Comings and Goings

Last week was a busy one in the commercial real estate market. First we had the venerable Friendlys Restaurant closing and then bought by another local restaurateur. Then came news of the sale of the Manchester Shopping Center. Along with the sale of the Village Country Inn and the opening of a few other new, smaller businesses here in town, it's tempting to think that finally, a corner has been turned and the benefits of much public investment - i.e., the Roundabout and the Park House, along with private investments such as the new Chamber of Commerce office and the new community library, a period of growth and development, millennial-style, may now be in the offing.

A more telling indicator will come when someone steps up and cuts a deal for the now-shuttered High Ridge Plaza shops, that cluster of closed businesses that gives the impression that there are a lot of closed, vacant shops around. Having that block of closed stores be one of the first impressions visitors get as they stream into town is not the best one imaginable.

Another bellwether indicator will come when someone finally acquires the former main branch of Berkshire (formerly Factory Point) Bank on Main Street. Here we have a highly visible building with its peeling paint in the center of town lying vacant. Before it turns into another Village Country Inn situation, it would be most desirable to see that structure transfer into the hands of someone who has a vision for it.

We'll offer a suggestion to the higher ups at Berkshire Bank - if you can't sell it for a mutually agreeable price to an interested buyer, why not consider giving it away, like the Merchants Bank did recently with one of its no-longer-needed branches in North Bennington, and donating it to the town or some local nonprofit that has an idea for what the space could be used for. Perhaps there are tax advantages to be had; perhaps not. The bank would accrue much community good will and positive public relations. Getting that building, plus High Ridge Plaza, back into circulation, would be the clearest statement yet that "Manchester is back."


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