Open houses at town garages

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BENNINGTON — The Town of Bennington hosted open houses for parties interested in buying or renting its two former town garage facilities on Thursday.

The two garage properties were vacated when the Department of Public Works moved operations to the new centralized facility on 78 Bowen Road. In May, the Town announced that it would be accepting requests for proposals on how the spaces should be used moving forward.

The properties are the highway garage at 107 Depot St., in the center of town, and the highway garage and salt storage facility at 204 Orchard Road, across from Molly Stark Elementary School.

According to the RFP, a committee made up of town staff will review the proposals and make recommendations to the Select Board, which will have the authority to accept or reject any or all proposals.

"We want to leave this as flexible as possible," said Monks. "[The Select Board] is going to have to make a decision, do you want to maximize financial return, do you want to maximize community benefit, is it a combination of both? That's why with these proposals we want to leave it as loose and as creative as possible for folks, so that they can tell their stories to (the board) hope that they're selected."

According to the town's 2017 Grand List, the Depot Street property is 1.16 acres, and valued at $642,800, and the Orchard Road property is 3.25 acres, and valued at $314,200.

There will be a second open house at each of the garage properties on Friday July 13, at 2 p.m. at the Orchard Road site and 3 p.m. on Depot Street. RFPs are due at 5 p.m. on August 6.

Monks said that the structures at the Orchard Road site could be split up if the interested organizations each only wanted use of one of the buildings.

"We don't want to restrict any ideas," he said. "If the proposal isn't perfect, if we can't accept it as it is, we're going to enter negotiations... We want the best use for the property."

"The Town wishes to achieve the highest and best community impact and viability with these properties," reads the section of the RFP labeled "Proposal Criteria." "Proposals should describe, as practicable, how the revitalized properties meet identified community needs, provide economic impact, create jobs, impact the tax base, advance the arts and culture, expand existing market clusters, create a new market, fill market gaps, promote community well-being, impact youth or young populations, attract visitors, enhance the property, fit the development context, and comply with planning and zoning."

"We tried to give it as wide a scope and range of possibilities as we could, really to get a sense of what the community could come up with," Chowdhury said. "If this is going to be somebody who comes in and wants to do a commercial development on this property, that's certainly an option. If there's a more not-for-profit-oriented organization, that is doing some kind of more direct community wellness or benefit program, they can certainly have the scope to do that... In a way, this is a way for us to see what kind of talent and opportunities exist within our community and what some of those organizers bring to the table."

Chowdhury said that no one has yet submitted an RFP, but that she has had many conversations with interested buyers and renters.

Copies of the RFP forms are available at benningtonvt.org/request-for-proposals-town-garages, and any questions about the properties or the process should be directed to Chowdhury at zchowdhury@benningtonvt.org or Monks at dmonks@benningtonvt.org. They can also be reached by calling to town offices at 802-442-1043.

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.

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