FAIRHAVEN-  A meeting about the future of Rogers School, a historical building in Fairhaven, was held Thursday night between town officials and area residents.

Leading the discussion for the town was Brett Pelletier, CEO of Kirk and Company Real Estate Counselors, hired by the Fairhaven Board of Selectmen as a consultant group for the project. The meeting, being the final of three open to the public, reviewed the findings and conclusions calculated by Kirk and Company surrounding the economics, environmental impacts, and other critical factors of various plans for Rogers School.

Based on the significant age of the building and the structural deficiency that comes with it, Pelletier explained the five best possible options available for the town to take. With the cheapest option being to completely demolish Rogers School, the four remaining choices include expensive renovation costs to keep up to current coding and safety standards. These included reusing the building as an elementary school, converting it into a municipal office building, leasing it out for commercial use, and turning the structure into a multi-family housing unit.

The economic challenges associated with the four options for reusing the building are significant. For example, the estimated cost just to renovate the building so it complies with structural coding laws of an elementary school is about $16.9 million, or close to $300 per square foot.

The second-cheapest choice, creating a multi-family condominium, is estimated to be about half of what the elementary school would cost, at roughly $8.4 million. Respectively, the plans for converting it a municipal office building would cost the town an estimated $4.8 million, and about $3 million in renovations to lease it out for commercial use.

The idea to turn Rogers School into a housing development was favorited by the majority of area residents in attendance. The popularity of this option for most of the public seems to come from the potential tax revenue the town could receive from a large apartment building. With the economics of the project being a major issue, the design of the building could be equally as important. As explained by Pelletier, Rogers School was built with very large hallways and corridors, leaving only about 1,000 square feet per room for residents to live in. Associated with the high costs of the building itself, Kirk and Company estimate the rent would have to be too expensive to attract potential renters.

Its clear that the historical significance of Rogers School has made it a physical staple of the community, that many residents want to keep standing for many more years. While the Fairhaven Board of Selectmen discuss what the future holds for Rogers School, the costs of keeping the 132-year old building standing for modern-day use remains the biggest hurdle.

The total cost to completely demolish the building would be about $745,000, Kirk and Company estimates.



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