Development group acquires Putnam Block

BENNINGTON — The $53 million Putnam Block project moved a giant step forward on Monday, when the four-acre downtown site was sold, clearing the way for the first phase of a major redevelopment initiative.

The former Hotel Putnam and adjacent historic structures at the Four Corners intersection are the focus of the first phase of the project. The former H. Greenberg & Son hardware store and lumberyard and parking lots are targeted for development during the second phase — including new buildings and public open spaces.

The property with six buildings was acquired from corporate entities controlled by the Greenberg family for $2 million, with Bennington County Industrial Corp. taking possession initially.

The BCIC is a state-identified regional development corporation and eligible to apply for certain state and federal funding programs to assist in the cleanup of environmental contaminants on the site, said Bill Colvin, assistant director of the Bennington County Regional Commission, who has been working with the private developers.

The developer is Bennington Redevelopment Group, LLC, which is expected to later assume ownership of the property to complete the project. BRG consists of a consortium of local business leaders, institutions and civic-minded investors who organized with the goal of transforming the historic buildings at the Four Corners into vibrant mixed-use downtown space, with offices, in-town living, restaurants and retail.

"The transfer of the Putnam Block properties to BCIC represents the exciting next step toward the realization of a revitalized downtown Bennington," Colvin said. "It is a milestone that signals to the community continued progress on this vital project,"

He said Breadloaf Construction was selected through a competitive bid process to the act as the construction management firm for Phase 1 of the Putnam project. "They are doing updated estimating now and will be responsible for bid documents to subcontractors," he said.

The first phase is expected to go to bid this fall, involving redevelopment of the former hotel, the Old Courthouse Building and the Winslow Block at the Four Corners.

"Southwestern Vermont Health Care, along with other Bennington Redevelopment Group partners, continue to be both committed and excited about moving this project forward," said SVHC President and CEO Thomas Dee. "The sale of the Putnam Block is a significant milestone in creating a dynamic downtown for our community."

James D. Brown, president and CEO of the Bank of Bennington, commented, "We're excited to be part of this revitalization project, which will be transformative for Bennington and the downtown."

The BRD Goup consortium also includes Bennington College, Southern Vermont College, Global-Z International; Brian McKenna, Anthony and Jacqueline Marro, Sheela and Elisabeth Harden and a group of local professionals.

BRG also has partnered with M&S Development of Brattleboro, to help develop financing and manage the project.

Select Board Chairman Thomas Jacobs termed the acquisition, "a critical milestone in the effort to renewing the vitality in the heart of our community. I'm encouraged by signs of optimism that exist even beyond the Putnam Block."

Funding for the project is expected to come from a combination of debt, grants and equity, Colvin said. Debt financing will be sought from private sources, banks, and the Vermont Economic Development Authority.

Grants have been secured from the Vermont Community Development Program, state and federal Environmental Protection Agency brownfields programs and from Citizens for a Greater Bennington. The project has also received federal and state historic rehabilitation tax credits.

Douglas Ball, vice president of the BCIC Board of Directors and head of the organization's Real Estate Committee, said, "BCIC is pleased that it could play a critical role in moving the Putnam Redevelopment Project forward. As the regional development agency, helping to bridge the gap between public and private investment to support key economic development initiatives is an important part of BCIC's mission."

Environmental remediation activities on the site will be conducted in accordance with a Corrective Action Plan prepared by Nobis Engineering and approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the EPA.

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


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