Friday, March 7, 2008
Highland Committee studies options
The Highland Building Study Committee met on February 27 to discuss possible dispositions for the historic school building. John Ballantine, Ken Hoffman, Bob Stone and Bob Hilton each presented a list of possible actions to take with the building, with preliminary analyses of the consequences of each action. The committee is not charged with making any particular recommendation or prioritizing options to the Selectmen, but with presenting the board with all possible uses of the building as well as cost estimates and an analysis of each.
Everyone recognized that one option is to demolish the building and develop the site for school parking or other uses. Ken Hoffman summarized the pros and cons of that idea by saying that it “removes the fire and security issues concerning the Carlisle School Committee (CSC), creates much needed parking and eliminates maintenance and operating costs.” However, “the town loses forever an historic landmark [as well as] the value of the present building. Demolition isn’t free, either. [There would be costs associated with] building demolition [as well as with] site development into parking.”
Leave “as is” or minor repairs
Another option, said Stone, is simply to leave it where it is and allow it to deteriorate, forcing the issue of demolition. The town could also “do a level-one band-aid patch,” which would mean renovating it just to the point of saving it from deterioration, but leaving it “unoccupiable, as a ‘cold shell’ for future use.” Ken Hoffman called this option “stabilizing and mothballing” the building.
A “level-two band-aid patch” would render the building in “pre-Emerson Umbrella condition, making it functional, and then either renting it out or maintaining it as a ‘cold shell.’” Hoffman’s version of this idea was a “generic renovation that would prepare the building for specific uses.” A fourth option would be to do a major renovation either on site or move the building, modernizing it so that it would meet building codes.
Move to new site or major rehab
Two other ideas involve moving the building from its present site to another, thereby removing the School Committee’s fire and security concerns, or adding on to the back of it when renovating it. In a full renovation, an addition would probably be required in order to provide for an elevator and stairwell, but could be large enough to accommodate space for other functions as well.
Hilton mentioned that the town has given funds for a study of the whole historic district, and that there is a possibility that the historic district, as well as the Highland School Building, may be listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a result of this study. This is another consideration for the Selectmen when making a decision about what to do with the building.
A discussion about possible uses of the building, “assuming we can deal with the safety issues surrounding its proximity to the school,” as Ballantine said, yielded several ideas. Ballantine suggested that it could be a community center, a mixed-use building rented out to others, mixed-income housing apartments, or mixed-use for the town and schools, as office space or conference space “for overflow from Town Hall.”
Committee member and Selectman Alan Carpenito commented that the School Committee would prefer that administration, especially the principals, be housed in the core of the school campus so that they would have easy access to the students. He suggested that, “that is an area in which there could be some concession.” Committee member Dale Ryder, who also serves on the CSC, said that it might be possible to house the superintendent’s and business manager’s offices in the Highland Building, since those administrators are not involved with day-to-day contact with students.
Stone added that the master plan for the new school provides for several rooms to be used as alternative classrooms and faculty offices, and those might be housed at Highland. On-site preservation, suggested Hilton, might provide more flexibility for the classrooms in the new school by adding more functional space in the Highland Building for other campus needs.
The option of using the building as part of the school engendered a discussion of which parts of new school construction would or would not be reimbursed by the state, as this could have an impact on the future use of the Highland Building. If, for example, the town voted to renovate the building for school use, it might house at least some of those parts of the new school not covered by state school building funds.
Committee member Wendell Sykes, also a member of the School Committee, ended the evening’s discussion of possible school uses by expressing his opinion that, “I think the Highland does more harm than good to educational funding in Carlisle…I think we should knock it down.” He noted that leaving the building there “makes the whole [funding] decision more complex.”
Stone volunteered to consolidate all the options expressed at this meeting and present them at the next, so that the committee could begin to determine the pros, cons and costs of each for eventual presentation to the Selectmen. The committee will also study the new school master plan and contact the School Building Committee to determine the extent and specifics of state funding for school building projects as they might apply to options for the Highland Building. The committee has scheduled further meetings for March 12 and 26, April 9 and 23, and May 14 and 28. ∆
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