Prescott School Re-Use Report
Prescott School Re-Use Committee Chairman Halsey Platt told Selectmen that his committee is nearing completion of its work with Joel Bargmann of BH+A Architects. Platt said there is a public hearing Tuesday, April 10 at 7 p.m. at Prescott School, preceded by a walk through the building at 6 p.m. There will also be a report to voters at Spring Annual Town Meeting April 30.
Platt outlined a decision list for the future of Prescott School. The first decision will be whether or not to use the Main Street site for a new Center Fire Station, with the first pass for a layout and cost at $7.6M that includes making the building earthquake proof. No design work has been done for a station at this location.
The second is whether or not the town wants to keep some of the building, and pay for renovation of that portion they want to keep. Otherwise, using the structure as a commercial space might be viable, and this could include professional offices, a restaurant and/or bakery, retail and shops or other use by rent-paying groups. If the commercial option is used, the private investment would be around $3.7M with some tax incentives for the developer.
In addition there is potential to use the building as an inn with 30 rooms, a restaurant and possible function space for meetings and gatherings. The cost is estimated at $4.3M and return to the town may be close to $50K in taxes.
Should the town decide to keep the space for community use and want to pay for renovations, it would be suitable for a Senior Center of about 11,000 sq. ft.; Groton Historical Society for 4,500 sq. ft.; Earl Carter's Memorabilia for 6,500 sq. ft. and the town could use any balance for commercial space.
The benefit to the town includes bringing people into the center of town to patronize other establishments, contribute to commercial revitalization, bring in tax revenues, preserve and maintain a key building in the center, and provide residents with the services and resources they want.
One of the most critical decisions, Platt said, is ownership of the building and land. There are public bidding laws and available tax credits for developers that would suggest that the town not be the developer; there could be long-term lease or outright sale. Platt stressed that it would be important to keep the 'right of access' in front of the building and parking area.
Platt said there were other possibilities, like housing, but that the Re-Use Committee followed results of their questionnaire survey that clearly indicated the town wants commercial use for the building and its s ize opens the possibility of bringing many people into the downtown. "No matter, every scenario will be costly," Platt said.
The ball is now in Selectmen's court and it will be important for them to advocate for one idea for the property. Once the Fire Station location is decided, then there can be public hearings on the other uses. The Board thanked Platt and committee members for their time and effort on behalf.
Business owners Dr. Jean Nordin of Groton Wellness, Bob Wright of Main Street Café and Barbara Scofidio of noa met with Selectmen to advise then that it was their goal to build a stronger local economy for businesses. Noting that it was a difficult time for everyone, they stressed that they needed to find ways to bring customers into their businesses. They also plan to send out information with the Groton Electric Light Department bills in August. They explained that they wanted to create a culture of 'think local first' before residents go out of town.
Dr. Nordin invited the board to visit her business at Mill Run Plaza and other businesses to see what they are doing. She also talked about plans for a Give Back Day scheduled for June 2 that would be an affiliation among local businesses and non-profits where 10 percent of that day's profits would be donated to the local non-profit groups.
In other business, Town Manager advised the board that Ayer's Selectmen voted to support and signed the Memorandum of Understanding with Groton for the Lost Lake Sewer to connect to their Waste Water Treatment Plant.
The Board also ratified Haddad's appointment of Jessica O' Toole of Groton as the Desktop Specialist in the IT Department for 19 hours per week. The union position will start at $17.35 per hour. IT Director Jason Bulger pointed out that Ms. O'Toole had previously worked for the same company that has provided software for the Groton Police and Fire Depts. The Board also appointed Norma Garvin to the Historical Commission.
The next meeting Selectmen's will be a joint meeting with the Finance Committee Monday, March 26 at 7 p.m. to conduct a public hearing on the annual town meeting warrant.