False alarm at vacant old school


BENNINGTON -- Firefighters responded to an alarm at the old Mount Anthony Union Middle School on Main Street early Monday afternoon, but it turned out to be a false alarm.

According to a firefighter at the scene, it was unclear what had caused the alarm, but that it had been reset and was not re-activating.

The building, which was purchased from Mount Anthony Union School District in 2004 by developer Edward Levitt for $200,000, faced danger from fire in September 2012 when a structure fire in a nearby residence almost spread to the school.

Levitt intended to turn the historic school, which was built in 1913 and housed Bennington High School, into a senior living center, Green Mountain Senior Living. It was announced in August 2007 that construction was set to begin on the site, and would likely last for 12 to 15 months. At the time, town planner Daniel Monks noted that the project had already been granted a year extension, and had been delayed several times for financial reasons.

Less than a year later, in June 2008, Chittenden Bank filed papers with the Bennington Superior Court to foreclose the building, claiming that Levitt had not made a payment since September 2007, and owed Chittenden $475,000 and the Town of Bennington about $4,000 in neglected property taxes. In addition, the building had become severely dilapidated during Levitt's ownership, leading to the town issuing a demolition order for the building, should certain conditions not be met, and reducing the property's appraised value to nothing.

Levitt did restore power to the building, and fixed the fire alarm and sprinkler systems, so as to avoid demolition. However, Levitt was unable to overcome the foreclosure lawsuit, and the building went up for auction in July 2009. Malcolm "Mac" Lewis, a developer from Newmarket, Ontario saw that the building was for sale while walking through Bennington, and purchased the building at auction for $50,000. A few months later, Lewis announced that he had no plans of removing the structure, but that it was premature to speculate on how the land would be developed.

There have been no reported developments since that time, and the building has continued to be a target for those wishing to create graffiti, or broken windows.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB


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