June 25, 2018
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Group leans toward demolition of two Brewer schools

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BREWER, Maine — A panel is likely to recommend that two of the city’s schools be razed to create open, green space and that a redeveloper look into what it will take to redevelop State Street School and Brewer Middle School.

“I think we finally made some progress,” Mayor Joseph Ferris said Tuesday after an ad hoc committee meeting was held to discuss the future of four schools that will be vacated later this year.

The City Council created the committee several months ago to collect public comment about what should be done with Capri Street School, State Street School, Washington Street School and Brewer Middle School when the new Brewer Community School opens in the fall and replaces all of them.

After a presentation was made about each property on Tuesday they were discussed individually, starting with Capri Street School, which sits on 6.88 acres. Several residents who live near the school have told the committee that they would like the land to be left undeveloped.

“I think the building should be razed,” said Lucy Estabrook, who sits on the committee. “If we give up this green space now, we’ll never get it back.”

City Planner Linda Johns said residents expressed a desire in the city’s comprehensive plan for more open space. She also said the Capri Street lot is big enough that two or three house lots could be added on the left side of the current parking lot, which would leave all of the space on the right of the parking area for a city park.

Ken Hanscom, Brewer Parks and Recreation director, said the site’s sports fields are used heavily by the high school.

The committee decided to recommend the demolition of Capri Street School and possibly adding a few house lots.

Washington Street School, which sits on 8.18 acres, was purchased with federal land and conservation fund project funding, which limits its future uses to only educational and recreational purposes. For this reason, the committee decided to recommend demolition of the building and possibly enhancing the sports fields that surround the school.

“We’re trying to develop a plan now for 10 years down the road,” Hanscom said.

Since both sites will be used by sports teams, having a bathroom on-site was an issue discussed by the committee, and City Manager Steve Bost made a suggestion to “preserve the plumbing and place a SnapSpace” building on the sites, he said. “SnapSpace can offer you a new facility that you can have tailor-made.”

When it came time to discuss State Street School, which sits on 4.6 acres, and the historic middle school, which was built in 1926 and lies on 0.88 acres, the decision was made to recommend the city tap into South Brewer Redevelopment LLC or another similar entity.

The limited liability corporation could take ownership of the properties while the city’s economic development team worked with developers to change the old schools into something new, Ferris said.

“Those two properties would have to be reconfigured into three properties,” Johns said, because the School Department is keeping the new gym and cafeteria area of the middle school for administrative space and to house the Alpha Classroom and “the current property line runs through the middle of the gym.”

Committee member David Hanna took a second to remind those at the meeting that Brewer Middle School is a historic building and could qualify for a number of tax credits for a developer willing to take on redeveloping it while keeping its historic character.

Once the schools are empty, they will be turned over to the city and city councilors will have the final say in what is done with them.

The ad hoc committee is expected to present its findings at the May council meeting.

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