BARRE — Easterseals Vermont’s hunt for new headquarters officially ended on Tuesday when the nonprofit agreed to lease 3,500 square feet of vacant space in the historic Blanchard Block.
Mark Nicholson, one of the owners of the Blanchard Block, and Mark Johnson, senior vice president of Easterseals Vermont, separately confirmed a lease arrangement that was finalized during a Tuesday morning meeting.
“It’s done,” Nicholson said, confirming rumors Easterseals Vermont will move from the old farmhouse it has occupied on Comstock Road in Berlin for the past 25 years into the southern half of the Blanchard Block’s vacant third floor.
That space, Nicholson said, has been harder than expected to fill since he and his partners in Granite City Developers LLC purchased the building in 2012 and completed a multi-million-dollar basement-to-attic renovation and restoration project.
The now spoken-for half of the third floor that overlooks City Hall Park has an ornate fireplace and a door that opens into the lobby of the Barre Opera House in neighboring City Hall.
“We always thought this would be one of the first spaces to go,” said Nicholson, who managed to fill most of the 44,000-square-foot building before finally landing a third-floor tenant.
It was the right time, right space, according to Johnson, who said Easterseals Vermont outgrew its Berlin headquarters when nine employees who had been co-located at the state Department for Children and Families (DCF) had to be absorbed.
“We needed a larger space,” he said of a statewide organization that has 110 employees.
Only 18 of those employees are now based in Berlin, but trainings and conferences routinely attract more people and have required renting off-site space.
Moving to the Blanchard Block will enable the organization to comfortably bring its central Vermont staff under one roof with the flexibility to host more people on an as-needed basis.
“It will be a much-improved situation,” Johnson said.
The move is expected to start in June and be complete by July 1.
Johnson said it will be a return to Barre for an organization that was founded in 1985 and was located at 82 South Main St. before moving to Berlin in the mid-1990s.
Among other things, Easterseals Vermont has contracts with DCF, supplying family engagement specialists who partner with the department’s staff at 11 of its 12 offices, including the one in Barre.
The new lease with Easterseals Vermont leaves Nicholson and his partners with roughly 5,000 square feet of available space in the massive century-old building that was once the decades-long home of Lash Furniture Store. Most of that space — roughly 3,500 square feet — is the other half of the third floor.
Easterseals Vermont will join a mix of tenants that range from Emslie the Florist and Imagine Yoga in the basement, to Ellie & Shirl’s Simply Delicious and Posh Salon & Spa on the ground floor.
Second-floor tenants include Barre Area Development Corp., Ameriprise, Qualdigm, Eternity Web and Vermont Stone Arts.
New England Oral Surgery occupies half of the fourth floor and the other half houses Granite City Primary Care, a clinic run by Central Vermont Medical Center.
The “penthouse” suites in the building’s attic are mostly spoken for and house a range of smaller operations including a financial advisor, a mortgage company, a lawyer and a local nonprofit.
Most of those tenants have been in place for about five years, while the third floor has remained wide open and for lease.
Half of it isn’t anymore, and Nicholson is happy about that.
“It’s great space,” he said. “It’s going to be good to have someone in it.”
Though Easterseals Vermont’s looming move from Berlin to the Blanchard Block won’t generate new jobs in central Vermont, Nicholson said they will be new to downtown Barre.
“That’s a plus,” he said.