BENNINGTON, VT. >> A historic building downtown has a new owner.
Ben Oyola, of Charlemont, Mass., who purchased the multi-unit "Gibney Block" at 528 Main St. on Thursday, says he plans to move his sign making business to the ground-floor storefront and renovate the existing five apartments on the upper floors.
Oyola said he first visited Bennington in January. He met with John Shannahan of the Better Bennington Corp., he said, after he saw the building listed as an available commercial property on the organization's website.
"It's a nice little town," Oyola said in an interview Thursday afternoon. "I know people want to make it more vibrant. It has the potential to be. The groundwork is already here — beautiful sidewalks and a tree-lined Main Street. Now we need to get the people here."
Oyola purchased the building from owners Jens and Loretta Wagner, of Arroyo Grande, Calif., for $135,000. The building was last sold in 2005 for $245,000 and is assessed for $258,600, according to the town's 2015 grand list. The Bank of Bennington provided financing for the sale and Ted Bird, commercial realtor with Hoisington Realty, brokered the transaction.
The three-story building was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 2009 when the boundaries of the Downtown Bennington Historic District were expanded. Known as the Gibney Block, it was built sometime between 1896 and 1901. One of its first clients, Maguire's Barber Shop, operated there until the 1970s.
Bird said he remembers getting his hair cut at the barber shop when he was a child. He said the storefront has been home to a candy shop and more recently, a real estate office.
Oyola said he will keep renting to his commercial tenant Fidel Moreno, who runs the Auoroa Portal Art Gallery.
Oyola said his focus will be on the apartments at first. Both apartments on the second floor and the three on the third floor have code violations and will need to be upgraded and refurbished, he said. The 2,000-square-foot commercial space will need to be reconfigured to meet the needs of his business.
His plan is to move his business, the Berkshire Sign Studio, from Charlemont, Mass., to Bennington sometime in the next year and ultimately live in one of the apartments upstairs, he said.
He said his experience in town so far has been positive.
"Everyone I've met since I came here has been helpful — everyone from the banker to the lawyer to the real estate agent," he said.
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979.