An important consideration affecting Sandwich’s future is being addressed in Article 15 on the Town Meeting warrant on Monday, June 15—plans for transfer and development of the Wing School property.
Community meetings and consultant reports several years ago described possible approaches to the disposition of the Wing School.
Because of state regulations that apply to all municipal building projects, all potential solutions, including tearing the building down, were extremely expensive then and are even more expensive now. To do nothing will result in a deteriorating building on a property that abuts recreational fields and is located in the center of beautiful downtown Sandwich.
Sale of the property to a developer would address this issue, and the Sandwich Board of Selectmen and Wing School Review Team, after considering responses to a request for proposals, have recommended sale of the property to SCG Development Company for the purpose of demolition of the entire building, except for the historic 1927 structure; constructing affordable senior housing; and community access to auditorium space. SCG has extensive experience in this type of school re-purposing, and its projects are both appealing and assets to the towns where they are located.
The Wing School project would occur in phases, with the beginning phase comprising site preparation, demolition and construction of units, both in the 1927 building and in a new building adjacent to it. Phases II and III will include construction of two separate buildings.
After each phase is complete, the town will consider whether to progress to the next phase; the developer has given the town assurance that throughout the project there will be close communication and consideration of town input.
There are so many advantages to this project, not the least of which is the provision of needed affordable housing for seniors. Each of the constructed units, with the exception of market-rate units, will add to the town’s progress toward meeting affordable housing goals. The project will add to the tax base and will address the problems of municipal expenditures on upkeep as well as deteriorating structures. Additionally, it will remove the building from the town’s building inventory. The developer will pay the town $1.265 million divided among the phases.
The developer has also requested and has been approved for $2.65 million in Community Preservation Act funding; however, this seems to be a matter of concern to the public. The Wing School Review Team would like you to consider that an attraction for the developer to complete the project is the ability to acquire state and federal tax credits for construction of affordable housing. Additionally, a commitment of upfront financial support will indicate to the awarding authorities the town’s support of affordable housing. Expanding affordable housing is one of the three permitted uses of community preservation funds, as is historic preservation. Preserving the 1927 building alone adds considerable expense to the project. By Town Meeting vote many years ago, community preservation funds are collected annually as a percentage of a home’s value; awarding this money will not add anything to the town’s tax rate.
Considering that the potential cost for the town to tear down a deteriorating building would be far in excess of $4 million, and this is the least expensive option should the building not be sold, this proposed project is financially feasible and will improve the overall appearance and use for the property.
The Wing School Review Team strongly urges voters to support Article 15.