Town Manager Norman Khumalo, on behalf of the Permanent Building Committee, wishes to provide an update on the ongoing facilities planning work to evaluate how town properties can meet municipal and community space needs now and in the future.
In 2018, the Center School Re-Use Committee evaluated options for the Center School property, which was vacated following the completion of the Marathon Elementary School. At that time, it was recommended to the Select Board that the Center School property remain an asset of the Town and several town departments that might fit on the site were identified. At that time, the Re-Use Committee recommended, and the Select Board elected, to refer the project to the Permanent Building Committee (PBC) for a more detailed analysis of all of the town's options and their viability.
Throughout 2021 and 2022, the PBC continued the Re-Use Committee’s work and developed possible Center School site plans to address the identified town needs. In addition, it evaluated how the Center School property may be used to further downtown revitalization goals and possibly offset project costs through limited private development.
In its March 2023 update to the Select Board, the Permanent Building Committee recommended expanding its study to encompass other town properties, including the Elmwood School site, which is expected to be abandoned by the School Committee, and the Fruit Street property. The Select Board agreed that a more encompassing study would be beneficial before making a decision on the future of the Center School. The PBC immediately began working with Abacus Architects to update the 2018 needs assessment. The 2023 assessment process consisted of interviews with each town department about current conditions and needs, projected space requirements, and preferred locations.
The PBC identified several municipal needs beyond the 2018 review, including that the Land Use, Board of Health, Public Nurse, Town Clerk, and Facilities Departments lack adequate space to perform daily work and efficient public interaction. The school district suggested that the Integrated Pre-K program, currently located in the Marathon School, be relocated to another town building to free space for other school programs. Records storage was also initially discussed as a need during the 2018 study. Despite the ongoing transition of historic records to electronic format, it was determined in 2023 that every town department needs additional storage space for records, as well as other equipment and materials.
To address these expanded needs, the PBC will be focusing on the use of the Town Hall, the Town Hall annex at 6 Walcott St., Center School, Elmwood School (which may be vacated in the future), and Fruit Street property – all of which are town-owned properties. Abacus Architects will be evaluating the sites to recommend the best solution that will satisfy the various needs.
To that end, an initial public forum was held in May, during which the PBC shared information on the facilities planning process and requested public input to assist Abacus Architects with its evaluation. The presentation, which outlines needs and existing properties, can be accessed at https://jgpr.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/2023-05-24-Hopkinton-Presen…. The meeting can be viewed in full, courtesy of Hopkinton Community Access and Media, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URD4mepC6aE.
Those who attended the forum were able to share their thoughts on potential other un-identified needs, how the current Town Hall building should be used, preferred locations for some departments and programs, and any other feedback. Multiple attendees voiced a need for senior and subsidized housing, as well as accessible housing for seniors and veterans, although housing density was a concern for some. Attendees also advocated for retaining open and green spaces, and a community center was suggested as a possibility to offer year-round activities for all age groups. Additional commercial uses and services were also suggested to revitalize the downtown and expand the Town’s tax base.
“Community feedback is important for our work as we move forward with the facilities planning process. We appreciate all those who took time to attend the first public forum in May and share their thoughts, and we look forward to hearing additional feedback from community members come fall,” said Permanent Building Committee Chair Dan McIntyre. “We are eager to identify inspired solutions that fulfill the needs of the town and its residents, businesses, and visitors.”
Over the summer months, Abacus Architects will be working to develop potential solutions based on municipal needs, site attributes, and public input.
As part of the planning and evaluation process, the PBC will also be guided by the goals adopted by the Town through its Master Plan and Vision Statement. Some of these goals directly related to the facility planning study, including developing plans that consider anticipated municipal needs for a changing population, providing more downtown parking, promoting sustainability and energy conservation, protecting open spaces and natural resources, and encouraging public/private partnerships that revitalize and invigorate the downtown. A copy of the Town’s full Vision Statement can be accessed here.
The PBC plans to hold another public forum to present the possible solutions and obtain further community feedback. This is expected to occur in September. Later in the fall, the PBC will refine the possible solutions to a smaller set of options based on community feedback. The refined options will be presented to the Select Board, likely in November.
“The Permanent Building Committee and the team from Abacus Architects are conducting a very thorough process,” said Town Manager Khumalo. "The process will take into account our goals as a town and our community’s feedback with the objective of identifying the most cost-effective and efficient use of available town-owned properties."