Benny’s in Middletown is vacant, here are 11 ideas to fill the site

Now that the former Benny’s in Middletown is no longer serving as a state-run COVID-19 vaccination hub or testing site, what will it be? That’s anyone’s guess right now.

Two signs currently greet visitors at the 1400 West Main Road location: One informs visitors COVID testing no longer is taking place inside, and the other says in capital letters “AVAILABLE FOR LEASE.”

Johnston-based developer Carpionato Group, which also bought the former Newport Grand property with grand plans of its own, gobbled up 29 of the 31 Benny’s locations in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

In 2019, it was announced three of them – in Warwick, South Kingstown and Cranston – would become locations for another well-known retailer: Ocean State Job Lot. And the one in Mansfield, Massachusetts, was sold to Dollar General.

Here in Middletown, there were plans for a BayCoast Bank on the site at one time and murmurs of a gym replacing the department store. But with new “For Lease” signs up, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Here are some ideas that would satisfy a need on Aquidneck Island:

Trampoline park

There is Launch in Warwick and Get Air in Swansea, Massachusetts, though those are both at least a 25-minute drive. The old Benny’s would be a perfect spot for a trampoline park, with ample parking, and, like the other two, it would be situated along a commercial strip.

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A young man jumps into a foam pit at a Launch Trampoline Park.

Dave’s Marketplace

The locally-owned supermarket has 10 locations in the state, but none in Newport County. The closest one is in the North Kingstown village of Wickford and few will cross a bridge to get there. If a national chain were going to fill the former Benny’s, a Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s could satisfy the need.

Pizza boxes for Dave's Marketplace are stocked in the Packaging and More warehouse in Central Falls.

Indoor pool

Swimming is one of those activities that keep you young. It combines calorie-burning cardio with muscle building. Problem is, there are a limited amount of places to swim. There is the Newport County YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County, but the hours are limited. An expansive place with multiple pools set up indoors (for year-round swimming) would be ideal.

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