Shires project will benefit community

It's been said that they key to a vibrant downtown is having people actually live in it. If that's the case, then Bennington is on a good track with the proposed Putnam Block Project and the Monument View Apartments, the latter having recently cleared a hurdle in the state Environmental Court.

In 2014, Shires Housing stirred one of the bigger controversies this town has seen in many years when it announced it wanted to build the 24-unit Monument View Apartments off Eden Way to fill out the unfinished portion of an approved condominium development.

The Select Board became involved when Shires needed town approval to apply for a Community Block Development Grant. Several public debates ensued, over 1,000 signatures were collected by those opposed to the project on the grounds that it would hurt the Grand List, overburden the schools, congest traffic, and increase crime.

After the project was granted local and state permits, the opposition appealed those decisions to the Environmental Court, which on April 14 issued a decision upholding them.

It's not clear if the residents will appeal, though they made it clear in statements to the Banner that they were not pleased with the court's decision.

We feel that if built, the Monument View Apartments will improve the community and that its neighbors concerns won't pan out.

Shires Housing, a private, non-profit housing corporation, has a good reputation. It rents to good tenants, keeps its properties well-maintained, and according to Bennington Police is far from a source of crime.

While Eden Way and Silver Street — where the complex will be built — isn't smack in the middle of downtown, it's fairly close by and should send some needed foot traffic down Main Street.

The importance of having people live in or at least near a downtown was pointed out Thursday at an open house for the Putnam Block Project. Oldcastle Theatre was filled to the brim with people who came out to hear the latest news on the $54 million renovation project being spearheaded by local investors and government planners. The Putnam redevelopment is smack in the middle of downtown and if it comes to fruition it will turn Bennington's fortunes around.

Before we paint too rosy a picture, it must be noted that the financing piece of the Putnam plan is far from in the bag. It still needs investors and there's still risk involved. The same can be said for the Shires project. The best laid plans can go awry and the future is always uncertain to some degree.

Even so, both these projects represent an investment in the community by the community. Tourism is great and our futures here rely on it, but we must invest in ourselves, being something big like committing serious dollars to something like the Putnam project, building quality housing for our people to live in, or as small as shopping in a local store.


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