Adams Continues Push To Redevelop Memorial School

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The Selectmen committed themselves to sticking with redevelopment plans for the former Memorial Middle School.

ADAMS, Mass. – The Selectmen reaffirmed their support on Wednesday for efforts to redevelop the former Adams Memorial Middle School as a community center and housing.

Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco met with Director of Community Development Dona Cesan and the Board of Selectmen during a workshop meeting Wednesday to discuss the future of the Memorial building.

After the former school was closed, the town was able to capture state funds to replace the roof.

However, before the building can find permanent full use the building needs a new HVAC system.

The building’s gymnasium is currently used while the majority of the building sits vacant. Plans to install privately-developed housing and a youth center are on hold.

The town recently applied for near $350,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds to replace the HVAC system but they did not receive it.

Cesan said projects often do not initially get funded on the first application. 

“The first time you apply for funding more times than not you don’t get funding,” Cesan said. “I am not discouraged.”

The memorial project did not have complete engineering specifications during the application process the funding was not awarded. She said because of abrupt personal changes in the firm the town hired during the application process the plans were delayed.

The Selectmen voiced concern that there was something wrong with the building that made it difficult to receive the grant. But, after learning that the application was just missing a piece they felt comfortable pushing forward with the plan to develop a community center along with privately developed housing.     

"I am certainly fine with the route that we are going, and I am glad to see people in there," Selectman Jeffrey Snoonian said. “I am of the mind that we keep moving the way we are moving unless some angel comes down and tells us exactly what to do who the building.”

Cesan added that the state continues to “up the ante” with this grant program making it more competitive. Projects over $100,000 that are not bid ready often get turned down and applying without complete plans was a “gamble” but the project was a high priority.

She said the current plan is still solid and the immediate hurdle would be to hire the mechanical engineer and complete the plans for next grant cycle.

Mazzucco agreed with Cesan.

"My approach on it is we have to keep trying every option until we get a good option for the community," he said. "We have to just keep on moving forward, and it, just like a lot of projects, takes time."

Mazzucco said the town is still actively pursuing developers and those interested in the building but interest is infrequent.

"We have had conversions with some developers who have expressed some interest but those conversions tend to not come quite a bit," Mazzucco said “It’s not like people are beating down the door trying to offer some money for the building.”

He added that the building inspector had no issues with continued partial use and completely closing the building would cost much more in insurance.

He said currently the building costs the town near $35,000 a year and even if closed money would still have to be allocated for maintenance.

He said it would also be difficult to reopen the building or to show the building to possible developers or buyers. Demolishing the building would cost near $1 million.

The board agreed to renew their commitment sometime before the end of the calendar year and officially vote to continue the plan with a timeline and reevaluate after that point.

“I think if this gets out the public that we are working on it rather than it just sitting there... it may alleviate people’s fears that there is not another monster in town that nothing is happening to," Selectman Joseph Nowak said. “We are concerned and we are doing our best to try to move it forward.”

In other business, Cesan told the selectmen she plans to bring before them the 40R program. She said the state program is a smart growth program that creates incentives for communities to evaluate existing buildings and concentrate residential development in specific areas.

Cesan said the town has targeted the downtown area.

She said although Adams has a large housing stock, it is not very attractive housing. New housing in the downtown for all income levels would attract new residents that would support downtown economy. She added it would also create completion and current landlords in town would have to improve their own properties.  

“I think it seems to be a good program, and I am familiar with other commutes that have used it,” she said. “We are taking it a one step at a time.”

The town will hold its second strategic planning session Saturday at 10:00 at Hoosac Valley. 

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