Three months after the town announced that it was close to finalizing the sale of the former Ella F. Hoxie Elementary School to a group that wants to turn the vacant building into an educational and cultural center, those plans remain in limbo.
Town officials announced in September that they planned to sell the shuttered Sagamore Beach school to the Friends of the Hoxie School for $1.
“We’re at a standstill waiting for the town to get back to us after submitting our business plan,” said Allyson Bizer Knox, president of the Friends of the Hoxie School.
Ms. Knox said that on October 29 the town asked that the group submit its plan for how it would finance the renovations that are needed to make the building functional for its purpose. That plan for what is to be called the Hoxie Center at Sagamore Beach for Art, Science, Education and Culture was submitted to the town on November 19, she said.
The group later learned that the town turned over the plan to a small business development group for review.
Town administrator Thomas M. Guerino confirmed that he forwarded the group’s business plan to the Small Business Development Center at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth. The town is awaiting the results of the center’s review, Mr. Guerino said.
Mr. Guerino said that his decision to have the UMass group review the plan was made primarily because the town does not have an Office of Economic and Community Development or a staff person with that expertise. He also said that he wanted a fresh set of eyes to look over the plan.
“We didn’t talk to them. We asked them to review the plan and send it back to us,” he said.
Built in 1909, the Hoxie School closed its doors at the end of the 2009 school year. Two years later, Ms. Bizer Knox went before selectmen and described her goal for a nonprofit organization that would be housed at the Hoxie building. A sample of the suggestions for programs to be offered included culinary lessons, movie nights, after-school programs, summer camps and a teen center. Other potential ideas were providing exhibition and performance space for local artists, a conference center, and a satellite branch for the Jonathan Bourne Public Library.
In September, Mr. Guerino went before selectmen and said that plans for the sale of the building to the Hoxie group were moving forward but had not been finalized. Mr. Guerino told selectmen that he and town counsel Robert S. Troy were very close to finalizing a sale agreement with the Friends of the Hoxie’s board of directors. That agreement would allow the group to purchase the building from the town for $1.
Selectman Peter J. Meier asked when the agreement would be ready for the board to examine and approve, and Mr. Guerino said that Mr. Troy was not prepared to give a specific date or time frame. Mr. Guerino only said that both sides would like to see it done “fairly quick” so he expected that there would be a “concerted push to move this ahead.”
Mr. Troy confirmed that he did meet with Mr. Guerino and town facilities manager Jonathan R. Nelson two months ago regarding the sale of the Hoxie School. He also said that the sale has not reached a point where his legal skills are needed. All other questions regarding the status of the sale he referred to Mr. Guerino and Mr. Nelson.
Ms. Bizer Knox said that her group is doing “everything we can to cooperate and do what the town has asked.”
“In the meantime, we are working diligently to make this [the Hoxie Center] a reality,” she said.