Better Bennington Corporation 2016 Annual Report
As we look back upon 2015 to prepare this report, it became clear to us that downtown Bennington has suddenly become a much “trendier” place. With the opening of the Catamount Tap House, Two Brews, the Harvest Brew Pub, and the amazing additions of the Aurora Portal Gallery, Story Hour and the Vermont Arts Exchange Basement Music Series, downtown Bennington now offers many options of live, professional entertainment in multiple locations.
All of these additions, along with the opening of Oldcastle Theatre, the Lightning Jar and the scheduled openings of two new and interesting businesses, are helping redefine downtown into an exciting and inviting place to be. Through the efforts of our partnership with Cultural Bennington, the arts and cultural scene in Bennington is exploding. In 2015, Bennington was named the “15th most Vibrant Arts Community in the Country” by the Center for Arts Research at Southern Methodist University, an extremely noteworthy designation. So many cultural events and activities occur throughout the year that we all gather in April to roll out our calendars at the press event called EXPOsion. Last year we attracted participants from New York and Massachusetts who wanted to participate in Bennington’s energetic cultural scene.
While the closing of a few long-term businesses was sad to see, the anniversary celebrations for many others exceeded 30, 40, and even 50 years! The most encouraging news though, was the sale of many existing businesses in the last few years, proof that the downtown business climate is robust enough to attract many new investors. Bennington Bookshop, South Street Café, Glow Lounge, Ramuntos, 305 South Shell Station, and Wills Insurance all have new owners and are bringing new energy to downtown.
Main Streets across America are making a comeback as more and more people are returning to the centers of their communities for arts, entertainment, and to support locally owned shops. Downtown Bennington is beginning to benefit from this trend, as well. It may seem at times that nobody is doing anything and nothing is happening, because confidentiality is usually required and most of the work is under the radar, but all you need to do is step back and look at the whole picture to realize all the positive changes that have occurred.
Our challenges ahead include the prominent vacancy of the Greenberg property which is being addressed by every economic development department and organization in Bennington. As we move forward to overcome it, we are looking at the long term benefits this opportunity can provide, and your ideas are always welcome.
We end the year by thanking our town leaders, partners, property owners, members, volunteers, and corporate sponsors whose financial support allows us to provide services to the community, promote our cultural assets, and keep all our events free to the public.
John Shannahan, Director
Better Bennington Corporation