Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Friday, February 20, 2009

It's How I Do My Best Thinking

This whole what-to-do-with-the-Town-Hall has become quite the thing. I have to admit, I only know what I read, and what is told to me by those in the know.

So, let me see if I am following this correctly.

The Town Hall is in drastic need for renovation, that's a given. The Town approved $4.32 million dollars for this. During the past year, as the project was further discussed after the money was appropriated, the cost rose by over a million dollars.

Now what?

Well, go back to the residents and ask for more money, but considering the track record of lack of action the first time, that is dangerous ground to tread. Who knows? We could be in the same spot this time next year.

Another thing that that is affecting just how we proceed is the economy.

So, another solution was offered up, a good one in my opinion, and that was to put the project on hold, and lease an existing building with the square footage and move the town offices there. This plan offers a few things that the original plan does not offer:

1) The building could be "built-to-suit". If the owner wants a tenant, they will do this, it is common practice.
2) If the All Star Building is chosen it offers great location, ample parking, and space.
3) The lease of a building will be considerably less than the renovation of the old Town Hall.
4) We could purchase the building, and do with it as we see fit. This real estate market gives us an edge, and if the seller doesn't see that, we don't buy. That simple. Overtime, an outright purchase will make better financial sense.

Then there was the talk that the Town does want to go forward with the original renovation plan, and is seeking only temporary space for the town offices while the work is done. Well, that is part of the original plan anyway, since no one could be expected to work in the building as it was being gutted.

For the amount of money we have set aside for this project we could build brand new. 7000 square feet, single story, well designed building fitting in with the architectural style of the area will not cost $4 million dollars. Fully furnished it won't cost $4 million dollars, and if it comes close or does go a bit over, we still get a better deal than renovating a 150 year old building that offers little other than history. We get "new". New building, new everything. We get parking, and access, and above all, space.

We have to face it, the existing Town Hall is a mongrel. Once a one story Worcester County Agricultural building, a second floor was added for more space, and the columns out front added as well to dress up its exterior. It's a little bit of this, and some of that. Great building for 1860, and maybe 1960 as well, but needs have changed, and we should not be a slave to sentiment. Imagine me, of all people saying that? I love history. I love this towns history, and I will do what I can to preserve it, but I am also a realist, too.

So, what if we do build new, or buy/lease a new building? What becomes of the old Town Hall and Center School? They are valuable, historic assets, and if we just think a little bit harder it will come to us. Cripes, I'm sitting here in my cowboy PJ's and pink fluffy slippers and I've come up with an idea without much effort.

What if we renovate the Town Hall into housing? Senior housing would be good, and would also be a source of income to the town as well. The Center School would make a great condos, either residential, or business condos. Another source of income to the town, and the peace of mind that the buildings were saved for future generations. Recycling to the max.

There you have it, another plan to throw into the mix. Buy or lease an existing building, design well, and frugally, or build new on existing town land, and convert the older buildings into housing.

It's win/win. A new Town Hall, and the older buildings are saved.

No charge for this input, it's a freebie. I feel its the least I can do since I offered up the visual of the cowboy PJ's and pink fluffies.


  1. Wally, a tin foil hat would match nicely with your pink fluffies and PJ's.

    There's a well written article by Christopher Tanguay in the Sturbridge Villager entitled "Do new figures figure?" which, to my thinking out loud, makes more sense than what I've read in other sources.

    It swayed my opinion about building a new town hall. After reading it, I think we should stick with the old buildings.

  2. The Tin Foil hat would complete the look. An ensemble to die for.


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