In Press

Bennett Breakthrough may be at hand in Millbrook

[Reprinted from]

Northern Dutchess News & Creative Living

Volume 10, Issue 4

January 24-30, 2017

by Mary Keelan

For the last few months, the bare spindles of leafless winter tree branches have framed Halycon Hall, the prominent stone building in the middle of the old Bennett College Campus in Millbrook facing south across Route 343, shouting its desolation – 40 years in the making from the College bankruptcy in 1978.

When a blanketing snowfall like last week’s spreads across caving roofs and mottled lawns, sticking to the still-standing grey stone foundation, not thwarted by ubiquitous barbed wire barriers, tranquility seems possible, a new hopefulness promised by owners about to celebrate four years when the Bennett deeds became theirs.

For the first time since April 2014, upbeat news of progress on rehabilitating the site is trickling out in the Village of Millbrook. That date is when the Tribute Garden Foundation, a decades-long Thorne family philanthropy in Millbrook, settled a $550,000 defaulted tax bill accumulated by the previous campus owners, Bennett Acquisitions LLC, and negotiated a foreclosure-pending sale price.

The fear that the critical players were being lulled into inaction when no signs of positive development were evident since the new ownership four years ago is now abated. Both Oakleigh Thorne, spokesperson for TGBennett LLC — the working title of the enterprise under the auspices of the Tribute Garden Foundation — and Norman Coles, current president of the Bennett Condominium Association, are willing to share their updated news of the resolution of one of the most vexatious impediments to moving ahead: a land swap and recreation facilities rebuilding.

One part of the official Bennett Condominium Prospectus filed with New York State is shared ownership of an outdoor pool, pool house and tennis courts on approximately two acres of land. Because a previous developer in the 1980s, James O’Dea, anticipated a more large scale condominium campus development, the recreational facilities were positioned near Route 343 and Carroll Boulevard, anticipating easy access to all potential condo owners. But further development did not happen.

Meantime, the preliminary vision for the Bennett property by the Tribute Garden Foundation when they purchased the property in 2014 included creating a park and recreational trails and facilities for the general public. The placement of the Bennett Condo’s current recreational facilities would impede that proposal. When the discussions between the new owners and the Condo Board began about two years ago, they quickly stalled.

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