By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Northborough – For the last year, residents and other admirers of White Cliffs, the historic property at 167 Main St., have been hopeful that someone would come forth and buy the property, saving it from possible demolition. A Shrewsbury woman, Melissa Pride-Fahs, has announced her intention to do just that. But although Pride-Fahs is definitely going forth with the purchase of the property, she is also asking the town’s voters to help her by approving $1 million in Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds at the April 2016 Annual Town Meeting (ATM).
In speaking to the town’s Historic District Commission, (HDC) at its Nov. 18 meeting, Pride-Fahs said the preservation of the building is her “first and foremost” concern. But she noted, that will only be possible if she receives the CPA funding.
Pride-Fahs said that she has secured funding to purchase the building from a number of sources but not enough to renovate it.
“I love this building, I don’t want to be the one to bring it down,” she stressed. “But I can’t afford to do the renovation without the CPA’s help.”
Pride-Fahs told the HDC that she is requesting the town’s voters approve CPA funding for the areas of preservation, restoration and rehabilitation.
Her plans include renting the facility for banquets, weddings, meetings and other events. She also hopes to utilize the building during the week for community, art, historical and educational events.
The main building itself will be maintained in the “original integrity of the architecture originally designed,” she said. That includes removing portions of the building that were added in 1969, including the kitchen. The renovated facility would not have a full-service kitchen, she noted, just a prep kitchen. Approximately half of the first floor hallway would be retained, she noted, allowing for a capacity of 150 people. The second floor ballroom would have a capacity of 200, but there would never be two functions at the same time, she said.
The building would be made fully compliant with the American Disabilities Act, including ramps and an elevator for all four floors. A new sprinkler system, fire alarms, and new HVAC system are also needed, she said.
Originally, Pride-Fahs said, she had thought of purchasing the building through a nonprofit status.
“But it might not qualify for it,” she told the HDC. “I don’t want to be deceitful and confusing to the public.”
“But I do want to give back to the community in some way,” she added.
The HDC will also be seeking funds from the CPC to place a preservation restriction (PR) on the property. The NHC has been working with the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) to determine if the property meets the criteria for a PR which is legal means to provide a high level of long term protection to significant historic properties. If granted, then a measure could be presented to the voters at Town Meeting to approve CPA funds that could be made available to the owners that would offset any difference in the sale price of the home because of the PR.
The CPC meeting will be held Thursday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, 63 Main St. If the CPA recommends that funding be made available for these requests, then the final step would be presenting it to voters at the April 2016 Town Meeting.