Hatfield seeks proposals for old Center School

  • The former Center School is shown May 10 in Hatfield. The town is seeking proposals for its redevelopment for most of this month. Gazette Staff/SARAH CROSBY

Published: 8/3/2016 9:24:08 AM

HATFIELD — A month after officials were criticized by some residents for not moving fast enough on the sale of the former Center Street building, town officials are calling for proposals to transform the old school into senior condominiums.

The Board of Selectmen released a request for proposals for the building in late July, and will consider all received plans after the 2 p.m. deadline on the Aug. 29. Despite the criticism, officials released the RFP within the timeframe they had originally set.

At annual Town Meeting in May, residents voted overwhelmingly to convert the building to age 55 plus condominiums rather than see it demolished. They also approved funding to remove asbestos and do necessary clean-up to sell the building.

E. Lary Grossman, chairman of the Hatfield Redevelopment Authority, has some concerns regarding the month-long time period given for potential developers to express their interest.

“I would have liked to have seen a larger window between publishing (the RFP) and deadline so we could cast as wide a net as possible,” Grossman said Thursday.

It takes time, he said, for prospective developers to find out about the property and then to prepare their bids. Nevertheless, he hopes the building will attract developers in time.

The Select Board could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The former Center School was built around 1914 and is two-and-a-half stories with a slate roof and 13,000 square feet of finished space, with an additional 6,000 square feet of unfinished space in the basement. It has four half-baths, hardwood floors and a heating system.

The property is about three quarters of an acre and is worth an estimated $1,091,500. The 6 acres surrounding the school will still belong to the town and stay open to the public as playing fields.

Proposals cannot significantly alter the North, South or West Street sides of the building and must be compatible with the historic setting.

The building is in the heart of Hatfield, within walking distance of the Town Hall, a library, a restaurant, churches and a convenience store.

Initially, voters approved $400,000 for demolition, but the Historical Commission placed a one year moratorium on its destruction, allowing supporters to come up with a plan to save the building.

For those submitting a proposal, there will be a mandatory visit of the 58 Main St. building Aug. 10 at 10 a.m.

While it is not uncommon for prospective bidders to look through a building they are considering, said Grossman, the mandatory visit could stifle participation.

He said many developers interested in the school have already visited it, so requiring those persons “to come back during what is a busy season seems like an unnecessary burden.”

“This is a project we want to make as easy as possible,” said Grossman.

He wishes the redevelopment authority had been used as a resource in the process, including in hosting the walkthrough.

“It’s the perfect type of project for what the authority is chartered for, but the selectmen are the key holders of the Center School,” Grossman said. According to him, the authority has the “most intimate knowledge of the building and its historical features.”

Grossman said instead the walkthrough will likely be conducted by the Department of Public Works director.

The Select Board has said, in prior meetings, they will be handling the project. The winning proposal should be chosen by Oct. 7.

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