North Adams weighs options for decommissioned elementary school

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NORTH ADAMS — As one school prepares to open, another has closed.

The future of Sullivan Elementary School on Kemp Avenue remains up in the air, as it is set to be replaced by the newly renovated Colegrove Park Elementary School on Monday.

The result of a $30 million update to the former Silvio O. Conte Middle School, Colegrove Park, will inherit Sullivan's 330 students.

The project reached substantial completion this month and school staff members have been moving in to prepare the new environment.

Sullivan, meanwhile, is in the process of closing for good and the building will maintain a low-running heat to preserve the plumbing while city officials work to build a future for the school parcel.

North Adams Public Schools Superintendent James Montepare said maintenance crews are transferring the last of the appropriate materials into Colegrove this week. In a few weeks, crews will sort through Sullivan's remaining equipment and furniture and save anything that can be used at the district's other schools.

"Nothing goes to waste," Montepare said.

Mayor Richard Alcombright told The Eagle on Monday that the city, which will take control of the building, plans to publish wide-ranging request for proposals from potential developers by the end of February. The School Committee began the process of decommissioning the building earlier this year.

"We've got to fast track that," Alcombright said, noting that the city wouldn't want to pay to heat and maintain the building over the course of the 2016-17 winter season.

The first step in the process is to get the building, and the land it sits on, professionally appraised, Alcombright said. Then, the city will issue a broad request for proposals just to see what interest there may be in the property.

"Just throw it out there to the world and see who can do what with it," Alcombright said.

Ideally, Alcombright hopes the land is used for either an affordable assisted living facility or privately developed townhouses. But the city will entertain most any proposal that isn't a major intrusion on the residential neighborhood that surrounds the building.

"We wouldn't entertain a response from say, a pellet manufacturer," Alcombright said, "but we would probably leave it wide open and see what we could get."

The proceeds from any sale would likely be either applied to the city's debt from the Colegrove renovation or funneled back into the school system for building repairs, he said.

The School Committee voted earlier this year to relinquish control of the school, which officials argue no longer has an educational purpose or use in North Adams. The city will decide its fate.

"In order to build or renovate a facility there, there just wasn't enough usable space, especially for parking and playground and to make it handicap accessible," Montepare said.

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.


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