Architects to look at library plans

The Building Committee is making progress toward a new town library

SOUTH BERWICK — The Building Committee is making progress toward a new town library and further development of the surrounding property at Young Street in downtown.

At Tuesday's Town Council meeting, committee chairman Tom Harmon gave an update on the library project.

"We'll be sitting down with the architects in the next week, and in two weeks, we expect to be moving on the design process," Harmon said. He anticipated the Building Committee would provide a recommendation to council in time for its next meeting Tuesday, Feb. 22.

"We have an idea of what we'll be getting for a design," Harmon said. "But we need to confirm budgets, timelines and gather input from the public."

As a follow-up from the public meeting held in May, Harmon confirmed there would be an opportunity for public input on the library's architectural design in the coming months.

Harmon also offered a glimpse of what might occur on the rest of the site, including future use of the current rectory and its surrounding land as housing. While the town is under no obligation and has made no decisions, the committee has been working with Avesta Housing, a large nonprofit developer based in Portland, Maine.

"They've given us several options, including artist residences, work-force housing or elderly housing," Harmon said. "It appears housing will be an integral part (of their proposal), but we're not sure. The form of housing has not yet been determined." The building committee publicly requested development proposals last fall, and then chose to move ahead with Avesta Housing.

"This investor is working pro-bono to look at the potential for the building and the rest of the site," he said. "They're a group that's really energetic and interested in doing what's best for South Berwick." However, there may still be an opportunity for other firms to share their vision for the parcel.

"We're looking to get about 75 percent of the information before determining if we'll go ahead with their proposal," Harmon said. "At that point we'd sit down with them, make an agreement and get approval from the council."

Harmon expected the town would be ready to break ground on the library in three or four months, while the site development would take longer.

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Contact Development and Communications Manager Sara Olson at 207-553-7780 x3352 or by email.