NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- Vermont Technical College is in the process of finalizing a lease agreement to move and expand its nursing program into downtown Bennington.
Dean of Administration Geoffrey Lindemer said the school was finalizing a lease agreement with Applejack Real Estate for space at 210 South Street.
"We’re in the final stages right now of the lease negotiation," he said. "Once we have the signed lease, and it could be as early as today or Monday, we will begin construction at the space."
Lindemer said VTC expects to use between 7,000 and 8,000 square feet of space for its nursing program. School officials will be working with the property owner on retrofitting the space to meet the needs of the nursing program, he said.
"We will be working with the property on that. It will be a joint project," Lindemer said. "Our goal is to be in by opening of school in August."
VTC is set to enter a 10-year lease agreement with Applejack, according to Lindemer. The college has already expanded its nursing program in Bennington by 10 spots, he said. The new space will allow for even more expansion.
"It’s very exciting," Lindemer said.
Anne Smeglin, site director of VTC’s Bennington-Putnam campus, said the faculty is hoping to be able to begin moving into the revamped space by the end of July. Significant work is required before that can happen, though, she said.
"One of the things we’re going to be doing is basically converting the space into an academic college space. There will be classrooms and offices," she said. "We’ll have a state-of-the-art simulation lab that will allow students to sort of practice more advanced nursing care with mannequins that do more than just lay in the bed."
The college’s nursing program is currently housed on the grounds of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. The program has grown too large to remain there, however, Smigel said.
"We’ve grown and we’ve increased the number of students that we’re admitting to the RN program," she said. "As much as we love this space and love being attached to the hospital, it will be nice to have more."
Town officials said they, too, are excited that VTC has found appropriate space to remain and expand in Bennington. Economic and Community Development Director Michael Harrington said the downtown location will not only serve students, but also merchants.
"Anytime there is the prospect of a new business or industry coming to Bennington we want to be as supportive as possible. In this case, if Vermont Technical College is able to secure a spot in our downtown district that would be terrific," Harrington said. "An opportunity like this has the potential to significantly impact the vibrancy of our downtown, bringing more people, and thus, more business to our local merchants. I believe the addition of this institution will bring about a positive impact that will be felt throughout our community, and I’m excited to see the final result."
Southern Vermont College recently announced plans to rent 10,000 square feet of the Vermont Mill Properties on Benmont Avenue to house its nursing and radiological sciences programs. The college plans to invest between $300,000 and $400,000 on renovations to construct classrooms, laboratories and offices. Renovations are expected to be completed by mid-August in time for the start of the fall semester, according to acting President James Beckwith.
VTC is also mulling expanding other programs in Bennington. Those plans and discussions remain conceptual, however, Lindemer said.