Council Looks to Uses for Former Middle School

By Adam Swift

The future use of the old Winthrop Middle School has been up in the air for nearly seven years.

At last week’s Town Council meeting, President James Letterie said it’s time for the town to take more concrete steps regarding the building’s future.

Past discussions have revolved around the use of the gym as a community center or for the parks and recreation department, the use of the auditorium as a public performance space, and the private development of the school itself to bring in tax income for the town.

“We’d like to start making some decisions,” said Letterie. “I think that some of the councilors have had walkthroughs through the middle school gymnasium and the thoughts on that, and looking into possibly having a building assessment done to give us an idea.”

Letterie said that community space is at a premium in the town and it is a need.

“But, there is a limit to what we can afford to do,” said Letterie. “I would like to urge the Town Manager to look into, and to come back to us with thoughts and ideas as to a building assessment for that building.”

Letterie noted that the gym at the middle-high school is available to the public, but that the single gym is also needed for a great number of activities and events for the schools.

“The availability and need for additional gym space in this town, I think it is undeniable, and not just for gym space, I’m talking about community center space,” said Letterie.

He added that there is also a great need for a home for the town’s parks and recreation department, which hasn’t had its own space for years.

Precinct 5 Councilor Joseph Aiello said he agreed with the need for community space and the recreation department, but also noted that there has been a discourse in town for several years about using some of the middle school site for private development.

“The reality is, if we choose this path, as we get up to the middle school site itself, that’s the highest part of the site, and it is close to an existing residential neighborhood,” said Aeillo. “It is likely that anything that is big and bold is not going to happen at that end of the site, which is fine. You can build some housing there, but we are not going to likely get a real revenue producing piece out of this whole thing.”

Letterie said one of the goals is to make the property income producing, not only in terms of tax revenue, but also as an economic stimulus for the town center and other businesses in town.

“I think the gymnasium is extremely viable and needs to be pursued,” said Letterie. “As much as I would like to do something on a community level with the auditorium, I don’t know how financially stable that is. I’m thinking more that probably that piece and the middle school piece would be used in some sort of development project. The town has gone back and forth on this for seven years, and I think it is time we move on it and try to get some viable option.”

Councilor-at-Large Rob DeMarco said the town needs to look at how the site can be best used for its residents. “It’s a unique opportunity to step up and do what’s right for this town,” he said

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.