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MCP draws a crowd for Thorne and Bennett projects talk

The Millbrook Community Partnership (MCP), which held its inaugural public meeting on Thursday, July 29, for plans it has to revive properties at both the Bennett College site and of the actual Thorne Building itself, should be extremely pleased with itself. 

MCP drew a crowd of more than 100 curious and concerned mostly village of Millbrook and town of Washington residents and business people, in person — and who knows how many more via Zoom — to the well-publicized meeting held at the Millbrook firehouse last Thursday evening. 

It also elicited a good number of comments from those who attended about the park the nonprofit organization is planning to create at the former Bennett College property. That’s where routes 82 and 343 meet and welcome most to the popular and highly-regarded high-end shopping destination. But before visitors can enter Millbrook via Franklin Avenue from the south end, they must first pass the almost haunted looking relic of the old Bennett College, once a leading girls college in the Hudson Valley; it closed in 1978 after going co-ed in 1974. Now all that’s left are the wood and stone skeletal remains of the school, slowly disintegrating into dust and surely as much a danger as it is an eyesore. 

MCP Chairman Oakleigh Thorne told the audience on July 29 that if all goes according to plan, demolition on the Bennett buildings may begin as soon as Monday, Aug. 2, which would pave the way for a 32-acre park on what really is a lovely property. 

Meanwhile, Thorne also shared plans about the Thorne Building, which was donated by his family in 1895 to the village of Millbrook before it was officially a formal village. The donation of the building, which was given to be used solely for the purposes of education, is what prompted the village to incorporate.

Thorne said at last week’s meeting that renovations on the building, which is also in a dire state of neglect, will soon be ready to begin. Once completed, it will become the multi-purpose Thorne Building Community Center (TBCC). (For details on what’s planned for the community center, read this week’s front page.) It was once the local high school and sits at the other end of the village, at the northern entrance of Franklin Avenue. 

The Thorne Building Community Center and the Bennett Park group, represented by the Thorne family, merged quite recently, on  July 1. We think that merger will bring great things to the Millbrook community, as it will sharpen the focus on two projects that have been extremely near and dear to both the center of the village and to its many residents and merchants for a very long time. 

It also ties in entities with which the Thorne family are connected, including the Tribute Garden, which together with the Thorne family has offered to raise the $20 million needed to complete the pair of projects. The two will also oversee the development and the operations of both the new community center and park. 

We are incredibly impressed that MCP reached out so successfully to community members at this early stage. It has included the public in its vision of these two critical local projects; introduced the community to its architect (it’s worth mentioning he’s a local Millbrook architect) as well as the environmental manager who will focus on health and safety conditions; it has provided a rough sketch of the projects’ time lines and details; and it opened the floor to hear the public’s concerns and questions — all of which shows how deeply MCP has the interest of the community at heart. 

We would like to thank those at the Millbrook Community Partnership for their commitment to improving the village, and to encourage them to continue with such public outreach efforts as they move forward. It will only serve to strengthen the final results, and greaten the satisfaction of those who make use of both Bennett Park and the Thorne Building Community Center in the future. From all indications, once done both projects promise to make Millbrook shine even more brightly than ever before.

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