State commission says demolition of Hooker Building in Hadley would harm historic district

  • The Hadley Senior Community Center at Hooker School.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

HADLEY — The state Historical Commission is against demolition of the old Hooker School, saying tearing it down would harm the town center’s historic district.

The decision begins a negotiation between town and state historical officials about the future of the building at 46 Middle St. that currently houses the senior center.

Residents in October voted overwhelmingly at Town Meeting to approve a new library at the site of the former school, which could cost upwards of $8.3 million. Voters at that meeting also OK’d funding for a new senior center to be built on 2.6 acres behind Hooker School.

In a Feb. 8 letter to Patrick Borezo, the library’s director, the executive director of the state commission, Brona Simon, wrote that per state regulations, the commission “looks forward” to consulting with the state Board of Library Commissioners, the town and the library to “explore alternatives that would eliminate, minimize, or mitigate the adverse effect of the proposed demolition.”

That letter has since circulated through Town Hall, and officials are working on a resolution. The letter does not mean the old Hooker School will not come down, said Brian McNiff, spokesman for the state commission.

“This is a negotiation, a consultation process that goes on,” he said.

Alison Donta-Venman, chairwoman of the library planning and design committee, said video or photo records of the building, as well as incorporating design elements of the old school into the planned library, are all possible.

That the library even becomes a reality is still in question. Though voters approved the Hooker School site, no money has been approved for the project, Donta-Venman said.

The town did apply for a grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners in January. That grant could cover up to 52 percent of $7.6 million in eligible renovation costs, she said.

Donta-Venman said the board will likely announce grant awards in July.

“If we do receive a grant in July we are also told where we stand in line for the money,” she said. “That would determine when we could proceed with the project.”

Town Administrator David Nixon said construction on a new library would likely start no earlier than January 2019.

Selectman Donald Pipczynski said he would prefer the building to stay in place because voters approved a new senior center and because of recent upgrades to the old school.

He said because the building would be next to a new senior center, a renovated space would be a natural fit for senior housing.

“It would be a perfect match in my estimation,” he said. The town Historical Commission’s next meeting is 7 p.m. on March 28 at the senior center.

Jack Suntrup can be reached at jsuntrup@gazettenet.com.