Roughly 60 Marion residents gathered in the town’s Music Hall on Tuesday, June 23 during the midst of a summer thunderstorm to view the plans for the Town House restoration project. By the end of the presentation, it was clear that while residents hungered for cost estimates, the feasibility study is just moving into the design stage.
Bob Raymond, Chairman of the Building Committee, began with a summation of the previous years’ work on the project. He reviewed the findings of the 2011 existing conditions report, which encompasses 13 areas of renovation and improvement.
“It turns out almost everything is wrong,” Raymond described the current facilities at the Town House.
“This was our opportunity to create a beautiful, fantastic Town House,” he continued.
At Town Meeting in 2014, Marion residents approved a $100,000 feasibility study, undertaken by Turowski 2 Architecture, which would result in four separate renovation plans and cost estimates.
“We’re in the middle of the feasibility study now,” Raymond said. “The most important part is feedback from the town.”
To that end, architect Peter Turowski reviewed the conditions of the Town House, showed his calculations for the project’s necessary square footage, and presented potential layouts on the existing property for each of the four options. He noted an increase in square footage from the current 11,300 to the estimated 13,500 (for the first three options) and 35,000 (for the fourth option). All told, Turowski estimated that the Town House should have 38 parking spaces and the Elizabeth Taber Library should have 12, which raises concerns about how the town should develop parking in downtown Marion.
Turowski and members of the Building Committee admitted that they held off from preparing design concept sketches until they could meet Marion residents at the public forum in order to learn which elements of the Town House are sacred and which are problematic. The most frequent question from residents, however, was how much each option would cost – numerical figures that are not currently known given that there are not any design plans drawn. Turowski’s team is drawing the design plans based on the Building Committee’s notes from the public forum and cost estimates will be ready for the Board of Selectmen to review before the favored plans go before residents at Fall Town Meeting. If Marion residents approve a plan at Fall Town Meeting, Turowski hedges that the construction will be complete by 2018.
The four options for the project are: a full renovation of the existing Town House, which would add square footage by reclaiming the basement and third floor; a partial renovation and addition to the existing Town House, which would remove the annex but add square footage by introducing an addition to the side of the original Town House; an entirely new building erected elsewhere in the town; and a community complex, which would be the result of a large addition connecting the Town House to the Elizabeth Taber Library that would also house the Council on Aging.
Residents questioned the inclusion of the third option, the construction of a new Town House on a different town property.
Raymond called the third option due diligence.
“Some say it would be cheaper; others say it would be more expensive,” he answered, “but at the end of this process, we’ll have comparison cost estimates to find out.”
The Marion residents in attendance were keen for the project to move forward into the design stage of the feasibility study. The town might not be able to afford to wait much longer.
“Deterioration [of the Town House] has accelerated while the feasibility study has been underway,” Raymond said, citing components of the building that were in good condition in 2011 but are now beyond repair.
By Anne Smith