October 3, 2023
Bennington officers to vote on funding proposed mixed-use growth at outdated highschool
Bennington officers to vote on funding proposed mixed-use growth at outdated highschool
The Bennington Selectboard discusses funding the proposed multi-use growth mission on the outdated Bennington Excessive Faculty. CAT-TV Screenshot

Bennington officers are set to vote Monday on whether or not to allocate $2 million in federal coronavirus aid funding right into a plan to show the previous Bennington Excessive Faculty constructing right into a mixed-use property with recreation, work and residential areas.

5 days forward of the vote, at a public assembly on Wednesday, Bennington group members each praised and criticized the proposed redevelopment. A number of hailed the plan to create extra housing models at a time when Vermont’s residential market is changing into more and more tight, whereas others frightened that the mission’s multimillion-dollar price ticket could be handed on to taxpayers.

Some supporters stated new housing would appeal to extra expertise to Bennington throughout a interval when potential staff throughout the state have turned down jobs as a result of they’ll’t discover properties.

Others introduced up the parking issues that the mixed-use property might create within the Important Road space, whereas a couple of stated they needed extra info on the mission.

“I believe there’s a plethora of data that we obtained tonight,” stated Bennington resident Donald Washburn, “however I believe there’s nonetheless lots that must be uncovered, if you’ll.”

The city of Bennington plans to associate with a non-public developer to renovate the century-old constructing — which has largely been vacant since 2004 — into “group house” and residences.

The thought is for the 2 entities to every work on a portion of the 100,000-square-foot constructing. The city would flip a 30,000-square-foot space into the group house, which might rehouse the Bennington Senior Middle and the county’s Meals on Wheels program, in addition to host a YMCA gymnasium and a few workrooms.

The remaining space could be reworked into not less than 40 residences by Hale Assets, a Bennington actual property growth and property administration firm.

As of Thursday, the deliberate residential models have decreased from 44 to 42, due to preservation tips on the historic 1913 constructing, stated Hale Assets co-partner Zak Hale. The entire would come with 15 “perpetual” inexpensive housing models and one other 14 that will be designated inexpensive housing for his or her first 5 years of operation, Hale advised VTDigger.

The city is estimating the creation of the group house to price as much as $9 million. Hale Assets expects to spend round $10 million for the housing portion.

In the course of the public assembly on the Bennington firehouse on Wednesday night, Assistant City Supervisor Dan Monks stated the tens of millions in federal {dollars} that Bennington obtained underneath the American Rescue Plan Act bought the ball rolling on this large mission.

The city plans to make use of $2 million of this native coronavirus fiscal restoration funding on the group house. The remainder of the expense, officers stated, could be lined by way of a mixture of tax credit, grants, loans, rebates, donations and a possible bond vote on tax increment financing.

Hale Assets could be liable for discovering its personal funding, and it’s exploring a mixture of tax credit, non-public traders and financial institution funding.

“This mission, actually, is a really distinctive and doubtless once-in-a-lifetime alternative to handle a number of targets in a single mission and to convey an iconic constructing again to life for the group,” Shannon Barsotti, Bennington’s group growth director, stated to an viewers of about 50 individuals on the assembly. “It has a lot potential.”

A number of citizen surveys present that Bennington residents need extra housing for numerous earnings ranges, extra indoor recreation and the rehabilitation of vacant and blighted buildings, Barsotti stated in an interview.

“That is the biggest vacant and blighted constructing downtown,” she stated of the outdated highschool.

The constructing is at the moment owned by Christopher Gilbert, a resident of Dorset and Crimson Hook, New York, who purchased the property in 2020 for $146,000.

Selectboard Chair Jeannie Jenkins stated if the board decides at its assembly on Monday to place $2 million in federal funding into the proposal, not one of the cash could be spent till the city secures the estimated extra $1.2 million for the primary part of the mission. 

Designated city staff would then report again to the Selectboard in three to 4 months on the funding progress, earlier than the board would determine whether or not to maneuver ahead. 

Jenkins stated Bennington residents gained’t should shoulder any of the price.

“There’s no price to the taxpayer,” she stated in an interview. “That is all taking a look at utilizing the (American Rescue Plan Act) funds, actually, as a springboard for locating different sources to place this mission collectively.”

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