N.E. Woodcraft buys NEXUS property

BRANDON — New England Woodcraft has bought the former Neo EMS (Nexus) building on Mount Pleasant in Brandon.

Jeff Thurston of New England Woodcraft confirmed the sale on July 19. According to the new deed and property transfer papers filed with the Brandon town clerk, the Forest Dale-based company bought the 33,000-square-foot building at the corner of Prospect and Cedar streets for $340,000. The 2008-2009 assessed value of the property, which includes 5.7 acres of land, was $863,000.

Brandon Town Clerk Bill Dick said the previous owner, the Crivello Group of Milwaukee, owed the town $37,250 in back property taxes, $8,250 in water fees and $5,700 in sewer fees for a total of roughly $51,200. Those debts have now been paid with the sale of the property.

New England Woodcraft, owned and operated by the Thurston family for the last 43 years, produces institutional furniture on contract for military bases and colleges. The company recently moved into retail, and Thurston said the expansion into the Nexus building is necessary in order to make the retail end of the business work.

“It’s time to move forward with the retail stuff or stop doing it,” he said. “We’ll continue to do all the milling at the (Forest Dale) plant, and do assembly and finishing of the retail furniture in the new space.”

The sale of the vacant building was aided by a change to Brandon’s zoning ordinance in February that allowed a nonconforming use that had been discontinued to be resumed within four years of the date of the discontinuance, with conditional use approval from the development review board.

The Neo EMS and Nexus electronics companies were both nonconforming, industrial/commercial businesses operating in a residential area.

The property was last used for a nonconforming use in the Neighborhood Residential District and the nonconforming use was discontinued in November 2008 after Neo EMS Electronics closed its doors in August 2008, laying off 47 employees. The company had been in Brandon for more than 40 years.

In February, the Brandon selectboard approved a change to Section 501(d)(ii) of the Brandon Land Use Ordinance. The Brandon Planning Commission had recommended the change to encourage economic development by making it easier for prospective tenants to occupy empty commercial and industrial buildings in town that had previous nonconforming uses, like the Nexus building.

“We had a lot of conversations early on about re-uses for the building, and we went through the zoning revision expressly for that purpose,” Town Manager Keith Arlund said of the sale. The Brandon DRB granted New England Woodcraft a conditional use for the property in April, but it was not known then whether the company would lease or buy the building.

Workers were cutting the two-foot high grass on the property on a recent weekend, and Thurston said crews were “tearing down walls.” There is also the sprinkler system to bring up to code. Thurston said he expects between six and nine workers to be in the building assembling furniture by mid-August, and more employees could be added “if things go well.”

The company will only be using the back of the large building, and Thurston also said anyone in need of office space should give him a call.

“There’s a whole bunch of office space up there that we won’t be using,” he said.

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