FAIRHAVEN – It looks like the city may finally have a potential tenant for at least part of the space in the Rogers School building.
Rogers’ reuse committee engaged in serious discussions with the Southeastern Massachusetts Educational Collaborative to lease the building’s new 1950s wing.
Committee member Susan Loo explained that SMEC is expanding one of its programs in New Bedford for special education students from Kindergarten to Grade 6. At full capacity, approximately 40 students would occupy space in the wing of the Rogers Building.
Selectman and Board Liaison Committee Keith Silvia explained to the other Selectmen that this would be a big blow to the city as the impact on the neighborhood would be minimal.
The positive reaction from the Rogers Building neighborhood is significant, as it was primarily negative feedback from many neighboring residents that led Selectmen’s board in March to reject an Arch Communities development offer to convert the area. home ownership for the elderly.
The impact on traffic would be limited due to the small number of students who will attend. The neighbors of the building would have to deal with a standard school schedule of Monday to Friday, as well as extended day and summer programming.
The main traffic would come from transport by van for pupils in difficulty. Parking for open houses and other special events would be limited.
Mr Loo said, “The neighbors the committee spoke to are delighted to hear that SMEC may enter there.
At the Selectmen meeting on May 10, representatives of SMEC, Catherine Cooper and Christopher Haraden, appeared to reassure the Board of Directors of its intentions. “Collaboration takes a strong commitment,” Cooper said.
SMEC is not looking to relocate from its location at 56 Bridge St., the former Tripp School building; the lease with the Rogers building would be additional space.
Loo also reiterated that this possible deal would only be for the newer part of the building and that SMEC has no interest in the rest of the building due to the lack of accessibility for people with disabilities.
SMEC wants to move in by September, in time for the start of the school year. “We have a long way to go in a short period of time,” Loo said.
Cooper clarified that the move-in target date is not a deadline, as SMEC can still retain its students in its other locations in the interim.
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Lease negotiations have not started, although the Rogers committee is tasked with coming up with several options that show different investment rates.
SMEC and the city are looking to invest considerable sums in this project. At the May 10 meeting, representatives from SMEC said they plan to invest $ 250,000 in space. Loo said the Rogers committee is recommending an estimated investment of $ 425,000 from the city.
The estimated total investment from the two sources would be $ 675,000, although both sides hope the RFP process will result in lower bids.
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Loo and the Rogers Reuse Committee believe the city will recoup its investment costs of rehabilitating the space for SMEC through rent in a few years, then it will be all revenue.
Because it will require a large capital investment on the part of the city, the proposal must be approved by the vote of the municipal assembly. Rogers’ reuse committee is working to achieve this at the city’s annual meeting on June 12.
“It happens to us a lot, very quickly. We owe Town Meeting to have more numbers ready. I need more cost certainty and a reasonable payback period, ”said Selectman Robert Espindola.
A considerable amount of restoration and upgrade work needs to take place in the space. According to Loo, the necessary work on the space includes a new roof, new and / or fixed windows, installation of fencing, some asbestos removal, new strips and repaving for the parking lot and an alarm system put in place. up to date.
The interior of the building requires new ceiling and floor tiles, a lot of painting, the installation of an air conditioning system, new electrical wiring and the provision of bathrooms for the disabled.
Most of this work will be initiated to bid on outside contractors. Once moved in, SMEC would cover all building maintenance costs.
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Built in 1885 as a gift to the city by famed industrialist Henry Huttleston Rogers, the Rogers School building, located at 100 Pleasant Street, has been vacant since it closed in 2013.
Numerous tenders have been issued over the years with difficulty in attracting buyers eager to preserve the historic architecture of the building, as well as to offer a development that would not overwhelm or clog the neighborhood.
The demolition of the building would cost at least a million dollars.
The Selectmen board proposed and approved at the end of the May 10 discussion to hire an engineer to review the quotes and estimates that the Rogers committee received so that the firm numbers could be presented to the assembly. Generally, the lease negotiation can begin with SMEC and the Selection Council could give its blessing for the project.
The remainder of the Rogers building is undergoing an extensive stand-by process to prevent further deterioration of the property. Rogers’ reuse committee hopes the deal with SMEC will be noticed and spark renewed interest in the main building for development opportunities.