action. Making complicated theories useful.”

Envisioning the dilapidated Thorne Building as a thriving community and cultural center when many in the Village of Millbrook or Town of Washington have never been inside nor experienced it as a vibrant venue, will likely be “a big idea” and very complicated.

To remedy one aspect of this and explain the project to the community, guided tours of the first floor of the Thorne Building were a highlight of the recent Millbrook Community Day. Two tables with brochures, posters, balloons, and signup sheets were strategically positioned on Franklin Avenue, gaining many signatures expressing interest.

According to Grace Rosa of the committee, almost 100 white balloons with a black and white photo of the Thorne Memorial Building printed on them were snatched up as souvenirs and/or used by Sam Falk, representing the Friends of Millbrook Library, to guide pedestrians from one Thorne table on lower Franklin to the other on upper Franklin in front of the Thorne Building.

At a Millbrook Library Event on Sept. 30, co-sponsored by the Friends of Millbrook Library with the Thorne Building Committee, local historian David Greenwood enlightened the attendees on Thorne Building history. Greenwood and others loaned photos and memorabilia to the library for an exhibit which continues. Accompanying Greenwood were John Gifford and Florence Prisco, graduates of the Thorne Building when it was a high school.

One of the complications is on its way to a solution, but with no guarantee that it can be effectively resolved. At the Village of Millbrook meeting on Tuesday, September 26, Mayor Rodney Brown announced that the Village was contracting with R. Peters (Pete) Hubbell & Company, Inc. to appraise the Thorne Building for potential sale of the structure. Mayor Brown is requesting a “market analysis based appraisal,” which Hubbell estimates will cost approximately $2,250. Brown said that “it will probably be a negative value,” adding that “there is a lot of emotion attached to this.”

The decision to sell is dependent on the Mayor and Trustees, representing the opinion of the Village residents. In the meantime, the newly incorporated 501C3 not for profit organization, The Thorne Building Community and Cultural Center, is positioned to accept a transfer of property ownership from the Village if an acceptable agreement is reached.

The sale of the Thorne Building, which was a gift to the Village in 1896 from the Thorne family, is hindered by deed codicils and the dilemma of the cost of ownership. In the word of Rona Boyer, president of the Millbrook Business Association and a committee member, the deed restrictions specific to the Thorne family connection, known as the “reverter clause,” will be resolved by Oakleigh Thorne, who is spearheading the entire project.

It is anticipated that any surviving members of the relevant affected branch of the Thorne family will be positive in relinquishing claims or conditions when they learn of the cost of repairing and refurbishing the building.

According to John C. Waite Associates, an Albany based architectural company contracted by the current Thorne Building Committee, the cost of repairing and renovating the Thorne Building, as well as bringing it up to code and adapting for proposed uses, is estimated at $9.5 million.

In 2003, Waite Associates rendered an estimate of $5,255,500, according to an analogous report which is currently posted on the Village of Millbrook website. Previous to the 2003 feasibility estimates (in 1996), Waite Associates also rendered a report for the Millbrook Central School District which at the time was considering use of the Thorne Memorial Building for classrooms and administrative offices. That effort did not advance.