Committee recommends moving Town Hall to White Cliffs


Committee recommends moving Town Hall to White Cliffs
Northborough’s White Cliffs mansion may be the future site of Town Hall. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

NORTHBOROUGH – A Northborough committee is recommending that Town Hall move to White Cliffs.

The Town Offices Feasibility Study Committee was formed to evaluate the practicality, costs and implications of establishing, renovating or expanding town buildings for Town Hall. According to Chair Bill Pierce, the committee examined four properties — the current Town Hall, White Cliffs, the current Northborough Fire Station on Pierce Street and the old Town Hall at 4 West Main St.

The committee delivered its report to the Select Board June 17.

“We weren’t charged with finding what to do with all of those buildings; our charge was strictly to pick one for a town hall,” said Pierce.

Northborough’s existing Town Hall is 29,200 gross square feet. The town recently completed a facility condition assessment report. Department of Public Works Director Scott Charpentier said the “vast majority” of the systems and the roof of Town Hall are well past their useful lives, and the windows are not efficient.

If the building was renovated, the town would need to be able to continue to operate, he said.

“We cannot just close and work remotely for six months while floor one is worked on,” said Charpentier.

Additionally, coupled with required upgrades to comply with codes, the cost to renovate continued to balloon.

The committee held its first meeting last July, and it selected ICON Architects to serve as the project architects in November. Its members ranked the options on a scale of one to six in March.

From highest to lowest, the committee ranked a preservation light and new construction at White Cliffs as their top option, followed by an option to demolish the existing Town Hall and have new construction. Rounding out the final four options was an addition and renovation at the current Town Hall, demolition and new construction at the fire station, renovation and addition at the old Town Hall and renovation at the old Town Hall.

According to ICON’s Ned Collier, his team assessed White Cliffs more in relation to its historic and community value than the building’s physical infrastructure. He said the mansion is “far more accommodating” than any of the other sites in terms of parking. One downside is that the mansion is located slightly outside of the downtown district.

“It is a really beautiful property, and we think it has a lot of merit as a future town hall,” said Collier.

During its May 20 meeting, the Select Board supported applying for a grant that would fund the architectural services to demolish the 1960s additions and secure the building.

ICON envisioned that the first level of the mansion would become community space, and the second floor could be used as space for administration and staff space. A new addition would contain all of the town departments, and there would be an elliptical-shape room that could house the Select Board room.

In fiscal 2025 dollars, the total preliminary order of magnitude costs for White Cliffs is $35.9 million.

“It’s not the cheapest, but it’s not the most expensive either,” said Pierce.

Select Board member Mike Tietjen voiced his concern that the town was already underway building a new fire station; the most recent estimate to construct the fire station ranges between $41.9 to $44.1 million.

“Even though there may be a need for Town Hall renovations or a new building, I just don’t see the conditions of this building … that are sort of similar to the fire station and why it needs to be replaced,” he said.

He said while the work was needed, “I don’t know if now is something that I could get behind to move forward on something like this given the other expenses that the town has.”

Pierce agreed and said the project needed to be phased in. It would also help in regards to the disposition of the other town-owned buildings.

“I don’t see this project being done this year, next year, but at least we have the information,” said Pierce.

There was no action on the report required by the Select Board.

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