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County chamber, United Way to change addresses

MIDDLEBURY — Three prominent nonprofits will soon be vacating the Painter House so the building’s owner, Middlebury College, can reclaim the historic Court Street building for use as administrative offices.
It was more than 200 years ago that Gamaliel Painter, one of Middlebury’s most prominent early settlers and principal founder of the college, commissioned the house that bears his name. Middlebury College has owned the stately home for many years, and has been renting a large portion of its space to the United Way of Addison County (UWAC), the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and the Addison County Chamber of Commerce.
But Middlebury College now finds itself needing the space in the Painter House, as well as some of its other in-town buildings, to host administrative workers that are being displaced by the need to create more on-campus housing. The college recently announced plans to boost its enrollment by 50 students, to around 2,400. Plans call for Meeker and Mumford halls on campus to be converted into student housing. That has meant finding new quarters for student affairs, student financial services and other administrative functions that are now being performed in Meeker and Mumford.
“There are some dominoes,” Middlebury College Director of Business Services Tom Corbin said on Tuesday in describing the need of the institution to reorganize personnel and properties to meet the new enrollment target.
Key players in the reshuffling will be the Painter House, the former Addison County Courthouse and the former Addison House elderly care home on College Street. The three properties, all owned by the college, will be enlisted to host various administrative offices. The Addison House, which the college purchased this past winter, is being readied to host the institution’s public affairs office, currently located in the old courthouse.
Swept up in the shuffle are UWAC and the county chamber. The college asked both organizations early this spring if they could quickly find new homes. While UWAC and the chamber each had leases that ran into early next year, both groups agreed to move out of the Painter House as soon as possible. Both will be moving to separate headquarters further south on Court Street.
The chamber in a few weeks will move into around 1,200 square feet of new space in a building at 93 Court St., owned by Daenen and Peter Norris.
“We’re really excited,” said chamber Executive Director Andy Mayer. “I think we will have better exposure.”
While the chamber has had ample space in the Painter House, the building can be a challenge for visitors to identify as they veer around Court Square.
Mayer said 93 Court St. will feature good parking and an immediately recognizable sign to flag visitors’ attention. The only disadvantage, Mayer said, is that the new spot will not be as convenient to downtown walkers as the Painter House, in which the chamber has been situated for the past 22 years.
Since the chamber had been paying near-market rental rates, the transition to 93 Court St. will not present a heftier operating expense to the organization, according to Mayer.
He said the college has been a good landlord.
“They have maintained the grounds beautifully,” Mayer said. “It’s been plenty fair.”
The chamber move will officially take effect on June 2, Mayer said.
Meanwhile, the United Way and RSVP are also preparing to move — into a former law office building the United Way plans to acquire at 48 Court St.
“We are in the middle of negotiations to purchase the property,” UWAC Co-Executive Director Kate McGowan said on Monday. “We’re looking at (the new building) as an investment in ourselves.”
It was 15 years ago that UWAC moved into a portion of the upper floor of the Painter House. Around a year ago, the organization — which had recently been joined by RSVP — moved into the basement.
McGowan acknowledged the college had given UWAC a very reasonable rent. Housing costs will now increase appreciably as the organization assumes a mortgage, but McGowan stressed that those expenses will not be taken from any of the charitable funds UWAC raises during its annual campaign. The organization is working with a bank on a loan, and had already set up a separate account for its accommodations.
McGowan said UWAC and RSVP should be settled in the new space by June 15.
“We have been lucky for the past 15 years to have been supported by the college,” McGowan said. “They are doing everything they can to make (the move) easier on us.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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