Plans for former SVC campus include creating destination resort | Local News

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BENNINGTON — A developer with experience in high-end properties intends to buy the Everett mansion and most of Southern Vermont College’s old campus, hoping to create a destination resort.

“The crown jewel will be the mansion,” said Thomas Dee, president and CEO of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, which acquired the 371-acre campus and buildings at an auction in December 2020.

Dee and other SVHC officials said this week that the medical center’s parent company had selected Alfred Weissman Real Estateof Harrison, NY, after an 18-month research and evaluation process, conducted with the help of a consulting firm.


“It’s a win-win,” Dee said. “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 five-star resort, similar to Manchester’s Equinox resort, which he said would likely employ 150-200 people and include an events venue.

Hiking trails on the old campus will also remain accessible to the public, Dee said, and a restaurant and other facilities created on the property should also be open to area residents.


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.

Survey results showed that respondents “had a significant preference of 80% or more for using the property for outdoor recreation, including public access to trails and health services,” SVHC reported. .

Approximately 70% of respondents expressed an interest in seeing the mansion used as a place for lodging and special events while preserving its historic character.

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.

They said representatives from the development company and area officials would speak in more detail at a news conference Friday morning at the Everett Mansion.

The redevelopment is also expected to involve the creation of additional accommodation units or resort facilities in other campus buildings, including former dormitories.

“We are going to present them [members of the firm] at that time,” Dee said.

He 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.

“It will involve major investment” using capital from outside the area, he said.


The university campus was established in the 1970s on property that served as the summer home of industrialist Edward Everett, who built a 27-room, stone-walled estate at the foot of Mount Anthony and the Taconic Range.

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.

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.

Lent said 5-6 acres around the old college baseball field off Monument Avenue will be excluded from the sale and retained by SVHC, which has a medical center entrance across from the field.

Dee said the parcel was being considered for a proposed childcare facility on the site of the land, but the high cost of new construction made it prohibitively expensive. The health care organization, which has a federal grant to expand the medical center’s day care program, is now considering other sites on the hospital campus.


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 to cover expenses while a developer was sought.

“I want to especially thank the community for this,” he said.

The city also changed zoning requirements for part of the old campus to allow for tourism and hospitality development.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Bennington,” City Manager Stuart Hurd said Thursday. “The campus plans are amazing, in my opinion. The trail networks are preserved. This site will continue to be a wonderful part of the community.

Dee said of the developers: “They want to make the town real partners in this area”, 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.”

The developers “are delighted with it; they have the experience, they have the background, the resources to make it a real gem,” he said.

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.

The project will fall under the Bill 250 planning process, Dee said, and that application will be filed by the developer after purchase.


Plans for former SVC campus include creating destination resort | Local News

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