BENNINGTON – A recent report to the Select Board on building and zoning permits included a flurry of business-related projects underway, possibly signaling a reviving local economy.
“Some cool things are happening,” town Planning Director Daniel Monks said this week. “Hopefully, we will come out of COVID and soon people can take advantage of these things.”
In addition to those on the April permit listing, Monks said other projects over the past year included renovation of the former J.C. Penney building in the Bennington Square Shopping Center to accommodate a new Ocean State Job Lot store; the newly opened Farm Road Brewing pub on the corner of East Main and North streets, and several other retail or restaurant spaces either renovated and open now or preparing to open.
The various projects are in differing stages of the permitting process, but combined they indicate resilience and at times bold expansion despite the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
In terms of size and investment, the first phase of the $56 million Putnam Block redevelopment project over four acres at the Four Corners remains the largest project in Bennington.
More of its key components are now coming together within the former Hotel Putnam and two adjacent historic buildings, which are being renovated for retail and housing space.
Currently, within the former hotel on the corner of West Main and South streets, Stevens & Associates, the lead design firm for the Putnam Block project, received a building permit to renovate 4,505 square feet in the area formerly occupied by the South Street Café, at 103 and 105 South St.
The project cost was estimated at $585,000.
Bill Colvin, assistant director of the Bennington County Regional Commission, who has acted a point-person for the Putnam Block project, said he was informed by the project manager that the rear wall of the location “has been opened up to reveal the entire original space.”
He said the name of the restaurant has not been announced.
A building permit also was granted to renovate 2,279 square feet at 109 South St., in the adjacent former Pennysaver Press, or Courthouse building, for the Bennington Bookshop, which now is located on Main Street.
That project on the ground floor level of the historic building was estimated at $106,841.
The biggest Bennington project receiving a building permit was the $3.2 million Northeast Baptist College development on six acres off Convent Avenue, to construct nine duplex buildings for student and faculty housing.
That housing project is going through an Act 250 review.
The biggest project overall appearing in the April permitting list – obtaining a zoning permit – is the Emergency Department expansion project planned for Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, estimated at more than $19.8 million in construction costs. The overall project cost is estimated at $26 million.
Hospital officials now expect the project to obtain all necessary permits by October.
Also in the downtown area, a building permit and change of use to allow a mail order business were granted to Dionysus, LLC, and Paul Carroccio, and WKT Holdings, LLC, and 13 Moons for the Bennington Brush Building on North Street.
The building at 184-190 North St. is undergoing renovation work, estimated in the permitting report at $150,000.
Another project listed is a $30,000 renovation by Vermont Housing Initiative Fund, LLC III, and developer Jon Hale of a 450-square-foot housing unit at 701-705 Main St., at the intersection of Union Street.
The owners of a historic brick structure associated with former textile mills in the Scott and Pleasant street area at 4 Valentine Lane received a permit for a 900-square-foot renovation costing $10,000.
According to a real estate advertisement and town clerk records, the two-story brick and bluestone building was purchased in February by William and Carl Vannixon for $160,000. It was said to have been constructed in 1875 with a Mansard roof and with a style similar to the North Bennington rail station building.
Grace Christian School off Kocher Drive also was granted a permit to renovate 360 square feet of a student lounge into a student store and café. The cost was estimated at $16,900.