Selectmen Approve Josiah Smith Tavern Proposal
Old Library restoration estimate jumps from $850,000 to $1.2 million.
As the next step in determining the best uses for two historic properties on the town green, the Weston Board of Selectmen met on Feb. 27 with several vested participants in the process, who indicated that while a number of groups and organizations have expressed interest in the properties, renovating one of them will likely cost more than was originally anticipated.
In two separate agenda items, the board heard an update from Neil Levitt of the Permanent Building Committee about repairs to the Old Library, while Steve Cecil of The Cecil Group presented the board with a Request for Proposals (RFP) following the recent process of soliciting letters of interest from developers for both the Old Library and the Josiah Smith Tavern.
In his presentation, Levitt told the board that while the cost for performing certain repairs to the Old Library was originally estimated at $850,000, further review of the building has caused that figure to increase to $1.2 million.
While the committee was initially tasked with looking at ways to renovate the building simply so it would not deteriorate further as well as scenarios that included more intensive repairs to ready it for reuse, Levitt said the process proved trickier than originally anticipated.
"If we're going to do work on the building, we (want) to do work that will last," Levitt said.
Among the estimates to come in significantly higher than first projected include the cost of roof repairs and renovations, as well as those for the drainage system and masonry.
"It simply adds up," said Levitt. "Perhaps repairs could be phased in terms of what is truly necessary to save the building."
"I can only say that the original estimate was far less complete than what we have now," he added.
Selectmen Michael Harrity and Doug Gillespie expressed frustration at the timing of the project, with Gillespie calling it a "no-win situation" in that "future use is not known (but) we have to ask for the additional funding or (we'll) have a building that is not attractive for reuse."
The discussion wrapped with Harrity asking Levitt to provide a summary of the scope of repairs recommended.
Meanwhile, following the process of seeking letters of interest for reuse of the buildings that wrapped in December, Cecil presented the RFP to the board, telling Harrity and Gillespie that seven such letters were received, from groups ranging from local organizations like the Weston Historical Society and the Weston Media Center to several real estate developers.
The letters represent the "full range of responses we would have hoped for," said Cecil, calling the groups' intents for reuse "a very reasonable basis for moving ahead."
While the topic of how best to repurpose the buildings has been a longstanding one, with past suggested uses ranging from a restaurant or café to apartment buildings, Cecil said it is not yet clear "exactly how proposals will emerge in terms of building reuse." But, he said, paramount to the process will be an agreement by interested parties to preserve the exterior of the buildings as well as to show financial viability and sustainability.
The discussion ended with the selectmen approving the RFP.