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North St. and Trahan School Reuse Committee Meets to Discuss Survey

Four members of the North St. & Trahan School Reuse Committee — chair Bruce Shick, Kayla Biagioni-Smith, Lorna Garey and Mark Kratman — met at Town Hall on June 30, primarily to discuss a survey to be sent to other town boards and committees.

Members Bob Fowler, Ken Duffett and Kristen Smith were not present.

The meeting opened with public comments from Tewksbury Community Vision Committee member Karla Branchaud. The “Envisioning Tewksbury 2037” report was completed in 2017 and contained results of an extensive yearlong visioning and data collection effort. Branchaud was invited to share with the committee the six key elements that residents felt strongly about when the plan was completed.

Above, resident Karla Branchaud presents Vision Plan to committee. She also shared this word cloud reflecting priorities for the community.
  • A town center that is the heart of the community. It would be a walkable community core with business and restaurant options, adjacent to gathering and activity spaces.
  • A town committed to ensuring there are housing options for residents in all stages of life.
  • Property owners willing to reinvigorate old storefronts and clean up vacant lots to expand the commercial tax base.
  • Developing a walkable community to unite Tewksbury’s residents, through a network of sidewalks, paths and boardwalks.
  • Building and expanding the town’s public resources and opportunities, through town sponsored events like the Harvest Festival and Memorial Day parade and public spaces like the library.
  • Protecting the town’s open spaces, like the State Hospital land, Livingston and Frasca parks, and Long and Ames Pond.

She thought these would be good guidelines for the committee as they recommend what options the town has for the properties. The committee is charged with gathering information to present to the Select Board and, ultimately, residents at Town Meeting.

The Committee thanked Branchaud for her insights, and Shick asked about her thoughts as a resident, and given the takeaways from the vision committee.

“As a resident, I would love to see the Trahan site be something that serves the community in some way,” she said. “I just envision people with their strollers going down there, people with their dogs going down there, just a nice spot in town to gather.”

Another resident, Patricia Muese, who also represents Tewksbury on the Shawsheen Tech School Committee, lives near the Trahan site and, in conversation with people in her neighborhood, found that they’re also looking for a recreational space.

As to the North St., at the previous Committee meeting, Select Board designee to the Elementary School Building Committee noted that the Massachusetts School Building Authority suggested the town consider applying to build a lower elementary school in the future, and that the North St. site would be an ideal location as it’s centrally located and accessible for emergency services.

There was much back and forth among the committee and attendee John Deputat, chair of the Housing Authority, about the contents of the survey. There was discussion about how broad the questions should be and how much information should be included in the survey. The committee leaned on the side of sharing as much information as possible but also making sure the recipients were aware of any constraints the town has, like cost and zoning laws.

Shick brought up the $5 million the Affordable Housing Trust has that could be used if the properties were repurposed for affordable housing. Kratman said the Committee should reach out to local non-profits to see if they would be interested in partnering with the town to use the properties, which would defray some of the costs for the town. There was also conversation about the town possibly tearing down the buildings, potentially using funds already allocated for the schools, versus outside organizations shouldering the cost.

It was decided the language on the survey would be tightened up a bit and sent to community/economic development planner Alexandra Lowder so she can put together a formal survey to be sent out.

The next meeting is scheduled for July 21.

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