NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- Merchants bank is planning to close branches in downtown Bennington and North Bennington and consolidate both into one location on Northside Drive.
The bank has applied for town permits to construct a new branch at the former Wendy's restaurant location at Monument Plaza. Town Planning Director and Zoning Administrator Daniel Monks said bank representatives will appear before the Development Review Board on March 19.
Permits are expected to be issued for the project, according to Monks.
"No big, huge issues. It's just making sure it complies with the design standards, which they appear to be pretty close to doing," he said.
Merchants Bank CEO Michael R. Tuttle said the bank chose to consolidate after reviewing options for upgrading the existing branches. The lease on the branch at Bennington's Four Corners is set to expire, he said. That office, as well as the branch in North Bennington, which is owned by the bank, require changes to match the needs of customers, he said.
"We were looking at whether we were going to make a significant, added investment at both locations. We thought, frankly, that if we were going to make a significant investment it would be better spent on the location at Monument Plaza," Tuttle said.
The new branch will be located about halfway between the two branches set to close.
"We were trying to find something as close to the middle as we could and we came pretty darn close to that," Tuttle said.
Account holders at both locations have received correspondence from the bank alerting them of the impending change. Tuttle said customers can expect the new branch to be much different than what they are accustomed to.
"What we're going to build there, it will be very different than what we have in the other locations. It's going to be more up-to-date and current with the way people utilize banking services these days," he said.
The bank is looking to provide services that match the online banking needs of customers. The downtown and North Bennington locations were developed in a different era of banking and gear "almost exclusively for people to come in to the bank," according to Tuttle.
"That's the way of the world," Tuttle said. "A lot of the traffic has moved online."
Meanwhile, the North Bennington location is likely to be sold.
"We've already started reaching out to people to see if there's interest in it. It's very early in that process. We're willing to talk to anybody that's willing to go in there and take that space over."
Contact Neal P. Goswami at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter: @nealgoswami