We were happy to see the BBC sponsored Fallapalooza event in October was well attended.
Our business had a mixture of townspeople and tourists, some of whom had stopped specifically because of the festivities that day.
We all know and feel the financial troubles that Bennington is experiencing – factories relocating, stores and restaurants closing and/or struggling, real estate sluggish and an overall downturn in our community's economy – 100's of good paying jobs lost and nothing we can see that will bring them back. It is time to reinvent Bennington and think outside the box.
Thankfully, Bennington is beautiful and is located close to other areas with money. The trick is how to get that outside money to come and be spent in Bennington. We have an idea, though rather bold, that we have pondered for months.
Our business, Knapps, is located across the street from Madison's and the Harte block (which has been mostly vacant for the last few years) and we have dreamed about what might be done with it. We would love to see the Town of Bennington float a bond to purchase, through eminent domain if necessary, the Harte block and turn most of that into a covered open-air marketplace.
This would connect Merchants Park to Main St., allowing all sorts of events to be held – flea markets, art/craft/car/food shows, live entertainment, farmer's markets - rain or shine, right in the heart of downtown Bennington, generating lots of activity. The management of this could be put out to bid, alleviating the burden of running it and providing the town with some revenue.
Dreaming big, how about including the purchase of Greenberg's in the bond so that the Town can provide more parking in the downtown area? There has been interest in the purchase of the Hotel Putnam in the past but lack of parking has been a deal breaker. Further imagine a renovated historic hotel with facilities for hosting conventions.
These things would impact peoples' perception of Bennington. We would immediately become a destination and current businesses would thrive, more businesses would fill empty storefronts and new jobs would be created - encouraging locals as well as tourists to support the town. The ripple effect could be substantial.
We realize this would likely mean an increase in property taxes, but if the expense is amortized over 30 years, revenue is generated by the project and grant money is secured, the tax increase would be nominal. Doing nothing will ultimately cost us all more.
We were both born and raised here and want to see Bennington again become the vibrant community it was when we were growing up. This is just one idea and we encourage you to share yours as well. Let us know. Together, let's figure out how we can revitalize our town and not focus on why we can't.