Groundbreaking Wednesday for $31 million revitalization of Bennington’s Putnam Block

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Groundbreaking Wednesday for $31 million revitalization of Bennington’s Putnam Block

Mon, 08/05/2019 - 12:22pm -- tim

Groundbreaking Celebration for $31 Million Phase I Revitalization of Bennington’s Historic Putnam Block on August 7; Governor Phil Scott, Congressman Peter Welch, and Other Dignitaries Attended; Redeveloped Hub Anticipated to Attract New Residents and Jobs to Area. Courtesy images.

Vermont Business Magazine The Bennington Redevelopment Group (BRG) on Wednesday, August 7, 2019, will hold a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the start of construction on the $31 million revitalization of Phase I of the historic Putnam Block in downtown Bennington. Phase I will transform three historic buildings at the Four Corners in Bennington into a vibrant urban hub. Vermont Governor Phil Scott, Congressman Peter Welch, project funders, investors, and supporters, among many others, are expected to attend the event. The groundbreaking celebration will take place at 10:30 am in the large tent next to the Oldcastle Theatre at 331 Main Street.

Phase I of the Putnam Block revitalization will include the redevelopment of the historic Hotel Putnam, Old Courthouse, and Winslow Building, as well as site improvements to the property. In addition to renovation of the three buildings in the National Register listed Historic District, Phase I encompasses demolition of structures, environmental cleanup, and the creation of parking and mixed-use office, residential, and retail space. When Phase I is completed, the Putnam Block will include 78,000 square feet of renovated space and 30 new market rate and income-qualified apartments which are expected to draw over 50 new residents to the downtown while creating hundreds of construction and permanent jobs for the area.

Governor Scott addresses the big crowd.

“The conversation about the Putnam Block Redevelopment Project has a long history but really gained momentum in 2016,” said Jim Brown, President and CEO of The Bank of Bennington. “We watched our Main Street empty out with vacant store fronts and upper stories. Our businesses struggled to not only attract workers but retain the ones they had. It became obvious to us that the only way to reverse our negative trend was to be bold and invest in ourselves – the community and its future generations – by reimaging the downtown.”

Community and civic leaders, institutions, and inspired individuals banded together to create the Bennington Redevelopment Group, LLC (BRG) with the express goal of revitalizing Bennington’s downtown. The BRG members, which include The Bank of Bennington, Southwestern Vermont Health Care, Bennington College, 4 Putt Properties, Tony and Jackie Marro, M&S Development, Sheela Harden, Elizabeth Harden, Dimitri Garder, Brian and Jennifer McKenna, Deborah Wiley, and Ira Wagner, seized on the Putnam Block as the catalytic key to their new initiative. With M&S Development on board as lead development consultant, the BRG members joined forces to rejuvenate the area and to bring amenities into the downtown, such as access to fresh food and medical services. 

“This project demonstrates what’s possible when a community with a vision and determination comes together to revitalize the heart of their downtown,” stated Tom Dee, President and CEO of Southwestern Vermont Health Center. Dee continued, “I am incredibly proud of what this group and this town have been able to achieve thus far, and grateful to all of our partners for helping to get this project to where it is today.”

“Today, we celebrate the kickoff of this historic project that will revitalize downtown Bennington. We also celebrate the extraordinary efforts of the community leaders who brought their vision to life in the face of countless obstacles along the way. I am particularly pleased that the federal New Market Tax Credit played a vital role in this vibrant project and look forward to returning to celebrate its completion,” said Congressman Peter Welch 

Bob Stevens, Principal, M&S Development

“As an equity partner in this project, as well as lead development consultant, M&S is thrilled to have helped make Putnam a reality. The fact that we were able to secure over $15.2 million in grants and tax credit funding for this project from so many great partners is a testament to the importance of the work being done here. We are very proud to finally see shovels in the ground today - this is truly a great day for Bennington," said Bob Stevens, Principal, M&S Development 

Phase II will consist of a newly constructed building intended to house additional retail spaces, offices, housing, and much needed medical and training facilities. Phase II would entail about 55,000 square feet of new construction and the remaining 60% of the site work, including most of the parking, all of the municipal infrastructure, and the remainder of the environmental cleanup. A future third phase, for which land has been banked with Housing Vermont, a non-profit housing developer, will develop an additional 30 housing units. 

With the support of the BRG, the Bennington County Industrial Corporation (BCIC), the local non-profit regional economic development corporation (RDC), purchased from the Greenberg family nearly all the buildings and land which make up the Putnam Block. With federal funding from the EPA through the Windham Regional Commission and the VT Agency of Commerce & Community Development, BCIC then undertook the Brownfields environmental cleanup necessary to ready the properties for private ownership which would place the property back in service. (RDCs in Vermont benefit from certain protections related to environmental liability.)

According to Bill Colvin, Executive Director, BCIC, the financing package was very complex, with an unprecedented number of funding sources and investors. The project received early development funding from the Vermont Community Foundation, and over the past three years the BRG worked with M&S Development to structure the deal to comply with the Federal Historic Tax Credit and New Markets Tax Credit programs, among others, and to attract tax credit allocation. Ultimately, this allocation came from Vermont Rural Ventures, Mid-City Community CDE, an Urban Atlantic Development subsidiary in Bethesda, Maryland, and Mascoma Community Development in Lebanon, New Hampshire, while tax credit equity came from U.S. Bankcorp Community Development Corporation. Senior debt was provided by Mascoma Bank, with junior debt supplied by Vermont Economic Development Authority.

The project also received funding support from the Putnam Block Opportunity Zone Fund, Inc.; the Vermont Community Development Program; the Vermont Downtown and Village Center tax credit program; Vermont Housing & Conservation Board; People's United Bank; The Bank of Bennington; VT Agency of Natural Resources; Vermont Mutual Insurance Group; Efficiency Vermont; Vermont Energy Investment Corp.; Preservation Trust of Vermont; Citizens for a Greater Bennington; the Town of Bennington; and nearly 20 individual investors from the Bennington community. 

VBM file photo of the Putnam Block.

The Putnam Block Redevelopment Project is intended to act as a catalyst for economic and community development in southern Vermont and to serve as a replicable model for rural downtowns throughout the state. “Across rural America, we are watching as our downtowns are challenged by demographic shifts. Vermont is no different,” said Secretary Michael Schirling of the VT Agency of Commerce & Community Development. “We look for creative solutions to enable our communities to remain vibrant or experience a resurgence. The Putnam Block Redevelopment Project provided a solution for Bennington through community-led development. Businesses, institutions, citizens came together to act as developers to reinvigorate their downtown and shape its future, and their own.”  

The project is working with Stevens & Associates as lead design professionals and Bread Loaf Corporation as lead construction managers. The BRG hopes to have Phase I ready for occupancy by late 2020. About 70 percent of the space in Phase I is leased, and 30 percent of the 30 apartments are spoken for.  

The BRG has now transitioned to planning for and funding the second phase (Phase II) of the project. Phase II will consist of a newly constructed building intended to house additional retail spaces, offices, housing, and much needed medical and training facilities. Phase II would entail about 55,000 square feet of new construction and the remaining 60% of the site work, including most of the parking, all of the municipal infrastructure, and the remainder of the environmental cleanup. A future third phase, for which land has been banked with Housing Vermont, a non-profit housing developer, will develop an additional 30 housing units. 

Putnam Block redeveloped rendering.

Source: BENNINGTON, VT, August 2, 2019 — The Bennington Redevelopment Group