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School Street Barn restoration plans presented to public

Date: 12/19/2012

By Carley Dangona

AGAWAM — At a public information meeting conducted at the Agawam Senior Center Dec. 12, Deborah Dachos, director of Planning and Community Development, and William Crosskey of Crosskey Architects LLC, presented plans for the restoration of School Street Barn located in School Street Park.

According to Dachos, while its structure is well preserved, the barn is in need of restoration. "The roof is showing significant signs of decay," she said. "The siding, windows and doors need to be water tight [and are not currently]. These are the minimum requirements to keep it standing."

The question is whether minimal restorations should be completed to ensure the landmark remains standing, or if a more thorough renovation should be completed to open the barn to public use for events such as farmers' markets, craft fairs and weddings.

"The barn was built more than 130 years ago," she said. "It is one of the sole reminders of Agawam's beginnings — it is very unique and very important to the town of Agawam. The town is the owner of the School Street Barn and is responsible for its upkeep."

Crosskey presented the options of minimally restoring the barn to keep it standing and a more in depth restoration that would enable the barn to become an operational public facility. The former would entail work on the frame, siding and foundation of the structure to ensure it does not collapse. This choice would not provide public access.

According to Crosskey, state law requires handicap accessibility before anyone can enter the barn. The latter option would provide this access and other amenities such as bathrooms, lighting and a kitchenette to create a multi-use building.

In his recommendation, Crosskey stated that it would be best to dismantle the barn and work from the ground up, regardless of which plan the town chose. He added that the renovation would incorporate the original building materials in the revamped structure.

The estimated cost of the stabilization is $60,720. The estimated cost of a renovation to convert the property into a public use site is $812,787.

Crosskey presented the option of completing the renovation in stages, where the foundation, frame, roof, siding, insulation, windows and doors would be completed in Phase I at an estimated cost of $343,508. The second stage would include the finishing of the basement, electrical and plumbing work, the installations of stairs and an elevator at an estimated cost of $74,100.

Dachos explained that funding is available through the Community Preservation Act Committee in the amount of $437,894 in fiscal year 2013 and $100,000 from the Massachusetts Historical Commission Historic reservation Grant Program. Additional state funds might be available because the barn is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.

Resident John Walsh opposed the option of converting the barn into a multi-use public structure. He cited that it was unfair to local businesses such as Chez Josef and the Crestview Country Club because the barn would create competition.

Russ Petrucci, resident and member of the School Street Barn Committee, opposed completing the minimal improvements. "We'd be creating a icon that you can never go in," he said. "We would just be able to look at it."

Other residents posed concerns about the possible commercialization of the site. Dachos responded, "The School Street Park had deed restrictions. The land is for recreational use only and it's publicly owned."

Some residents were concerned the barn wouldn't resemble its original structure one updated.

"The correct approach is to replace the worn materials with materials that match what's there," Crosskey stated.

"It will look like an historic barn," Dachos said.