Law School Buys Former Freck’s Store

Front Page / Feb. 4, 2010 11:10am EST

By Stuart Levasseur

Vermont Law School has purchased another South Royalton property, the former Freck’s Department Store.

VLS has plans to renovate the historic structure in line with LEED certification for efficiency, according to Jenn Hayslett, Assistant to the Vice President for Advancement at VLS. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), developed by the U.S. Green Building Council is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance of energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

The extent of the renovation to the former Freck’s building will depend somewhat on the amount of funding that can be raised, but the plans right now are to adhere to the LEED certification guidelines, resulting in a very high quality restoration. The fundraising campaign has a target of $3 million, the corner building on the VLS campus being recognized as an important structure and a key location to tie the campus into the community.

The building on the corner of Chelsea and Windsor streets will remain unaltered from the outside, as the placement on the historic register ensures that the look of the building will remain as is, right down to the tin siding on the building. The interior will be changed to accommodate the needs of the occupants. The project, being referred to as 190 Chelsea Street, will include efficiency upgrades, adding an elevator, a sprinkler system, and will need to comply with ADA handicapped access, along with modernization of the office spaces.

The primary occupant will be the South Royalton Legal Clinic. The clinic is currently housed in the small Pierce house, a mustard colored building only three doors down and across the street from the Freck building. The clinic needs more room, and with this project, will gain 40% more space. The most obvious need for the clinic is for adequate conference rooms, as the current quarters do not provide confidential meeting space for attorneys and clients.

The new quarters will allow the clinic to expand from four to six attorneys at some point in the future, and increase their caseload from 100 to approximately 150 clients. While the school does not plan on increasing class size, the number of entering students has increased slightly. The current class is at 233 students, with 683 students school-wide.

The South Royalton Legal Clinic is the only law office in Vermont that provides free representation across the spectrum of family and juvenile cases, according to the VLS alumni magazine. The Clinic’s cases are all civil, no criminal cases.

Other occupants to the building are to include office space for the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law, and Barristers Bookstore, ensuring the glass storefront will remain in use as retail space. The bookstore is currently next door in a building which, when the dust settles, will house the VLS Career Services department.

The Pierce House’s fate has not been decided, but the most likely plans are to use it as swing space for future campus-wide renovations. There will be a need to move offices around during major and minor renovations of offices in other buildings.

The Freck building currently has eight apartments, which are occupied primarily by VLS students. The effect on the local housing market is not considered to be significant, as there are numerous other housing options within walking distance.

When the architect completes plans for 190 Chelsea Street, the plans will be on display in the storefront windows, sometime in late February. Renovations are expected to begin in May 2011 and be completed by June 2012.

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