Credit union plans downtown Bennington location

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BENNINGTON — A Hoosick Falls, N.Y.-based credit union is proposing a two-story office structure on Washington Avenue, just outside the Putnam Block redevelopment site.

Tri State Area Federal Credit Union President James Martinez and project architect Jeffrey Goldstone recently gave a presentation on the design before the Historical Commission and will go before the Development Review Board for permitting approvals on Sept. 5.

They said the structure is designed to fit within the town's downtown historic district while also having the formal look of a financial institution. The project cost is estimated at $1 million, and Martinez said he hopes the building can be ready to open during the first quarter of 2018.

The 1.2-acre parcel, which the credit union is purchasing from Normsel Development, LLC, is located between the Sunny Side Diner at the corner of Washington Avenue and Main Street, and the Elks Lodge to the immediate south.

The building will face to the east toward the Four Corners intersection in the center of the downtown.

A drive-thru window is shown in the design on the south side of the building, with on-site parking in the rear. An ATM machine will be located in the vestibule area inside the front entrance.

Zoning in the area requires at least a two-story building, Martinez said, but the credit union will likely use the second floor for storage, as it doesn't desire a tenant in that space.

"This is our first real expansion," Martinez said this week, adding that a key feature of the location is that it is near the Putnam Block parcel — beginning on the opposite side of Washington Avenue with the former H. Greenberg & Son parking lot.

The Putnam Block plan calls for a $53 million redevelopment project involving six downtown buildings and four acres surrounding the historic former Putnam Hotel. Phase 1 of the multi-year project is expected to go to construction in the fall, and Phase 2 — involving some new construction and the land closest to Washington Avenue — is planned to begin in late 2018.

"We have no doubt we will do well there," said Martinez. "We love where we're at."

He said the credit union, formerly known as the Hoosick Federal Credit Union, has operated from offices in the village since 1953. However, in December 2016 the institution received approval from the National Credit Union Association for an expansion of its territory and the name change followed.

The credit union now can serve persons who live, work, worship or attend school in the expanded area, along with business and other legal entities located there.

That region includes Washington County, N.Y.; Bennington County; an expanded area in Rensselaer County, N.Y., not including Troy; and Williamstown, North Adams and Adams in Berkshire County, Mass.

Martinez said the Hoosick Falls office on Church Street has eight employees, and he expects there will be four full-time employees and one part-time employee in the Bennington office.

He said the credit union expects to do well in Bennington, in part because the demographics are similar to those in Hoosick and Hoosick Falls.

Martinez said the not-for-profit institution has traditionally stressed community involvement through sponsorship of sports teams and other local events and activities. He said the emphasis also is on "slow, steady growth," and on providing the lowest possible loan rates to members of the credit union with a philosophy of not setting rates based on credit scores.

The institution's president said he once lived and worked in Bennington, and he remembers when his father, Dr. Philip Martinez, visited patients at the former Putnam Memorial Hospital, now Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.

His brother is Dr. Marcus Martinez, of Twin Rivers Medical in Hoosick Falls.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont and VTDigger.org. @BB_therrien on Twitter.






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