A hotel is needed for Bennington downtown

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When my wife and I eagerly opened our business at Four Corners, we were jumping on the bandwagon of a downtown study which provided the blueprint for re-energizing Main Street. At the center of the project was a redeveloped Putnam block, with new shops, restaurants, convention space, and a full-service hotel. That was 17 years ago. Since then, there have been additional studies which identified redeveloping the Putnam Hotel as the centerpiece of downtown.

Currently, there is another study underway; a study which is the most in-depth yet. It's a study which identifies not only the need for a hotel, but also provides information on projected demographics, local occupancy rates, and potential branding and developers. It's the implementation piece that so many of us have been waiting for since the 1990s.

As a businessman, I understand we can't continue putting the cart before the horse by trying to recruit new businesses to a downtown with little foot traffic. We've lost several longtime, much-loved businesses to diminishing foot traffic last year alone. For downtown to thrive again, we need to become a destination point for both locals and travelers. We need a hotel as that anchor. Downtown businesses know it, studies have researched it, and our town leaders support it.

So why is a small group of motel and banquet owners trying to put a bad spin on the project? Greed and ignorance. I've spoken to three people from this group, and was surprised at the gross misinformation being disseminated to them by the group's leader. It's a shame the (Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce) isn't in a position to support a project which will benefit the majority of its members, rather than simply propping up the whims of their political leadership. It's also curious how many of the group's businesses are for sale or in arrears. Ironically, one of them will likely be razed for its land value after it's sold, creating even more competition for the few decent local hotel rooms. What this group does want, is more shops and galleries, but fewer hotels...I bet you do! Well, I'm not afraid of competition to my gallery. I've seen almost a dozen galleries come and go over the years, however, it sure would've been nice to have a bunch of lobbyists try to keep them from opening.

— Joel Lentzner

Bennington

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