BENNINGTON -- The former Mount Anthony Union Middle School is up for sale after being bought five years ago by a Canadian developer.
"We've decided to sell it, and have it listed for sale right now," said Malcolm "Mac" Lewis, who bought the dilapidated 650 Main St. building at an auction for $50,000.
He said he made the decision to list it with Maple Leaf Realty shortly after Christmas. According to Maple Leaf's website, the 2.29-acre parcel is for sale at about $750,000.
Lewis said Monday he had planned to turn the large brick building into condominiums with indoor parking, but the local economy never allowed for it.
"I was hoping the economy would have turned around down there and improved, but not much seems to be happening," he said.
He bought the property under the name ML Development. According to town officials, the building simply caught his eye as he was passing through town one day.
A developer with 45 years of experience, Lewis said his other condominium projects in Canada have taken off rather well, leaving less time and energy for the former middle school, which needs a complete renovation.
The only improvement to the property has been the repair of the stone steps at the main entrance, which also features Greek-style columns. Over the years the building has been subjected to vandalism and break-ins where copper piping has been stolen.
Lewis said his intention had been to completely gut the building and fix the interior walls, heating, plumbing, and electrical systems. He says this will be needed if anything is to be done with the existing structure.
"If I was 20 years younger, I'd grab it and go run with it, but I want to take things a little slow," Lewis said. "It's a great building, and it's a great town."
He expressed hopes for the building's future, saying someone would likely turn it into something. There have been a few people, mostly real estate developers, expressing interest but nothing formal.
"You got a great building," he said. "It was built like a fortress and it will stand up to any punishment Bennington can throw at it."
Michael Harrington, economic and community development director for Bennington, said Monday that the town mentions the Main Street property to developers who may be interested, but does not actively work to sell it. Harrington said now that the building is listed with a realty agency, it stands a better chance of being developed.
The building was sold by the Mount Anthony Union School District in 2004 to Ed Levitt for $200,000. Levitt planned to turn it into senior housing, which would have been a $12 million project. In 2007, the property's value was lowered after its sprinklers went off and caused extensive water damage. After that, it went up for auction via a foreclosure proceeding.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.