Letter: Where's the progress on Putnam Block?

Posted
To the Editor:

The start of construction on the Putnam Block Project has been delayed once again because local investors don't have their finances in order. In fact, Bennington Redevelopment Group needs millions more in cash.

The cost of Phase 1 — fixing up the Pennysaver, Putnam Hotel, and Winslow buildings — is now at $28 million, or $4 million more than the last estimate. From what I understand, BRG has raised $24 million on paper but that the $24 million is a house of cards without the final $4 million. In other words, the project could collapse without it.

At $300 a square foot, Phase 1 costs were problematic but not to be unexpected because downtown revitalization comes with financial burdens. But at $28 million, the cost per square foot is $400 and anyone with a lick of business sense will tell you that nothing in the world of construction should cost 400 dollars a square foot unless they're installing toilets made of gold.

Also, BRG has not given tenants a 90-day environmental cleanup notice. Even if they give it tomorrow, cleanup cannot begin till September 4 ... and every day that passes without notice is another day of delay. At this rate, activities might not get started till late fall, or even winter, or ever.

Also, the town sent the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development a letter asking for an extension on conditions of a $1 million state grant that was awarded last July. This is the second such request for extension. The VDHC honored the first one in December by pushing the deadline to July 1, 2018, which has now been pushed back again. BRG cannot use the million dollars without fulfilling several conditions of the grant. You can read them here: http://bit.ly/Putnam1M_conditions

It's been almost 2 years — June 28, 2016 — since BRG signed an option to buy the Greenberg properties for $2 million. The financial closing was to happen in April but there's no word if the Greenbergs have been paid off. This project is spiraling out of control.

Joey Kulkin,

Bennington

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