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BENNINGTON — Developers buying the Everett Mansion and former Southern Vermont College campus are offering a destination resort with 130 rooms and luxury amenities.
Directors with Alfred Weissman Real Estate spoke about their plans at a press conference on Friday, along with Thomas Dee, president and CEO of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, which acquired the 371-acre campus and buildings in a foreclosure auction in 2020.
Alan Weissman, CEO of the company, and Michael Cohen, head of acquisitions for the Harrison, N.Y.-based company, said they had no doubts they would bid for the property after learning that the historic 27-room Everett Mansion was the centerpiece. .
“We didn’t hesitate from the moment we saw it,” Cohen said. “From the minute I walked into Alan’s office and mentioned they had this 371 acre campus with a huge mansion on it.”
FIVE STAR GOAL
Weissman said the company plans to create a four-to-five-star rated luxury resort and redevelop the mansion and other existing buildings on the old campus to provide visitor accommodations, restaurants open to the public; spa facilities; tennis and possibly bowling facilities; an event venue and other amenities.
In addition, they will consider alliances with tennis, golf, horseback riding or other recreation facilities in the area, such as golf courses, he said.
There will also be a focus on preserving, promoting and improving hiking trails along the base of Mount Anthony near the mansion and maintaining public access to the trail system, Weissman said.
The station expects to hire around 150 staff for a range of positions, he said, adding that the intention is to hire people living in the area.
“When Edward Everett built this property, he saw it as a center of excellence and beauty, and a place of rest and respite,” Weissman said. “Our goal is to restore that and bring it back.”
He said the company always engages closely with a community when planning a project, which usually acts as a catalyst for further development.
“We’ve always been a catalyst,” Weissman said, referring to ongoing redevelopment projects downtown and elsewhere in the area, “but it’s already happening here.”
He added: “You don’t need a spark; you have a spark.
“I’m thrilled,” board chair Jeannie Jenkins said Friday. “I’m especially pleased that they see this as a build on all the economic work that’s been done at Bennington so far, and it’s absolutely going to continue that upward trend.”
Dee and other officials at the medical center’s parent company said earlier this week that the medical center’s parent company selected the developer after an 18-month research and evaluation process, conducted with the help of a consulting company.
Weissman said a purchase and sale agreement is in place and details of the price and overall cost of the redevelopment will be discussed once the proposal passes the state’s Law 250 review process. .
He said he was confident this would happen after consultations with local officials and planners. He estimated that the project could reach the construction stage in about a year.
“Everyone seems excited to want this to happen here, so I’m optimistic,” he said.
The developer is working with local architect Centerline Architects & Planners and with a US and Mexico-based firm with international experience in hospitality development.
Dee said Friday that the development company “has the vision, the experience and the resources to help transform the former Southern Vermont College campus into an exclusive destination location.”
TAX BASE IMPACT
“It’s a win-win,” Dee said of the proposal. “I think that will help the tax base, and I think that’s something people will be happy about.”
He said the company’s aim was to create a complex similar to the Equinox complex in Manchester.
Hiking trails on the old campus will also remain accessible to the public, which was a concern often expressed by residents, Dee said, and a restaurant and other facilities created on the property should also be open to residents of the property. region.
AN ABSOLUTE PRIORITY
SVHC also conducted a feasibility study for the development and sought feedback on what the public and area officials would like to see on the property.
This process included a public inquiry which indicated that preserving the hiking trails along Mount Anthony near the historic mansion and using the campus for hospitality purposes were top priorities for the reuse of the property.
Dee and Kevin Dailey, vice president of administration and chief human resources officer at SVHC, said Brian Lent, director of the campus reuse project for the health group, worked with property consultants. CBRE find a developer with the appropriate expertise for such a project.
Dee said he would defer to the developer at the press conference on how much the company has agreed to pay for the property and the estimated overall cost of the redevelopment project.
“But it will involve major investment” using capital from outside the area, he said.
The university campus was established in the 1970s on property that originally served as the summer residence of industrialist Edward Everett, who built a 27-room, stone-walled estate at the foot of Mount Anthony and the Taconic chain.
The house was completed in 1914 and built in the style of an English country mansion, using stone quarried from Pownal. The structure is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The estate’s original name was The Orchards, and Weissman said Friday they were considering that for the resort as well, as well as planting fruit trees, as large orchards were a feature of the property when the Everett family spent time there. ‘summer.
CLOSING THE SVC
Amid mounting debt and declining enrollment, the small liberal arts college closed in 2019. The property was later auctioned off in a US bankruptcy court proceeding of Vermont, the healthcare company with the highest bid of $4.65 million in December 2020.
Officials said at the time that SVHC intended to work with the city, state and others to encourage development on the property that would benefit the city and the region’s economy.
The city provided several levels of assistance to SVHC in the process, Dee said, including helping to maintain the property. SVHC also benefited from a community fundraiser – called the “Grateful Bennington” effort, which raised over $600,000 from over 500 donors to cover expenses while a developer was sought.
The city also changed zoning requirements for part of the old campus to allow for tourism and hospitality development, which Weissman said was a key local decision benefiting the redevelopment plan.
City Manager Stuart Hurd said Friday the proposal represents “a great day for Bennington; it’s a great opportunity for Bennington, and it’s something we all dreamed of when the health system acquired this property.
He also praised SVHC for “helping out the community at a very difficult time. This property is very, very important to the community and could have gone south. They intervened.
Dee said of the developers: ‘They want to make the town true partners in this,’ adding: ‘We believe this will continue to be the impetus in Bennington’s transformation and move us further towards a destination towards which people will go.”
Weissman said the company will have a project manager working on site, but he and Cohen are generally personally involved in their projects and in the communities where they are.
“In every community we try to get involved, supporting local events,” Weissman said.
EASE OF STORAGE
The Vermont Land Trust was also involved in discussions on the proposal, as the trust holds a conservation easement over more than 200 acres of campus at the base of the mountain range. The organization had a “very positive” response to the details of the redevelopment proposal, Lent said.
Donald Campbell, Regional Project Manager for the Land Trust, said on Thursday: “SVHC has been an incredibly responsive community partner. From the start, they were committed to achieving an outcome that encourages hikers and cyclists to use Mount Anthony’s trails.
He added, “Over 200 acres of the old college are permanently preserved for public access and natural resource management. SVHC introduced Vermont Land Trust to buyers and helped both of us keep Bennington’s interests front and center.
Developers describe plans for resort on former SVC campus | Business
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