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Study IDs Walker Building options

Study IDs Walker Building options

METRO WEST DAILY NEWS – A Cambridge architectural firm identified four potential future uses for the Walker Building in a study released to the City Council Monday.

The Walker Building – described by city officials as a gem, but an underperforming asset – is about half vacant. The Marlborough Economic Development Corporation this summer tapped SMMA Architects to analyze the Main Street landmark’s condition and development potential for reuse options.

The firm determined the best reuse of the building would be as a mixed-use property, a hotel, residential development or municipal office space, according to the study.

“This technical review provides the city with the information necessary to decide how best to maximize the Walker Building’s value and prepare for next steps if desired,” MEDC Executive Director Meredith Harris wrote in a letter to the City Council.

A mixed-use option would likely include a combination of residential apartments or condominiums with office space, a restaurant, retail functions and performing arts space, according to the study. The City Council in late 2014 approved a new downtown rezoning aimed at spurring redevelopment. The new zoning encourages mixed-use properties.

The building’s downtown location also makes residential redevelopment a potential opportunity.

“Many schools of this vintage have been successful transformed into market rate residences that retain the character of their community and site,” according to the 137-page report’s executive summary.

Redeveloping the Walker Building into a boutique-style hotel could help benefit local businesses, a priority of city officials, according to the report.

Transforming the property into a municipal office space would not bring much downtown economy activity, according to the report. City officials have said there are few opportunities downtown where such a large property exists that could act as an economic engine.

“There’s going to be a lot of work to do,” said City Councilor Matt Elder. “The inner parts of the Walker Building need a lot of work.”

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

“There are certainly challenges ahead, whether the city intends to use the facility for its own municipal purposes or whether there is significant interest in moving forward on soliciting bids for a redevelopment of the Walker Building,” Mayor Arthur Vigeant wrote in a letter to the City Council. “Other than City Hall, the Walker Building is the iconic building in Marlborough and the final product must be one that we agree will be a source of pride for Marlborough many decades into the future.”

The City Council referred the matter to the Urban Affairs Committee.

MEDC officials are expected to hold a public hearing on the future of the Walker Building soon. The study will be posted on the city’s website.

“I think it would be good to get this out to the public,” said City Councilor Donald Landers.

The Walker Building was constructed in 1897 and was enlarged in the 1920s. It was last renovated in 1964.

This article by Jeff Malachowski originally appeared here.