Northfield mulls fire station’s future as new complex takes shape

By LIESEL NYGARD

For the Recorder

Published: 02-24-2023 7:14 PM

NORTHFIELD — With exterior designs for a proposed public safety complex entering the final stage, the town is looking at future uses for its current fire station.

The station at 93 Main St. was built in 1952 for use by both the fire and highway departments. Since its construction, the condition of the two-floor, 5,400-square-foot building has deteriorated. A primary point of structural concern is that the concrete ceiling of the lower level began cracking a few years ago, causing support issues for the second floor. The department no longer places its heavier apparatuses on the upper floor.

During this week’s Selectboard meeting, Jessica Atwood, economic development program manager with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG), suggested that a structural evaluation, hazardous building materials assessment and environmental site assessment be conducted.

Atwood’s presentation also included a list of redevelopment possibilities for the roughly two-acre site, such as municipal use, housing, artist studios, a financial services office, a Northfield visitors center, a café or restaurant, retail shops or office space.

When it comes to gathering public feedback, Atwood suggested holding a forum to ask residents questions such as:

■“Given the parameters of the property, what do you think would be the ideal use for this site?”

■“Is there something that is missing in Northfield that the reuse of this site could serve to fill?”

■“What is your biggest concern for the future reuse of this site?”

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These questions, Atwood said, would help an architect conceptualize ideas.

An online survey would also be uploaded for residents to provide feedback on the questions and provide additional thoughts for the consultants and developers to look over. Once the consultants prepare some final conceptual designs, they can be presented to the Selectboard.

“This is just a template,” said Selectboard Chair Barbara “Bee” Jacque. “It can be adjusted as the town sees sit to move forward and engage the public. ... We’re laying the groundwork.”

Jacque said the redevelopment process will begin if the town gets a grant from MassDevelopment, applications for which are due the first week of June. Atwood said it normally takes until the fall to hear back from the state.

“If you think about it, it’s not like this building’s gonna sit around vacant,” said Town Administrator Andreas Llamas. “It’s gonna take a while to build [the public safety complex.] … The idea is just that you’re not going to be sitting around lapsed. … Let’s have our plans in place, our ducks lined up in a row and know where we’re headed.”

Selectboard member Alex Meisner said he’s “looking forward to what the community survey will do for the property” and to “see what the town taxpayers would like.”

“I really hope that when we do surveys like this, we are really considering what the town wants instead of what maybe a group of individuals want,” Meisner added.

View updated public safety complex designs

The latest designs for the proposed public safety complex, to be located on Main Street just north of Dickinson Memorial Library, will be on display on Sunday from 7 to 10 a.m. at the Northfield Fire Department’s pancake breakfast fundraiser at Northfield Elementary School.

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