Bank Sale completed

MANCHESTER - The old Factory Point and Berkshire Bank building has been purchased by FPHC LLC, a corporate entity owned by local businessmen Bill and Stephen Drunsic.

The sale was completed last Friday, May 9.

Stephen Drunsic said in an email that his father has been interested in the building since December 2012, but until now it hasn't seemed feasible to undertake.

"Another prospect became involved and so discussions were halted until August of 2013, after which things picked up again," he wrote.

"We had been in on on-again, off-again discussion until closing last week. It was a lengthy process...but ultimately we all stepped back and decided it was in everyone's interest to simplify the transaction."

Drunsic wrote that there were many motivating factors that led to the purchase. They wanted to preserve the historic architecture of the building, but updating it in a manner that would re-energize Main Street, potentially introducing a new commercial concept to the area. He said his family has been long connected to the bank; his mother used to work in the trust division of Factory Point and they intend to resurrect the name in some way.

"While we have not yet made any firm decisions as to what exactly will be going into the building, there are a great many options," he said. "Among what we are considering include small retail shops on the first floor, downtown loft apartments for the second floor and some sort of establishment in the basement and or first floor that would add some vitality to evening activities in the downtown core."

This new development, Drunsic said, will help add more to the downtown area and will draw more people there and to Manchester in general. He said they hope to create a gateway to the Riverwalk, which is partially located on the property.

Pauline Moore, economic development officer for the town, said this new plan is a positive development.

"We're so happy to see it revitalized," she said.

Last fall, Manchester applied for and received a Village distinction and the bank building is in that corridor. Moore, along with former planning director and zoning administrator Lee Krohn, spearheaded the efforts and hoped this distinction, along with the grants and tax credits available to buildings in the area, give a boost to the revitalization of buildings like the bank.

"There are buildings in town that we want to preserve and reuse instead of just throw down and put up new buildings," Moore said in an earlier story published in The Journal in October 2013.

Drunsic said this distinction was a good incentive for purchase and his father helped move the process along to make sure the distinction was received before the closing.

"Additionally we will be meeting with the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development and the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation to determine if it makes sense to go for a Historic Register listing, which would open the project up to federal tax credits," he said. "The potential drawback will be what limitations on development and design may come with the listing."

Because the building is older and has sat empty, there are extensive renovations needed. Drunsic said hopefully, in cooperation with all the permitting and code agencies they will work in conjunction with, facade updates could be seen sometime this year. There are code issues with the interior of the building, so he said that will be their biggest challenge. Tenants are not expected to the building before the end of the year, he said.

"There is quite a bit of work ahead of us and that will entail tying in architectural, engineering and code work, along with extensive interior demolition," he said.

According to Mary Hard Bort's historical account of the town, "Manchester, Memories Of A Mountain Valley," the building was constructed in 1815. Emerson Estabrook opened the Estabrook Opera House in 1884. In 1892, the building was destroyed in a fire but was rebuilt in 1896. Factory Point Bank was originally chartered in 1883 and moved into the building in 1896 until it was acquired by Berkshire Bank in 2007.

The bank has several branches throughout Massachusetts, New York and Vermont. Locally it has branches in Arlington, Dorset, and Pawlet, as well as Rutland and Ludlow.

The Richville Road Branch opened in 2006. The Main Street branch operations had migrated to the new location by 2012. Berkshire Bank has also maintained a branch office on Main Street next door to its former headquarters building.

Berkshire Bank declined to comment on the sale of the building.


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