Editor's note: This story has been amended to correct that the Upton Town Library is at 2 Main St and that the Council on Aging is at 2 Farm St. The address for each was incorrect in the original version.
UPTON — A $12.4 million proposal for a new building to house the town library and senior center will become reality if residents approve next month, at both Town Meeting and the annual town election.
Construction would begin this summer.
The so-called Upton Community Center would be built on a town-owned parking lot at 9 Milford St. (Rte. 140), adjacent to the Upton VFW Post and VFW Memorial playground.
The project will first go to Town Meeting on May 6, where it needs a two-thirds majority to pass, said Board of Selectmen Chairman Brett Mimas. Next is the annual town election on May 11, where it must be approved by a simple majority, he said.
Should the proposal win approval at both events, construction could begin in July.
The center will bring the town library and senior center into one 15,000-square-foot, handicap-accessible building on one floor, and feature the following:
The facility is proposed to be open seven days a week with a projected cost of about $12.4 million.
The site expansion will include a shared parking agreement with the VFW that will ensure 85 parking spaces for the center.
According to the Upton Center Business District Revitalization plan, the goal of the project is to not only address decades-long issues at the current library and senior center, but to also increase walkability, combine inter-generational programs, make the town more connected and serve as the anchor for the town's downtown revitalization plan.
The revitalization plan was approved in May 2019, and includes improving sidewalks, landscaping, adding local businesses and creating more housing to the center of town.
Increasing housing for the larger population of older residents is something the town has been focusing on, according to Mimas. In the last few years, he said the town has increased its number of 55-plus housing units by more than 200%.
Rushford & Sons Brewhouse, a locally owned microbrewery at 8 Grove St., opened in December and is the newest business to open within the center of town.
More:First microbrewery, taproom to open in downtown Upton
“It’s time to expand," said Library Director Matthew Bachtold. "Upton's been trying to get a new library for longer than I've worked here, and I’ve been here for 17 years.”
The library is not handicap accessible, it's too small for the community it serves, has several infrastructure issues and it can’t provide all of the services it wants, said Bachtold.
The library has about 4,400 registered accounts, he said. In 2019, an average of 370 of people per week checked out some 700 materials.
“There’s a running joke that the library trustees have never been able to meet in the library,” Bachtold said in reference to the library’s small size. But the new community center will allow the library to increase its inventory, programs and study space, as well as add a conference room.
Bachtold said the conference room will be a huge benefit for events like speaker presentations. Currently, library-sponsored events must be held at other town-owned spaces, he said.
If the current library does close, Bachtold said it will serve as space for other town organizations to use in the short term. He said the space could be open for other businesses looking to move into town, as part of the town’s downtown revitalization plan.
During the annual Town Meeting on May 6, residents will be asked to vote on appropriating $12 million for the community center project and in a separate article, will vote on transferring up to $560,000 from the Community Preservation Undesignated Fund Balance to fund construction of the center's playground.
Since 2004, the town has been working toward fixing unmet needs at both the library and senior center, namely several accessibility issues and being undersized for the community it serves, according to the project's 2019 feasibility study.
The current library at 2 Main St. covers about 3,000 square feet and is located on the lower level of Holy Angels Catholic Church, which was built around 1850, according to the study. The Historical Society Museum is above the library in the same building and is about 2,000 square feet.
The Council on Aging is leasing out about 4,000 square feet at 2 Farm St. Like the library, it's undersized for the community and has minimal parking, according to the study.
In March 2019, the town contracted with Marion-based Turowski2 Architecture to conduct a feasibility study in combining the library and the Council on Aging, along with other historical and recreational services. Funding was appropriated in November 2019, with design work beginning last August.
A public hearing for the project’s site plan will be held during a Planning Board meeting on April 27. Visit Uptonma.gov to check out other articles being voted on for the upcoming Town Meeting in May.
Lauren Young writes about business and pop culture. Reach her at 774-804-1499 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @laurenwhy__.