Montague Historical Commission wants more info on proposed Farren demolition plans

  • The vacant Farren Care Center on Montague City Road in Montague. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The vacant Farren Care Center on Montague City Road in Montague. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 1/27/2022 4:53:07 PM
Modified: 1/27/2022 4:51:50 PM

MONTAGUE — The Historical Commission agreed Thursday to draft a letter to the Selectboard in hopes that the board relays a request for more details to Trinity Health of New England regarding the company’s recommendation to demolish the vacant Farren Care Center.

The letter will be drafted by Historical Commission Chair David Brule in collaboration with Christopher Sawyer-Laucanno, an author who taught architecture and writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for 25 years.

The decision to write the letter stems from Trinity Health, the Farren’s parent organization, declining to fully disclose its condition assessment, a choice regarded by many town officials and the public as a potential breach of their initial contract. Brule said it is unlikely the draft will be completed by the Feb. 7 public outreach forum regarding the Farren’s future.

Brule deemed the idea to draft a letter “a prelude … to the Feb. 7 forum.” Before firming up plans to draft it, he fielded public opinion at the commission’s Thursday meeting. This largely reflected issues discussed at previous Selectboard meetings addressing the Farren’s potential demolition: an outpouring of remarks surrounding the Farren’s re-use potential, criticism regarding Trinity Health’s limited transparency and disapproval of town officials’ insufficient insistence on getting more information from the company.

“Right now,” Brule said, “we are relying on the good faith of Trinity to see the alarm and the concern of the townspeople.”

The long-term care facility was closed early last year, having merged with a similar facility in Holyoke called Mount Saint Vincent Care Center. All of the Farren’s 105 residents were reportedly offered space at the Holyoke facility. Trinity Health has maintained that the Montague City Road building was too old for its purposes and would be too expensive to update to modern standards.

While Trinity Health declined Montague’s request to view the full building assessment, Eric Dana, regional operations director for Trinity Health, offered the town a brief overview of highlights that includes improvement costs for severely eroded mortar joints and water infiltration damage estimated at $1.5 million, exterior window replacement estimated at $500,000, roof replacement estimated at $2 million, flooring replacement expected to cost $3 million, mechanical upgrades estimated at $4 million, electrical work estimated at $3.9 million and plumbing upgrades expected to cost $1.7 million.

Sawyer-Laucanno also led discussion Thursday about an idea to propose a demolition delay bylaw, written in collaboration with Town Planner Walter Ramsey, that would potentially postpone the Farren’s demolition. Brule approved of the idea, having observed “hundreds of communities” across the state with similar bylaws. Sawyer-Laucanno said Ramsey and Town Administrator Steve Ellis are “favorably disposed” to the bylaw and that it is “fully feasible” for it to be drafted by the end of February.

Brule made it clear that while the potential for a demolition delay bylaw might be exciting, those hopeful for its effectiveness shouldn’t get their hopes up.

“It doesn’t necessarily prevent demolition,” Sawyer-Laucanno added, estimating similar bylaws to work around one-third of the time.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or


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