Wal-Mart opening slated for late summer


BENNINGTON>> The developer behind the new Wal-Mart on Northside Drive says the store is tentatively scheduled to open late this summer.

Jonathan Levy, managing partner of Redstone Investments, also said construction of a new roundabout at the Monument Plaza entrance is slated to be completed in June.

In an email to the Banner on Friday, Levy wrote that he could not confirm an exact opening date, but that it should be sometime around August. He stressed the construction schedules could change depending on weather and other factors.

Construction crews broke ground on the new, 112,000 squarefoot Wal-Mart last fall. It's being built behind the existing 51,000 squarefoot store, which will be demolished.

When it opens, the store will include: A 600 squarefoot pharmacy space; a 1,124 squarefoot "vision center" providing eye exams and optical sales; a 55,000 squarefoot indoor sales space, which includes 28,000 squarefeet of grocery space; and a 4,500 squarefoot covered outdoor garden center for live plants and other merchandise, according to construction plans.

The project was a decade in the making and faced many hurdles and opposition.

The project secured permits from Bennington, and an operational storm water permit from the state Agency of Natural Resources, in 2006. Hearings on the state's Act 250 permit application began in 2009 and the project was granted a general construction permit in 2012. It faced two appeals to a storm water permit filed by the owners of the Mount Anthony Country Club. Both appeals were dropped.

The project's legal battles ended in 2013 when BLS Bennington, the entity that owns the Northside Plaza, agreed to give $200,000 for economic development in Bennington's downtown and to improve the Walloomsac watershed. Those funds will be administered by the Citizens for a Greater Bennington, a group that opposed the project.

BLS Bennington will manage the construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Northside Drive (Route 7A), Emma Street and the entrance to Northside Plaza.

Construction plans completed by Cross Consulting Engineers, of St. Albans, call for replacing the existing traffic lights and protected turning lanes with a single-lane roundabout.

Signage and solar-powered flashing beacons, which will flash when pedestrians push a button, will be placed at crosswalks.

On average, a total of 16,700 vehicles drive through the intersection each day, according to a traffic study included in the plans.

Robert Faley, district transportation administrator for the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans), said recently the developer is paying for 100 percent of the roundabout's cost and has secured necessary permits. He said for a contractor to work on a road project for a private developer on a state highway is a unique situation.

He said the intersection currently functions fine the way it is. But the larger Wal-Mart would increase the amount of traffic to the site and the developer has to mitigate that.

VTrans granted a permit last July that will allow the town to maintain landscaping in the center island, as well as maintain sidewalks built during the project.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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