By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – The fate of the historical White Cliffs building in Northborough is still uncertain. At the Dec. 18 White Cliffs Committee meeting, DBVW Architects presented a fourth reuse option after the first three – residential, municipal, and hospitality/event use – were previously determined not to be economically viable for the town. The option, named Preservation LITE, would be the least costly approach to do minimal building improvements to get it back on the market, but will still leave a funding gap. The town will explore the interest of a potential partner or investor from the private sector to help this option become a reality.
Town Administrator John Coderre said the town has paid for the acquisition of the facility and the land, and has made minimal restoration improvements to preserve the building envelope, including roof repairs, sealing off the additions, and repairs to the back dormer.
A Request for Proposals (RFP) was discussed. Due to the uniqueness of this project, consulting services would be needed to assist with writing the RFP’s scope of services and creatively attract potential partners, who have the ability to restore the building to get it operational and open for business.
“I’m not sure what interest is out there and how viable that is; the only way to really do it would be to test the market,” said Coderre.
He said there may be interest from those who were previously interested in the building.
“There was a lot of interest in the building,” Coderre said. “They couldn’t make it work with the acquisition cost and the renovation cost. Now we’ve taken the acquisition cost off the table.”
Specific criteria would be used by the Committee to evaluate the viability of any project proposals received.
“The priorities for me would be to preserve the historical aspects of the building to the extent possible inside and out and minimally the streetscape and to minimize the additional cost if any to the taxpayers to do that,” said Coderre.
Access for public to historic portion
Another priority would be to have some public access to at least the historic part of the building.
Currently, the White Cliffs account balance is shy of $190,000. These funds need to cover standing monthly costs, unexpected costs as well as costs associated with the RFP process. Although short-term repairs can be made to the chimney, the longer it is left, the more deterioration will occur. The estimated cost to fully repair it is $100,000.
An alternative to the RFP process would be to seek money at the town meeting in April to do more preservation work on the building.
“The alternative is that the town taxpayers in one form or another would be required to pay the balance to preserve the building and that would be a difficult sell in my opinion,” said Coderre.
Click here to read a historic account of the White Cliffs estate written by Normand Corbin of the Northborough Historic District Commission.
Click here for all Community Advocate coverage of the White Cliffs.