Bennington board considers downtown hotel study


BENNINGTON — The Select Board is considering a study that will determine the economic viability of a hotel in downtown Bennington.

Board chairman Tom Jacobs said Monday that the Bennington Redevelopment Group is well underway with a plan for the former Putnam Hotel building on Main Street, often referred to as the Greenberg Block, but that the plan does not at this time include a hotel. The board was supportive of moving forward with the study, but will hold a second hearing at their next meeting before voting, so as to hear from more members of the community.

"There's always been a lot of anecdotal conversation on the street about whether or not a small or medium sized hotel is needed, and whether there is the means to support it," said Bennington Economic and Community Development Director Michael Harrington, "We have received the opportunity to look at a proposal from the same company that provided a hotel feasibility study for St. Albans."

The study would be performed by the Pinnacle Advisory Group. The first phase of the project would cost $7,000, would begin a week after Pinnacle receives its retainer, and would take about three weeks to complete. Should the first phase show that the second phase is necessary, that would cost another $3,500 and take about two weeks. The third phase is optional, and would involve retaining Pinnacle to assist with the RFP (request for proposals) process, should the previous phases of the study show that a hotel is viable for downtown. The town would also be responsible for expenses incurred, but Harrington said that any contract signed would have limits on what the group could bill the town.

Harrington said that the information garnered in the study could assist with the redevelopment of the Putnam block or another undeveloped site, as it could be used to solicit developers. He said the study is eligible to be funded through the Bennington Economic Development Fund. "The original proposal was provided and discussed with the Putnam Square redevelopment group, so they obviously had a site in mind," said Harrington, "but I think in this case we would not be looking at a particular site. If there is a better site, that would be up to (Pinnacle) to determine."

"As with any study, the possibility exists that the findings will not support such development," he said, "However, little factual information currently exists to either support or disqualify claims of whether a downtown hotel could be successful in the current market."

The client for the study would be the Town of Bennington.

According to the proposal from Pinnacle, "Phase I of the engagement will include a preliminary analysis that will enable you (the town) to decide whether a more comprehensive analysis (Phase II) for a proposed hotel, which would include occupancy and room rate projections, along with general facility recommendations." Phase I will include an evaluation of the Putnam site, including location, parcel size, access, physical constraints, parking, auto and pedestrian linkages, surrounding uses, ambiance, and other factors. This phase will also include an evaluation of demand, competitive advantages and disadvantages to existing hotels. Zoning, legal, environmental, and construction cost factors would not be considered in the study.

Should the town decide to continue to phase two of the project, Pinnacle would provide supply and demand numbers, estimating the potential growth of both factors in the market over the first five years of the proposed hotel's operation. It would also include facility recommendations and estimates of room revenue. The findings would be presented in a 15-20 page written report.

Jacobs described the study as an investment in the downtown. However, he said, "If it shows it's not viable, it's time to move on."

— Contact Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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