New roof for ex-LaFlamme's building OK'd


BENNINGTON — The town's Historic Preservation Commission on Tuesday approved the replacement of a dilapidated slate roof at the site of the former LaFlamme's furniture store on Main Street.

Polar Composite Corp., the property owner, will replace the slate roof — which is "totally shot," according to company principal James Salerno — that fronts Main and Grant streets with a steel product that resembles slate. The owner already has replaced a flat section of the roof not visible from the street with metal panel roofing, as authorized by the town's zoning administrator. A relatively small, asphalt-shingled section of the roof installed by a previous owner will not be replaced.

Polar Composite — a joint venture between Hale Mountain Research, a Bennington-based firm owned by Salerno, and Polar Corporation, a manufacturing company based in New Britain, C.T. — purchased the property, located at 239 Main St., for $55,000 at an auction last year. The former LaFlamme's store closed in January 2018 amid bankruptcy proceedings.

"We're looking at what makes sense for us to commercialize the building but what also gives us the appropriate appearance for downtown," Salerno said.

The town's Development Review Board authorized the property's use for light manufacturing in January.

The company is now trying to determine "what's the adequate mix" of retail in the front and light manufacturing or retail in the rest of the structure, which has about 30,000 square feet of total space across multiple floors, Salerno said. Hale Mountain Research has occupied a portion of the building since the spring.

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Polar Composite recently won a $15,000 state grant for asbestos remediation and sprinkler system upgrades at the site through a program administered by the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services.

Salerno said that he may seek to replace the building's front windows and siding in the future. Commission Chair Michael McDonough requested that Salerno arrange for members to visit the site in advance of such a proposal, which Salerno said he would accommodate.

"We're looking to develop the building in a smart way," Salerno said, adding that the effort will be shaped by "what the town needs, what the building needs" and the mix of tenants.

McDonough said he looks forward to the property's further redevelopment. "It's very positive that something is happening," he said.

The 19th-century barn structure was once part of the Dewey family homestead, Salerno said.

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