Letter to the Editor:
I read with interest Mr. Saltonstall’s letter to the press arguing that enough homework has been done and it is time to get on with plans to renovate the Town House. We have no doubt that the Town House Building Committee has done a great deal of homework. Our impression, however, is that most of the THBC’s work focused on renovating the Town house. Yes, the THBC looked at some preliminary designs for a new building on the baseball field behind the existing Town building, but it dismissed that option early on. Building new at the VFW site also was not an option at that time.
In its presentation at the recent public forum, for comparing building new with the cost estimates for renovating the Town house, THBC took the preliminary design and cost work which was done for that new building at the ball field and relocated it to the VFW site. That proposed two story building is 13,000 GSF, including 1,000 square feet of meeting space, with a projected total cost of $9,140,613 or $703 per square foot.
To meet the needs of Marion, a new building does not need to be nearly as large as 13,000 square feet and should cost much less than $700 per square foot. Here is why:
– Building new presents the opportunity to totally rethink the use of space and to reduce and refine the amount of office space and common space. A flexible and open design also will provide flexibility to respond to future change.
– Plans for the new building can take into consideration existing Town facilities. For example, it does not need an 850-square foot meeting room. (Such a meeting room already was eliminated in the THBC’s option 3A for renovating the Town House.) We have the Music Hall for large meetings.
– With a new building, the Town can eliminate most onsite paper record storage through the smart use of technology and electronic access to documents. Paper documents can go into cold storage at, for example, Atlantis Drive (which is essentially next door to the VFW site).
– Sale of the existing Town House to a developer (with a historic deed restriction) is likely to save the town the cost of remediating the mold and asbestos in the Town House and the cost of having to temporarily relocate town offices during the renovation. This way, the historic building can be restored in its present location well into the future.
– Converting the Town House to condos (or apartments or senior living) will generate badly needed incremental tax revenues reducing the effective cost of the new building by an estimated $1 million per the analysis of the Chair of the Town’s finance committee. And, the condos meet a real need for more housing options for senior citizens who desire to downsize but to stay in the Village.
There are 6.5 acres at the VFW site, so building the new Town administrative building there in no way jeopardizes the Town’s commitment to dedicate the existing VFW building to a senior center. In fact, having the new town building on the VFW site is likely to greatly enhance the setting through better landscaping, parking, etc.
Before moving ahead with the renovation of the Town House, more homework needs to be put into determining the appropriate size, design, and cost of a new building. We owe it to the citizens of Marion to provide them full and accurate information regarding the cost and conceptual design of an attractive new building so they can make a well- informed choice between renovating and building new.
John P. Waterman, Marion
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