Select Board to seek requests for proposals for reuse of Russell School 

  • Hadley Town Hall. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/4/2020 1:44:55 PM

HADLEY — A private entity to renovate and reuse the Russell School in Hadley center will be sought by the town as a series of options for the future of the historic building are being lined up to consider at next spring’s annual Town Meeting.

The Select Board on Wednesday voted 4-1, with member John C. Waskiewicz II the lone vote against, to advertise a request for proposal in which an organization, business or individual might enter a long-term lease for the 1894 building.

The other viable options the Select Board is examining are buttoning up the building for another decade, essentially leaving it as is, so there is more time to consider what to do with it, or moving forward with its demolition. 

Select Board Chairman David J. Fill II said selling the building is not likely to happen, as the property is too valuable to put on the market due to its proximity to Town Hall and other municipal buildings.

“Mothballing, leasing or tearing it down are the best options,” Fill said.

The Select Board’s discussion came after the Municipal Building Committee, which has been studying the site, voted unanimously to recommend that town officials not pursue renovation of the site for town use, and advocated instead that the building be put into mothballs for an extended period.

The committee noted that there is currently no need for the space, and that the price tag of renovation — with estimates from $22 million to $30 million — would significantly impact property taxes. 

Alan Weinberg, a member of the committee, said the lease might be viable, observing that Amherst is attempting to do the same with the East Street School for its development into affordable housing.

What direction could be chosen may follow a survey of residents in advance of the Town Meeting.

The cost of tearing down the building and creating new green space or a town park could be in the range of $300,000, including removing asbestos. 

Mothballing the building is a much higher cost, $2 million or so, to ensure its condition doesn’t deteriorate.

While no decisions will be made for several months on the actual building, this week the town’s Department of Public Works was given the go-ahead to enhance the property, including removing the rusted backstop once used for a baseball diamond next to the school and a fence along Route 9 that has diminished the site’s appearance.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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