NORTH ADAMS -- The North Adams School Building Committee has received the approval of the Historical Commission on its plans for historical items at the former Silvio O. Conte Middle School during the building’s renovation.
At a meeting Wednesday, the commission voted unanimously in favor of the historical elements of the current schematic designs for the project, presented by Margo Jones Architects and Guntlow Associates.
"It appears that [planners] are definitely very conscious of the building and landscape, with preserving character among the things uppermost in their minds," commission chair Justyna M. Carlson said after the meeting.
The larger project composes a large-scale rehabilitation of the building, erected as Drury High School in 1917, to alter it into a kindergarten through seventh grade school. According to the designs, the school’s East Main Street entrance takes precedence while the western field leading to Colgrove Park will be graded and altered into a fully-accessible recess and play area.
The Historical Commission was brought in to address preservation of the building’s various historical landmarks involved in the project.
Most notable at the meeting were several staircases located on the walk up to the school from Colgrove Park. The plan calls for two of the site’s staircases that are in disrepair to be removed, while the others are to be restored and made compliant
"I like what’s being done with the wall and I like that the decrepit stairs are being replaced," commission vice chair Paul Marino said at the meeting.
Julie Sniezek, of Guntlow Associates, said the plans represent a "good balance between preserving the historical elements and making a functional school." Sniezek and architect Margo Jones, who also attended, called the school an "extremely well-built structure," helping to make some of the proposed restorations possible.
Previous meetings brought to light potential objections to the project from the state Historical Commission, which prompted Mayor Richard Alcombright to seek the opinion of the city’s historical group.
"If they didn’t like it, trust me, they’d let us know," Alcombright said after the meeting. "They’re not a group that’s afraid to go against the grain."
North Adams Public Schools Superintendent James E. Montepare also informed the commission that all busts, artwork and other historical artifacts from the building have been stored away for safekeeping.
Carlson said she and the commission will now formally write to the state Historical Commission, which still has a say in the project’s approval, to reflect their support of the plans.
Next, according to Alcombright, the completed schematic designs will be forwarded to the Massa chusetts School Building Authority, likely to happen sometime in November. Alcombright said he’s looking forward to "starting the process of getting [the project] moving along," using Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’ restoration of Murdock Hall as a point of comparison to reflect the city’s goals for the project.
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