Putnam goes for local permits

BENNINGTON — The $53 million redevelopment of the Putnam Block is moving closer to becoming a reality, with the project's first phase now awaiting local permits.

The project needed town approval for the first of two phases, which would focus on the former Hotel Putnam and two adjacent buildings at the Four Corners Intersection. An engineer for the project appeared before the Development Review Board for the second time on Tuesday.

Dan Monks, planning director, said Wednesday that DRB members authorized him to issue a written decision approving the project. A formal decision won't be issued for a few days, but Monks said most of the conditions to be issued will be standard.

The 4-acre site and associated structures were sold for $2 million on Monday. Bennington County Industrial Corp. took possession from corporate entities controlled by the Greenberg family. The developer will be Bennington Redevelopment Group, which is expected to later assume ownership. The effort was launched by a group of local business leaders, institutions and investors.

The project aims to redevelop the prominent cluster of buildings in the heart of downtown Bennington into mixed-use residential, retail and office space. The first phase calls for renovating the Putnam Hotel, Old Courthouse and Winslow building. Among the planned improvements are a new parking area near Franklin Lane, as well as a plaza area to the front of the Putnam Hotel. The second phase calls for demolishing the rear of the Winslow building as well as the former H. Greenberg & Son hardware store, lumberyard and outbuildings. That phase also includes new buildings and public open spaces. Funding will come from a mix of public and private investment.

It's estimated that just under $1 million will be spent to clean up contamination from years of industrial activity. The 99-page plan has been approved by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and the EPA. Among chemicals of concern found on site include TCE, or trichloroethylene, associated with dry cleaning, and as well as PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), released from the incomplete burning of fuel.

Jason Dolmetsch with MSK Engineering and the project's architect first presented to DRB members on Sept. 5.

"We're really trying to maintain the historic attributes of the buildings," said Diane Abate, architect with Stevens & Associates of Brattleboro.

Tentative plans for the former Putnam Hotel call for first-floor retail, including space for a 100-seat restaurant. Above would be studio and one and two-bedroom apartments. First floor retail would still be accessed with individual steps to a retail store, but an elevated sidewalk with ramps on either end of the hotel would allow people with mobility issues to better access the building.

Tentative plans for the courthouse, or former Pennysaver building, include two retail spaces on the first floor, one possibly a 30-seat cafe, and second-floor office space. The Winslow building would be divided into two retail spaces.

Reach staff writer Edward Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111 or @edamon_banner.


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