Visions for Vacancies: What to Do With Amerbelle?

What is the best use for the property?

Vernon Patch loves your input. So, in a column called Visions for Vacancies, we present a vacant building and ask you to tell us what you think would be the best use for it.

Yes, we have zoning regulations, but put all of that aside for now and concentrate on what you would like to see there of what would be the best use for the community.

Today, we are featuring one of the most prominent buildings in Downtown Rockville - the Amerbelle mill complex.

A non-profit holding company technically owns it, but the town has taken responsibility to winterize it - after municipal officials have deemed portions of the complex unsafe - while they ponder what's best for its future.

There is a movement to dismantle the complex, but there is also one to preserve it because it dates back to just after the Civil War.

Some of the yeas so far:

• A retail / residential development.

• A skate park.

• A magnet school.

• An indoor skiing and snowboarding park (OK, this is the arguably the mad musings of the Vernon editor who writes a snow sports column). 

But let's start a conversation on the potential of the complex. Let us now what you think in the comments.

The companyt is shutting down.

Elle Fagan September 27, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Yes. Good Abigail! The owners of the small mill next to Amerbelle have done State Contracts for 30+ years, easier to things done. I have owned my own building permits, and am pro arts, with one at the White House in 2007; member of AWS and VCAC ; active at startup at VCAC's precursor , Gallery 46 and did the faux back window that permits the area to be used as lovely outdoor salon. At start of the Rockville Renaissance, I was invited from past achievements , to create and actualize art shows and displays in the Citizens Block windows and Artist of the Month with Crystal. I did artshows with USArmy Ft. Knox during VietNam in-between RedCross Work at the Hospital. USACE/BlackDiamonds widow. I agree with your devotion to Area Arts. We should have lunch. The money and organization for a CAREFUL and quiet and lovely job of it at the Falls, are already under way. Not free to say much more here. I am Elle , not Ellen, except in a few legal forms long ago. Google me and feel welcome to enjoy the things at the site I created while I was disabled here for some time with injury. I am so grateful for the help I received here, in getting good buy/sell going again and very happy. I am quite likely to rise up in protective passion at any idea of trashing , rather than paring down and repurposing. :-D It will be as lovely as Central Park when it is done. You will be needed if you like.
Rae Barter September 30, 2012 at 01:07 PM
I would love to see something go in that would make Rockville more vibrant and would be a destination in itself (i don't mean a tourist attraction, but something for residents in the greater area hartford/eastern CT residents to enjoy). Something like the Montague Book Mill in Montague, MA http://www.montaguebookmill.com? Or a brewery with pub/food overlooking the falls? I feel like Vernon already has too many apartments and its unrealistic for retail/art to thrive unless the rest of the town is more vibrant.
The Truth October 01, 2012 at 04:42 PM
I vote for Brewery that's a great idea.
Danno October 02, 2012 at 06:05 PM
I think we should encourage an opportunity for Higher Education to utilize the space. Refurbish the existing buildings to house a School of Architecture, Engineering, and Green Technology. The staff and students for this school would provide a reason for developers to build the vision of Rockville Downtown Association. Maybe Vernon could approach the state schools and ask Engineering department heads to work with their students to develop a comprehensive plan. The school of Architecture could later assist and utilize the students to expand upon future development of the area. It would be interesting if the town would host a Design Competition for the site. The competition would require architectural models, detailed drawings, and a comprehensive report. Invite guest judges with expertise in this area and choose a winner. The town could then pursue implementing the plan. Hmmmmm.....maybe the PATCH could sponsor this competition???
meowkats4 October 02, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Good to see Ideas flowing here! Visions need to be implemented and we need to form a meeting and get started! All ideas should be welcomed and those that know where and how we can get help! Hope this site keeps flowing with more Vernon Citizens getting involved with ideas!!
Nancy Krupienski October 02, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Love the brewery/pub idea overlooking the falls and Danno also has a great vision!
Danno October 03, 2012 at 01:12 PM
I would love to know when the meetings are and how I can participate. Would this be a separate committee, RDA, Historic Commission.....etc? I am sure all will have some form of involvement. Name the place, essential contacts, and I will be there.
Chris Dehnel (Editor) October 03, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Danno, this is what we know about the building's future so far: http://patch.com/A-xS63
Danno October 03, 2012 at 02:15 PM
To elaborate on the idea further, the design challenge would entail utilization of the existing buildings, accentuation and refurbishment of original/key architectural features, and a hint of modern architecture to spice up some of the less desirable features. With this said, its important to embrace the historic buildings, not tear them down. Its important to the community to embrace the falls as they have already shown tremendous effort. However, I don't think they would be the same if the buildings were demolished. They have an amazing effect when you see the water rushing out of the tunnel below the old stone foundation.
Danno October 03, 2012 at 02:22 PM
I have read this......but there is a simple solution. Install a fire suppression system in the building!! A glycol filled suppression system would eliminate the need to heat the building if that is a concern. That would cost less than demolishing the buildings. The cost to demolish a building that size is likely to cost upwards of 3 million. Reducing risk is important, however, demolishing the buildings is the extreme of risk aversion.
Elle Fagan October 03, 2012 at 05:15 PM
