, Newburyport, MA

January 15, 2013

Woodbridge School condo conversion proceeds


---- — NEWBURY — The town is moving forward with a proposal that would convert the 115-year-old Woodbridge School on High Road into condominiums.

Selectmen last week approved a recommendation from the Woodbridge evaluation team to accept a bid proposal from Dolores and Richard Person of Federal Street Restoration, LCC to develop the property at 33 High Road. Voters agreed to sell the property in 2008. The proposed purchase price is $265,000.

The sale is contingent on the Persons receiving the permitting required to build a detached single-family home on the property facing Graham Avenue.

The Persons’ proposal, which met the project requirements and goals and objectives outlined in the town’s bid request made last October, calls for creating three condo units in the basement and on the first and second floors of the old schoolhouse.

Their plan preserves the exterior of the building, but requires significant renovations inside. The additional single-family home will need a variance or other exception because it does not comply with the town’s setback requirements. Once the designation is granted, the developer has 10 days to bind the agreement with a $26,500 nonrefundable deposit.

Located on Newbury’s Upper Green, the property was once the site of a house owned by The Rev. John Woodbridge, one of Newbury’s first settlers, who served as town clerk, deputy to the general court and eventually became assistant pastor for the church of Newbury in 1663. Woodbridge is credited with publishing the poems of his sister-in-law, Anne Bradstreet, thought to be the first American poet.

Built in 1898, the former elementary school was expanded from two to four classrooms in 1908. The building has been vacant since 1998 after completion of a major expansion of Newbury Elementary School on Hanover Street. It has been used for storage of town records since then.

In the past, a couple study committees have considered renovating the schoolhouse for other municipal uses — including a senior center, elderly housing or a new Town Hall. But the groups have determined the undertakings were either not practical or too rich for the town coffers. Over time, the aging building has developed a leaky roof and become infested with small animals and carpenter ants.

In 2004, the town had the 5,000-square-foot building painted. Last year, as part of a wider volunteer municipal project, facilities manager Sam Joslin partnered with local contractors and tradesmen to complete $200,000 worth of improvements to the school, the Town Hall and the Department of Public Works for just $70,000.