Oldcastle poised to buy its building

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BENNINGTON — After nearly five decades of performing, Oldcastle Theatre Company is poised to acquire a building of its own in conjunction with the first phase of the Putnam Block redevelopment project.

Officials involved in the Putnam redevelopment project and Oldcastle producing artistic director Eric Peterson confirmed this week that the purchase remains on track for a spring closing.

"I am really excited that this is going to happen," Peterson said. "This is the first time we will have owned our own space."

A purchase-sale agreement has been negotiated with the Bennington Redevelopment Group, LLC, the consortium of local institutions, businesses and individuals spearheading a proposed three-phase, $53 million redevelopment project across four acres around the historic former Hotel Putnam.

"I am very grateful to the BRG," Peterson said. "We have had a very good relationship with them."

He added that the actual sale must await the planned acquisition of the Putnam Block site by the development group, now expected along with an official groundbreaking ceremony by early April.

Once that is completed, Peterson said, the theater company will acquire its 331 Main St. home.

Oldcastle began leasing the former Knights of Columbus building after the company was asked in 2011 by the former owner of the Bennington Center for the Arts, Bruce Laumeister, to leave the center on West Road after 18 years.

The company has leased its building since that time, opening the 2012-13 season there.

Most recently, the building has been owned by the Bennington County Industrial Corp., which will transfer the property to the development group once the BRG closes on a financing package for the $27.6 million first phase of the Putnam Block project.

The BCIC accepted title to the four-acre site and buildings in 2017, when it was sold by the Greenberg family for the Putnam project for $2 million. Project planners said the BCIC took title initially because, as a nonprofit organization, it could receive grant funding for necessary environmental remediation and other work that would have been unavailable to the developers.

Invested heavily

Peterson said Oldcastle raised money and has invested $700,000 to $800,000 in the two-story, brick building, including creation of a 128-seat seat theater.

The next major project, he said, is a new roof, costing "in the range of $90,000."

Funding for that work is expected to become easier to acquire through grants once the theater company owns the property.

Oldcastle also is negotiating with BRG about a rear entrance addition to building, which was constructed in 1948, Peterson said.

"The way I look at it," he said, "we began the downtown redevelopment in 2012, and now to have the greatest redevelopment in Bennington's history beginning all around us — I just can't wait."

Oldcastle is now preparing for its 48th season.

The theater company dates to the early 1970s, when Peterson and four other actors who studied together in New York City formed a troupe that began touring the Northeast.

In 1977, Oldcastle took up residence in the 85-seat auditorium at Everett Mansion at Southern Vermont College. The company later moved to the Bennington Center for the Arts, which opened in 1995, remaining there until 2011.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien


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