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Residents suggest uses for two former school buildings

Posted by Kathryn Eident  February 10, 2009 02:32 PM

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By Kathryn Eident, Globe Correspondent

Local residents and community organizations in Waltham identified a variety of potential uses for the former Bright Elementary and South Middle school buildings at a hearing held by an ad-hoc city council committee last night.

Some stressed the importance of devoting a space for the arts, while others suggested the city store its archives, house a new fire station or convert the buildings into affordable housing.

Karen Walz, publicity director for the Waltham Philharmonic Orchestra, asked councilors to allocate the South middle building as a permanent home for the orchestra. The group has been performing in Waltham for 23 years at locations around the city, and has often had trouble finding venues that could accommodate them, she said.

Concert-goers leaving a performance at the South Middle building would then be more likely to eat and shop on Moody Street, she added.

George Darcy III, Ward 3 city councilor, said Brandeis University’s difficulty in keeping the Rose Art Museum open inspired him to think of ways the city could collaborate with area colleges to keep the art local. He recommended the city use one of the former school buildings as a space rotate art installations and bring more visitors to the city.

“Waltham could collaborate with schools and universities to increase access to [the art],” he said. “It would make it more visible and drive people to Moody Street,” he said.

Erica Schwarz, executive director of WATCH Inc, a non-profit community development corporation, suggested the committee use the South Middle building as part-community center, part-affordable housing complex. The city could retain ownership of the community center and lease or sell the affordable housing units, she said.

Others asked the committee to consider using part of the South Middle building as a fire station, selling the rest to a developer.

The Bright Elementary building could be used as a city archive and exhibition space, said Wayne McCarthy, co-president of the Waltham Historical Society. Storing the archives in a central location would preserve sensitive pieces and allow the Society to create permanent displays for public access, he said.

City Clerk Russ Malone said he thought the city should use the Bright Elementary building to store city records, as well.

Robert Logan, Ward 9 city councilor and ad-hoc committee co-chair, said the committee’s next step will be to announce a request for formal proposals from interested residents or groups.

“Organizations are encouraged to put forth more proposals,” he said. “People can submit stuff in writing to the clerk’s office or by email.”

Contact the City Clerk's office at: 781-314-3120


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