NORTH ADAMS -- For more than 100 years, Colgrove Park has sat as an open space in the city's downtown.
On Wednesday, state and city officials began a major renovation of the adjacent school that will soon bear its name -- Colgrove Park Elementary.
The groundbreaking ceremony, which included the mayor, city councilors, and representatives from the Massachusetts School Building Authority, marked the beginning of a yearlong upgrade to the former Silvio O. Conte Middle School.
The $29.6 million project will rejuvenate the former middle school into a K-7 elementary school replacing Sullivan School, with 80 percent of the construction costs covered by the MSBA. Conte Middle School closed its doors in 2010 when the district shifted into a K-7, 8-12 school model.
The new Colgrove Park Elementary School is set to open in the fall of 2015.
"It takes a lot of people to pull something like this together," Mayor Richard Alcombright said. "We have definitely come together as a community to make this work."
Work at the site already has begun, and construction workers filed in and out of the school as the ceremony proceeded. This week, mobile office trailers were brought to the site and the interior abatement of the building continued, according to Kenneth Guyette, the project manager.
The mayor also mentioned his vision of the new school as an economic asset to the city's downtown. North Adams Public Schools Superintendent James Montepare embraced the school's historical significance -- it was first built as Drury High School in the early 20th century -- in his remarks.
"We're all fortunate to be a part of keeping the history of North Adams alive and well," Montepare said.
State Treasurer Steven Grossman has been a strong proponent of the project, according to Alcombright.
Grossman, who said he's been visiting North Adams since he was a child, said the city has shown character even in the face of great economic challenges, including the recent closure of North Adams Regional Hospital.
"We have two ways in which we can go.
Grossman spoke of how the school, which will serve more than 300 students when it reopens, is an important investment in the future of North Adams.
"This is a statement by the people of North Adams that ‘We believe in ourselves,' " he said.
Jack McCarthy, executive director of the MSBA, echoed Grossman's statements about the importance of the project.
"We're proud to be your investing partner," he said.
To reach Adam Shanks:
or (413) 663-3741, ext. 225.
On Twitter: @EagleAdamShanks.