WESTFIELD The Westfield State College Foundation, Inc. has submitted a bid to purchase the former Westfield Normal School building, located on Washington Street, with plans to turn it into housing for the college's graduate students.
Robert Ziomek, executive director of the Westfield State College Foundation, said that purchasing the building is something that the Foundation has pursued.
He added that that the Foundation is working through an attorney in Boston to place the bid with the two bondholders of the property. He said that the bondholders are trying to avoid foreclosure on the property.
The owners of the property are Schoolhouse Associates of Westfield.
Ziomek said that he believes the Foundation is the only organization that placed a bid on the property.
The Foundation's Board authorized $400,000 for the bid on the property. Ziomek said that Foundation has been discussing possibility of purchasing the property for two years and the idea for graduate housing came about 18 months ago.
According to Ziomek, the Foundation is interested in the formal Normal School building because it encompasses the idea of the foundation being an entity that supports the college and that is committed to helping the city revitalize the downtown area.
In addition, he explained that the building is an original Normal School building that is part of the history of the college that they would "hate to see stay vacant."
He said that the building has been vacant for about five years. The building formerly housed the Westfield District Court.
Ziomek also said that owning the building would give graduate students a place to live while attending the college.
"We came up with the idea of graduate housing because students are asking for it," he said.
The college does not currently offer graduate housing.
According to Ziomek, the plans for the building includes two floors. The second floor would include 18 units for graduate students, while the first floor would be utilized by the college for possibly continuing education classed or other offices or programs.
Ziomek said that the Foundation is now "just in waiting mode."
"We got the authorization for the bid and it is in the attorney's hands," he said. [We are] hoping they pick up the bid."
He said that he is not sure how long it will take to hear if the bid was excepted.
Ziomek also said that it is difficult to determine a timeline for renovations until the Foundation knows it is actually going to purchase the building.
"I hope to know as soon as next week if we actually have the building," he said.
According to Ziomek, the inside would need to be gutted and renovated to meet the needs of the project.s
"The structure is in good condition," he said. "If it was not, we would not be talking about it."
He said that there is a possibility that the bondholders could foreclose on the property and place it up for auction.
"We hope to grab it before that happens," he said. "If worse came to worse, we would be at auction."
Vicky Carwein, president of Westfield State College, supports the Foundation's plans to purchase the building.
"The foundation's vote to move ahead with this project helps in the college's goals to strengthen our graduate programs and also regain a presence in downtown Westfield," she said. "We are looking forward to giving our current students more options in continuing their education beyond a bachelor's degree. We are also eager to be more integrated with the community and connected to our historical roots in Westfield."
Westfield Mayor Richard Sullivan said that many city officials are pleased with the project as well.
"City officials are excited that this vacant building can be put to use," he said. "This project shows that the college is serious about helping with the revitalization of downtown.