@ Danno! wonderful idea! There will probably be a serious pro assessment done by several separate sources, to win the best path. Meetings upcoming. I am right there and my studio next door, and from what has been done so successfully elsewhere, I see restoration and repurposing of the original historic construction and the unsightly addidtions taken down to creat MUCH NEEDED Green Space , which will provide parking and visitor access, beauty and health. It is getting to the place with humanity where we actually NEED to be ready to plant green a lot and remember that our bodies NEED it. In fact there are sites online about plants that are best for humans - ones that take in and give off the BEST chemical sort of oxygen, etc...neat no? And the green space will continue the goal of beautifying , once again, the lovely historic area. This town was , a hundred years ago not just the richest in the state or the country , but among the richest on earth. Then came the "one/two" punch - cheap imports and then the crash of '29. These mills are WHY we have America - we could make our own things and so we did not need to pay out for our very lives to Europe and wait forever for delivery of things we needed and which might never arrive. When we could make our own , we could stand on our own two feet! THIS IS NEAR the TOP for MOTIVES here...please do not lose the grasp.
Elle Fagan October 03, 2012 at 05:32 PM
I love your idea and talk to do that here at the Daniel Mill is lively! I have my studio there now and many other arts related folk, and now that we have begun the park creation on the property are "milling about" , quietly, to upgrade the building's role in arts to a proper collective for studios and bookstore would be logical. Thank you so much for the link - it helps!
cmmj October 04, 2012 at 03:13 PM
I am a mother of 2 small children...I would not have my child attending a school so close to a waterfall...I think a community college would be a better idea...Rockville Community College!!!
cmmj October 04, 2012 at 03:14 PM
I think it's a great idea!!!
Danno October 09, 2012 at 03:06 PM
I really feel that a design competition is in order here. It gives opportunity to new and up coming design professionals. It provides the opportunity for an existing professional to shine. In return you get a variety potential design solutions at a low cost of prize monies. I hope that the Town would consider funding a competition.
JP November 05, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Anybody that wants to encourage Trader Joe's to open in Vernon, here is a form. http://www.traderjoes.com/about/location-requests-form.asp
Elle Smith Fagan November 05, 2012 at 02:18 PM
I am a Connecticut native of a family here for more than a century and yet happily lived with my late husband and our children with The Wellcome Foundation "Transplants" in Raleigh and Greenville North Carolina 1970-84. Some of us missed ice skating - "who'd want ice skating in the South? - silly." They called it the Ice House and being a good skate , taught it like crazy to my pigpickin' friends and many, many children. When our interest waned and the mayoral team changed the Ice House fell into disuse - it takes INTEREST - then planning development and followthru can happen and afterward a team to be sure community interest is MAINTAINED, no matter what happens at Amerbelle. That community interest has been the issue all along - for us stalwart Yankees, too often we forget to provide for continuum and maintenance and longevity in projects and unless we provide for it at setup it does not happen. OK?
cmmj November 05, 2012 at 02:24 PM
I would love to see a community college in this town....right in Rockville.
cmmj November 05, 2012 at 02:26 PM
I filled the form out Jim btw.
cmmj November 05, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Aldi owns Trader Joe's. Soooo.......
Elle Smith Fagan November 05, 2012 at 02:31 PM
my roundup keywords here: INTEREST - not just here, get some petitions going online and off - free and fun, and ink ink ink...easier than you might think. PLANNING, DEVELOPMENT, and FOLLOWTHRU - planning: make a proper planning committe thru RDA here or otherwise and AT OUTSET decide on a plan for development and followuthru and name a support committee to maintain and sustain the project when it is done. Go see sites where it has been done, affordably and successfully and artfully so as to be loved by the community ...places like http://www.montaguebookmill.com and get their stories and benefit from their experience of what went right and what made glitches....and get the picture in your mind of the finished look...get ideas on the actual labors involved and their costs. Next: prepare an outline of the project that wins support; estimate costs and find funding sources, public and private that may be ours in it, and a tentative time frame for the project. PRESENT IT to all involved and publicize it as much as possible. Develop: decisions on all sides of it Followthru: ACT and before the ribbon-cutting be sure to provide for SUSTINENCE for the project so it does not fall to ruin as soon as the hoopla fades. IT DOES NOT TAKE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE, just folk who can see the thing and see it thru.
Elle Smith Fagan November 05, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Great idea since there is the annex to our ed network in the center of town and it would not take much to expand it at the mill site. Also there is a tutorial company for children at Lafayette Square. Since we have some, it could grow at the mill. I just love the idea of the MILL the good honest generating of things for an education site since that is what it is . Thanks for the fine idea.
Elle Smith Fagan November 05, 2012 at 02:43 PM
O filled out the Trader Joe's form, too! You too?
Elle Smith Fagan November 05, 2012 at 02:43 PM
I am not familiar with Aldi, cmmi...enlighten?
cmmj November 05, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Aldi is a small grocery store we have here in Vernon....next to the new tractor supply.
cmmj November 05, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Some of the people in rockville could walk to the college; get an education and maybe get off of goverment help. I would take a class or 2 or 3... :)
cmmj November 05, 2012 at 03:01 PM
there could be students in instead of drug dealers living in some of the apts.
meowkats4 November 05, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Completed form for Trader Joe's!!!!!!
Elle Smith Fagan November 05, 2012 at 05:44 PM
drug dealers! eek! where? you are speaking figuratively I hope.
Elle Smith Fagan November 05, 2012 at 05:45 PM
yes..ok now I know.


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