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Walker Building study results to be revealed in early 2017

Walker Building study results to be revealed in early 2017

METRO WEST DAILY NEWS – The results of a study to examine potential future uses for the Walker Building are slated to be presented to the City Council in early 2017.

The Marlborough Economic Development Corporation this summer tapped Cambridge-based architects SMMA to analyze possible reuse options for the Main Street landmark. Officials from SMMA toured and conducted an extensive review of the building the past few months and are in the process of narrowing the best potential future uses, said Meredith Harris, executive director of the MEDC.

The study will also feature a review of parking in the area, said Harris.

Harris anticipates SMMA will provide the results of the study to MEDC officials by the end of the month. The findings will then be presented to city councilors and a public hearing will be held sometime early next year. Dates for the presentation to the City Council and public hearing have not been scheduled, she said.

“We’re coming to the end,” said Harris.

City officials may then opt to send requests for proposals to developers, said Harris.

The City Council this spring signed off on spending $75,000 to hire a firm to examine how to best use the downtown property, which currently only houses a handful of offices. More than half of the space inside the 60,000-square-foot building is vacant. The Community Development Authority moved its offices from the facility to the former senior center in December. The Veterans Department recently moved to the new senior center.

MEDC officials and Mayor Arthur Vigeant have stressed that any future use of the Walker Building will be predicated on the building’s exterior remaining unchanged.

City officials have said there are few opportunities downtown where such a large property exists that could act as an economic engine. A downtown staple for decades, the Walker Building has been characterized by city officials as a gem, but also an under-performing asset.

“The Walker Building is a major piece of downtown,” said Harris. “It’s near and dear to everyone’s hearts in the city.”

The MEDC’s executive committee last year discussed redeveloping the property to help stimulate economic activity in the new “Marlborough Village” zoning district.

The City Council in late 2014 approved new downtown rezoning aimed at spurring redevelopment to bring hotels, brew pubs, bed and breakfasts, music recording studios and a performing arts center to downtown.

Discussing the issue in the spring, city councilors suggested a handful of new functions for the property, including a community center, housing, a new library, a performing arts center and office space.

This article by Jeff Malachowski originally appeared here.