Committee discusses reuse of Northborough’s White Cliffs


By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer

Committee discusses reuse of Northborough’s White Cliffs
White Cliffs
File photo

Northborough – The White Cliffs Committee met on Oct. 14 to continue discussion on the next steps regarding the draft of the Assessment and Reuse Study provided by at their Sept. 22 meeting.

The information compiled for the report included what would fit on the site, how it might look and basic information in terms of budget. Event space, municipal use and residential use were the three reuses outlined. The costs, however, were significantly higher than the Committee predicted.

It was estimated that restoration of the building’s historic structure would cost approximately $6.6 million. This combined with other project costs could result in a project’s funding shortfall of $10-$14 million. The Committee agreed that the numbers were financially out of reach.

“I think all of us were disappointed when we saw those numbers,” said Town Administrator John Coderre. “These were things that were going to be difficult if not impossible to finance with subsidy from the community. I think, in general, the Committee recognized that in order for this project to move forward to the extent possible, we need to find an economically viable reuse.”

The Committee requested a fourth option, which will preserve the streetscape and preserve the building as is, including some of the interior woodwork and key architectural features inside the building. Since the original three options are not viable due to cost, the fourth option is potentially the one to be pursued.

Members of the Committee agreed to extend the existing contract with DBVW Architects at the fee of $5,800 plus $400 allowance for reimbursable expenses. The additional work involved in proposing a fourth reuse option was not part of the original contract. DBVW will present their full report at a future meeting in November.

The goal of the fourth proposal is to see what can be done at a more reasonable price point while trying to preserve the building instead of a full historic restoration project.

Upgrades will be needed including electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems in order to reopen the building as required by code. An evaluation of accessibility improvements will also be necessary.

An additional market feasibility analysis will be part of the project scope by DBVW for the fourth option to indicate what would be needed to try to preserve the building and to get it back on the market potentially for a use.

Coderre said DBVW will be looking at the minimum that is needed “to try to preserve the building and put it back into play where a private sector or individual might be willing to come in and potentially acquire the place or work with the town for a long term lease and make some of these upgrades so we have a viable option.”

In the meantime, Coderre said there is work that needs to be done to keep the building from further deterioration. One area in immediate need are the rotted window sills. The chimney is another area of concern.

Department of Public Works Director Scott Charpentier said some are rotted to the point where water is going through the wooden window sill, behind the wall and saturating the wood flooring.

Prioritizing spending will be important because the timeline of the project process is unknown and funds are limited.

“This is a very unique project and we are in a very unique situation,” said Coderre.

The full meeting can be viewed on You Tube at the Northborough Remote Meetings link. All Committee meeting minutes can be viewed at