Putnam project is a go; Oldcastle to buy its building

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BENNINGTON — The complex financing package for the first phase of the $54 million Putnam Block project closed late Friday afternoon, and a press conference is scheduled next week to outline construction plans.

As part of the multi-faceted, multi-party agreement, Oldcastle Theatre Company is at the same time purchasing its 331 Main St. building. The theater is part of the six-building, four-acre Putnam Block project site, located south and west of the Four Corners intersection.

The initial phase of the massive redevelopment effort includes renovation of the historic Hotel Putnam, and of the historic Courthouse building adjacent to the south and the Winslow Building, just to the west of the former hotel.

Bill Colvin, of the Bennington County Regional Commission, who has acted as point-person for the developers — a consortium of local institutions, organizations, businesses and individual investors called the Bennington Redevelopment Group — said "a press event and team celebration" is scheduled for Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in front of the hotel.

More details will be released soon, Colvin said, but it is expected the contractors will mobilize next week to begin the project.

"A larger groundbreaking ceremony with all dignitaries will take place later this summer," he said.

The financing package, said to be one of the most complex of its kind in the country, involved sign-offs from at least 17 agencies or institutions providing funding toward the first phase work, costing about $27.6 million in total.

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Work will include renovation or creation of housing and retail space in the historic structures, along with improvements in parking and open space areas behind the three buildings.

Phase two is expected to include construction of a multi-story building at Main Street and Washington Avenue with medical and other offices, a second building adjacent to that, and creation of additional residential units, parking, walkways and open space.

The third phase would likely be undertaken by a housing developer such as Shires Housing, in cooperation with other organizations and include affordable and other housing units along Washington Avenue. If built out as planned, the project could add well over 100 units of housing to the downtown core, planners have said.

Environmental remediation work already has been undertaken in areas behind the structures, along with demolition of the former H. Greenberg & Son hardware building and adjacent lumber barns. Further demolition work is planned along Washington Avenue to make way for Phase two structures.

Bread Loaf Corp., of Middlebury, is acting as construction manager. Officials said the firm typically hires mostly local tradespeople, and that it is expected 100 to 120 workers a day will be on-site during aspects of the construction.

Colvin and others involved have said the community organizations, businesses and individuals in the consortium are investing primarily to help revitalize the economy, not necessarily with the aim of turning a profit.

The Bennington Redevelopment Group major partners include The Bank of Bennington, Southwestern Vermont Health Care, Bennington College; Dimitri Garder/Global Z International, Brian and Jennifer McKenna; Anthony and Jacqueline Marro; Sheela and Elisabeth Harden; M&S Development; and 4 Putt Properties, LLC.

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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