‘Putting life into the building’

Photo by Historical Commission member Kate Mattison
Photo by Historical Commission member Kate Matison

Back in November, the Board of Selectmen endorsed a plan for a new 1-story police station to be built adjacent to the current fire station. That plan calls for the existing police station to be torn down. Last night in front of a good-sized crowd of Southborough residents, members of the Historic Commission made a case for preserving the building.

Their arguments around preserving the town’s history through its architecture have been made before, but new to the mix was a conceptual design that showed how the existing building could be renovated and added on to to make a functional police station.

The plan presented by architectural designer and Southborough resident Nancy Vargas called for a 1-story L-shaped addition to the current building. The addition would house a garage, sally port, booking and dispatch areas, as well as the main public entrance to the building. The existing 3-story building would be converted into office and briefing spaces, as well as locker and workout facilities.

Interim Police Chief Jane Moran said she endorsed the concept. “I thought the plan had merit, so I chose to show it to my officers. They felt the plan deserves consideration and further study.” Moran said she also liked that the police department would not have to relocate while the rehab work happened, something they might have to do with the new construction option.

Preliminary numbers have the cost of the renovation and addition coming in at $6.2M which Vargas described as “comparable” to the cost of a new construction.

The Municipal Facilities Committee had previously evaluated a renovation/addition plan but rejected it because the plan developed was not as functional as a new 1-story building and cost 12% more by initial estimates.

But with the latest concept from the Historical Commission on the table, will the Facilities Committee need to take another look at ways to incorporate the existing building into the plan for a new police station? The Facilities Committee meets tonight to review their latest plans and cost estimates.

Funding for a new police station will not come up at the April Town Meeting, but voters may see it at the special Town Meeting planned for September.

Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf said the decision between building a new facility or renovating the existing space will come down to the town’s priorities. “The plans are similar in terms of their functionality, so it all goes back to what do you want to happen to the building. I think you put life into the building and gave people something to consider.”

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14 years ago

First, where will you put the police department if you renovate? That building would need to be completely gutted and rebuilt in order to conform to current standards. Second, is it really worth that? Again, some folks claim historic significance, but historically speaking, the town has never really done a great job of maintaining it’s buildings the way some of us maintain our homes. And then look at all of our latest expensive building projects – the schools. Trottier has come back to haunt us over and over, and now Woodward seems to be a bit less than what we were told it would be. I think there needs to be a lot more study of this issue, which should also include the existing Fire Headquarters building, before anyone renders a final answer to this expensive proposition.

14 years ago

There’s a difference between an old building and a historic one. I have attended the previous Historical Commission presentation (but not the latest one) and I did not see the historical value in the building. Its a fine looking building bu nothing special.

I agree with the comments made in John’s post re ad/renovations. Look at Trottier and the Algonquin High School for examples of these disasters.

John’s last comment re the Fire Department building are spot on. We could save a lot of money of we joined these buildings so they shared common areas such as briefing rooms, lockers, kitchens, etc.

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