benn high

Bennington Community Development Director Shannon Barsotti discusses the proposed redevelopment of the former Bennington High School building. The Select Board on Monday authorized town staff to negotiate a formal contract with the private developer, Hale Resources, LLC, to oversee the $28 million project.

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BENNINGTON — With no new concerns expressed, the $28 million Bennington High School redevelopment project took a decisive step forward Monday on a unanimous vote of the Select Board.

The board approved having town staff negotiate a contract with the developer, Hale Resources, LLC, to create housing units and municipal space in the historic structure at 650 Main St., which has been largely vacant since it was last used as a school in 2004.

Assistant Town Manager and Planning Director Daniel Monks said the goal is to hammer out the contract details to allow a possible final project vote by the board on June 12.

“The basic terms have already been discussed; the parties have agreed to them,” Monks said. He added that the attorneys have to work out contract language that will be acceptable to the developer and the Select Board.

The board allowed time Monday for the public to ask questions about the proposal, following at least three presentations and updates by staff members over the past several months.

This time, there were a few questions, mostly by board members, about project details. But there were no comments about the cost to the town, parking and other aspects that had been critically questioned at past meetings.

A former critic of the plan over its potential costs to the town, Mike Bethel, said at the start of the meeting that he is now a supporter.

“I like what’s going on now with the Benn Hi, and I do think it’s going to bring more foot traffic once it’s done in a couple of years,” Bethel said.

He added that the involvement of Hale Resources “has made the proposal a lot more solid.”

The developer is working with the town in a public-private partnership to redevelop the prominent Main Street structure, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Monks said that most of the questions and comments posted on the town’s website about the project “were very supportive.”

People can comment online, and all comments submitted will be included as part of the public comment process.


Community Development Director Shannon Barsotti and Monks provided a presentation of the basic project figures and details, which came into sharper focus several weeks ago.

Barsotti displayed architectural renderings and floor plans prepared by Goldstone Architecture, which is working with Hale and the town.

She said plans call for the town to occupy 27,000 square feet of space in the former high school and the additions added since it opened in 1913.

That includes 14,000 square feet designated for the Meals on Wheels program and for town Senior Center programs, and 13,000 square feet of space, including the gymnasium, for exercise, activity rooms, and locker rooms.

Hale Resources, which will redevelop the entire 100,000-square-foot building, including the space the town will lease, also plans to create 22 market-rate apartments and 15 permanently affordable units.

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There will be 3,000 square feet of office space along Pleasant Street at the rear of the school complex, Barsotti said.

A child care facility operated by the YMCA also is under consideration.


Discussing financing, Monks reiterated that the town currently has a lease with an option to purchase the building that is assignable, and the plan is to assign that to Hale Resources so the developer can buy the property from the private owner, Christopher Gilbert.

The Dorset and Red Hook, N.Y., resident purchased the former school in 2020 and has done some work to address deterioration from leaks and the building standing unused for many years.

Project funding from the town is expected to come from $2.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding; historic preservation and other tax credits; additional grant funding; low-interest loans through the state; and private investment.

There are about 15 funding sources in all, officials have said. Hale has said the package is expected to include about $14.5 million in historic preservation and other tax credits; more than $8 million in grants and other funding; an estimated $4.8 million in low-interest loans through a state program, and about $500,000 in private investment.

Town officials have said they don’t expect any municipal funds, other than ARPA grant money, will be required for the redevelopment project, which Hale will oversee.

Operational costs for the section to be leased by the town could increase the town budget by an estimated $88,000 annually, officials said, but that amount is expected to be covered through the town’s agreement with the YMCA to manage the Recreation Center and recreational programming.

The contract calls for a reduction in the amount paid to the YMCA equal to additional revenue the organization receives through an expansion of recreational programming – anticipated with the new facility.

The purchase agreement with Gilbert also calls for the current Senior Center building on Pleasant Street to be signed over to him, representing an estimated value of $400,000.

Asked about the tax revenue impacts, Town Manager Stuart Hurd said the Benn Hi building could be valued “in the $7 million range” following redevelopment, which he has said would generate an annual tax revenue of $112,000 or more.

The school building now generates about $4,000 in tax revenue for the town.

Board member Ed Woods noted that the Senior Center building, now untaxed, would return to the tax rolls under Gilbert’s ownership and expected redevelopment.


More information on past presentations on the proposal is available on the town website.

During a meeting in April on the project, Zak Hale, the firm’s CEO, said the goal is to begin construction by the end of 2023 and complete the work during 2025.

Jim Therrien can be reached at or by phone at 413-281-2646.

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