The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 9, 2010

Highland Building Committee shifts focus to building use

At their meeting on April 1, the Highland Building Committee looked beyond the current building stabilization project to identify potential future uses of the building, and to determine what further renovations, if any, would be desired or required.

Stabilization project status

The architectural firm Menders, Torrey and Spencer (MTS) has signed a contract with the town to stabilize the Highland Building, but due to what they termed “protracted contract deliberations,” the schedule has been delayed by ten days. Therefore, their first assessment of the building should be ready by mid-month.

Committee members recognize that the town’s financial condition and the prospect of two new school projects will probably throw further Highland renovations onto the “back burner.” The current stabilization project, funded with Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds, could allow the building to be safely “mothballed” for up to 25 years, if no immediate uses can be found.

Possible RecCom, COA use

Committee member Nathan Brown prepared a list of organizations and a questionnaire to be sent to interested parties to assess their needs, given the parameters of available space and facilities in a renovated Highland Building.

Alan Carpenito attended the Recreation Commmission (RecCom) meeting last month and reported that they are working on possible programs to run in the Highland Building and the space they would need. They are, he said, “on it,” and will come to the committee with a proposal about how much space and what facilities they would need. They will also talk to the school about after school programs. Carpenito believes that the RecCom would like to move to the building permanently and use part of its square footage. He noted that RecCom likes the classrooms laid out the way they are and would also use a small existing office space known as the teachers’ lunchroom.

Member John Ballantine noted that another interested town group, the COA, needs space designated specifically and permanently for them, rather than shared space. Both organizations would like to see a kitchen facility in the building.

Costs and revenues

The committee then discussed the advantages and disadvantages of opening the building for use by private groups in addition to town organizations in order to increase revenues and help pay for the building’s restoration and operating costs. Ballantine recommended that private groups should have a “contiguous relationship with the school” because of the building’s location adjacent to the school.

Bill Fink, liaison from the Carlisle School Committee, wondered if there would be some use that would “allow the building to simply pay for itself.” A cursory assessment of the amount necessary to pay off a $1.3 million restoration/renovation bond with 2.5% interest over 20 years yielded the information that “we would have to take in a little over $7,800 a month,” according to Nathan Brown.

Soliciting ideas and proposals

As soon as the architects return the schematic designs to them, the committee will define what the space and facilities of the building can offer, publicize this information and invite individuals and groups to submit proposals. Fink volunteered to solicit ideas and interest at the Transfer Station on weekends. “Lots of people like to talk about these issues. This is a great venue to do it.”

Proposals will then be analyzed and prioritized. The committee plans to prepare a spreadsheet detailing the restoration and operating costs, along with recommendations for possible fees, rents, or other income-generation possiblities in a full report to the Selectmen. ∆

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