By Sara Brown, Contributing Writer
SOUTHBOROUGH – The Southborough Board of Selectmen agreed shortly before Town Meeting this month to ask voters to indefinitely postpone Article 23 involving the purchase of the historic South Union building.
The article would have given the town permission to sell the prominent structure.
During its May 18 meeting, though, the board unanimously voted in favor of postponement since the applicant to buy the building, Streetblock Development, withdrew their application.
The now rejected article would have paved the way for Streetblock to convert the historic building into two units. They would have bought the building for $700,000, and then added multiple single-family homes on what is a three-acre property. Plans would have preserved the facade of the building.
Speaking on May 18, Selectmen pondered lingering questions and concerns.
“This board struggled with if this was the right thing to proceed with,” said Vice Chair Chelsea Malinowski. “There were concerns over perceived conflicts, and at a future meeting, I hope we address that.”
Selectman Martin Healey added that he hopes to talk about the issue in an upcoming meeting in June.
“We need to figure out what our potential way forward is,” he said. “Maybe, we just leave the building sitting there, and maybe we don’t, but we have to decide.”
Streetblock Development was the only developer that responded to Southborough’s request for proposals for a South Union redevelopment project. Some of the board were disappointed about the $700,000 offered for the building, thinking they would have received a bigger offer.
“This proposal is intended to enhance the community by maintaining a village-like setting by keeping the density of development consistent with the surrounding neighborhood,” read the original development proposal. “While a denser build-out could potentially yield a greater financial benefit, this proposal seeks to find balance between economic gain and a sensitivity to the surrounding community.”
Others on the board in the past worried that nothing in the proposal stopped developers from selling the building in the future to new owners to do whatever they wanted with the property.
Malinowski said she wanted to make sure the board continues to keep an eye on the project.
“I think we need to address what happened there,” she said.
Selectman Sam Stivers said there could be some grant money the town could pursue for the building in the future.