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Committee seeking input on Avery School reuse

Posted by Sarah Favot  June 22, 2011 10:00 AM

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The committee charged with recommending a use for the old Avery School once it is vacated is seeking suggestions from the community.

The Avery Reuse Committee posted a survey on the town’s website and in hard-copy form at town hall so residents can voice their opinions on what they would like to see happen with the building once it no longer holds the school. The new Avery School is slated to be completed as early as April 2012, said committee chairman Joe Heisler.

“We wanted to make sure that there were no questions and no one would feel like they weren’t asked what they thought,” said Heisler in an interview. “We’re still at the beginning of the process of reaching out to everybody.”

Selectman Paul Reynolds, who also sits on the reuse committee, said at the last Board of Selectmen meeting that the survey is to solicit people’s ideas on what is desirable to the community. The committee will then do the research to see what will be feasible.

Heisler said the survey would be used to give the committee a perspective of what the community wants.

“It’s not a question of whatever gets the highest vote tally because there are so many other pieces to this puzzle,” said Heisler. “But it will have a major effect, especially if there are uses that people really don’t want to see there."

Some of the options for reuse on the survey include: police station, fire station, senior center, arts/community center, and a new town hall.

The committee had hoped to be able to determine whether the current structure could be reused or if it has to be torn down because of safety and structural concerns, said Heisler.

He said the town was not able to fund a detailed feasibility study on whether the building could be maintained. However, the town agreed to use staff to answer questions about structural, zoning, environmental, and parking restrictions that would have an impact on reuse, said Heisler.

Heisler said the committee is seeking requests from town departments that wish to use the building. For example, he said that the Council on Aging could put together a proposal to outline what it would need to use the building for a senior center.

“If in fact there is a town reuse for it that meets the needs of the community, in all likelihood, that would have a higher priority,” said Heisler.

The committee will also recommend an interim use for the building, said Heisler.

“People in the neighborhood are concerned about it being vacant and all the problems that can potentially happen when you have something like that,” said Heisler.

Heisler said some of the ideas that have come up for temporary use of the building are continuing to operate the West Roxbury’s YMCA program, meeting spaces, and temporary studio space for artists.

Heisler said the committee plans to make a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen about the permanent use of the building in early 2012.

Sarah Favot can be reached at sarah.yourtown@gmail.com.

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