NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

September 30, 2013

Brown School eyed for youth center

NEWBURYPORT — The Brown School, until recently considered a candidate for conversion to affordable housing, could be earmarked as a youth center and school administrative offices when it closes in June, city officials say.

And in a separate matter related to the school property, city councilors today will be asked to dedicate part of the property “permanently for public park and playground uses.”

The Brown is scheduled to close in June, and youngsters will attend the new Bresnahan School on High Street in September.

Mayor Donna Holaday and City Council President Tom O’Brien favor a closing (and sale) of the Kelley School and a repurposing of the Brown School.

In recent months Holaday and others have investigated whether the Brown could be converted to affordable housing, which municipal leaders are attempting to encourage.

But Holaday recently said that conversion to housing is no longer at the forefront of discussion. It would be too expensive and perhaps unpopular with neighborhood residents.

The thinking goes that youth activities currently held at the Kelley School could be moved to the Brown.

The Brown School has a gymnasium. Also, city officials appear committed to developing a playground for youngsters at the rear of the Brown School property.

When aging wooden playground equipment was removed last spring, almost 500 residents desperate for a play area petitioned the city to buy new equipment and keep the playground open.

Holaday and the City Council identified $20,000 in the budget, and a new playground was installed.

City officials say they are keeping costs in mind while weighing the future of the Brown and the Kelley. (Municipal observers say that the Kelley School, only about half of which is utilized, is expensive to operate.)

“It would cost a lot of money to convert the Brown into housing,” said Holaday last week. “And we want to have a park in the South End.

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