Recommended Reuse for the Old Library and Tavern

After more than two years of extensive review and study of the nine statements of interest received, as well as the two buildings and their individual site issues, the JST/OL Working Group unanimously recommends the Weston Art & Innovation Center (WAIC) proposal for the Old Library and the Friends of the Josiah Smith Tavern proposal for a restaurant and not-for-profit space in the Josiah Smith Tavern complex. The Working Group, convened specifically to thoroughly study the reuse of these two buildings, balanced its recommendation with past Town Meeting votes and town-wide survey results in the diverse make-up of the committee and its different viewpoints and considerations. 

These complimentary reuse proposals have been best summed up as "A Library in the Library and a Tavern in the Tavern" and is a two-phase development, which the Working Group determined to be the easiest and quickest way to bring these two historic buildings back into active use for the community.

A Tavern in the Tavern

 
The Working Group is working with the Friends of the Josiah Smith Tavern, the preferred developer, to ready them for the next steps. The funding request for this part of the plan is expected to come before the 2017 Annual Town Meeting. 

Vision

:
A 105-seat, "farm to table experience" restaurant by the Webber Group in the Barn, Connector, and original Tap Room with subsidized rental space for Weston Historical Society, Weston Forest & Trail Association and the Women's Community League of Weston in the main "House" building. The second-floor ballroom will be available for tenant and community use. 

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Rationale

:
  • Proposed reuse combination of a "right sized" restaurant and light office use for town-oriented non-profits is consistent with resident surveys and Town Meeting advisory vote;
  • The Working Group believes proposed light usage and minimal alterations will be acceptable to Historic New England, which holds a preservation easement on the building;
  • Sponsoring entity is extremely familiar with the property and history, and has relevant expertise;
  • Proposed restaurateur, the Webber Restaurant Group, operates the successful Scarlet Oak Tavern in Hingham, Gibbet Hill Grill in Groton, and The Bancroft in Burlington 
  • Uses as proposed in line with original donors' (Jones sisters) intent;
  • On-site parking will be kept away from St. Julia's Church and the existing green space will be preserved
  • Ownership of the Tavern will remain with the Town, and both taxes and rent will be paid to the Town by the restaurant operator

A Library in the Library

 

Vision

:
The Weston Art & Innovation Center (WAIC) will be an extension of the Weston Public Library, specifically for its programming in art, culture, creativity, and technology. It will be a learning center with a creative maker space in the upper "stacks" area, open flexible programming, learning, and special historic rental space in the landmark old Reading Room. The Weston Media Center will be in the lower level and will add to the variety of offerings, including a recording studio that will be available to Weston residents.

Design funds from the Community Preservation Act funds were approved by 2016 Annual Town Meeting (article 34). Programs have already begun and the WAIC Advisory Board meets regularly. Follow progress by subscribing to receive minutes and agendas and watch for upcoming events listed on the Community Events calendar.

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Rationale

:
  • Sponsored by a municipal entity with strong, established network in town;
  • Represents “Arts & Cultural” reuse desired by residents;
  • Preserves open, public access to the historic Old Library;
  • Fits perfectly in the Old Library space;
  • Preserves significant interior architecture with no alterations to the exterior – important for Weston Historical Commission and consistent with prior Town investment;
  • This plan is entirely independent, solely on the Old Library site, and can proceed right away;
  • This program works well with the proposed restaurant use in the Tavern (see above);
  • The building remains Town-owned and controlled, and gives flexibility for future options;
  • Sponsors are open to an opportunity to work with other organizations on programming;
  • Estimated cost ($3M) within CPC funding availability and consistent with guidelines;
  • Construction and startup costs will be supplemented by private fundraising, which has already begun;
  • Complies with current zoning by-law (municipal use does not need a special permit);
  • Approval requires a simple majority vote at Town Meeting, no bonding needed.

The Working Group


The Josiah Smith Tavern/Old Library Working Group was appointed by the Board of Selectmen and charged with facilitating and coordinating Town efforts to redevelop the properties. 

The Josiah Smith Tavern, Barn, and Connector and Old Library are historically important to Weston, occupy prominent locations in our Town Center, and offer the potential to become significant cultural and architectural landmarks in Weston. 

Previous reuse concepts, including the nine statements of interest the Working Group vetted can be found to the left of this page.

Consultant Work


To assist the Working Group in providing specific and relevant expertise, two consultants were engaged:
  • TDC - a non-profit management consultant to formulate a needs analysis for an 'arts and cultural center' in the Old Library, based on resident feedback from Town Meeting Citizens' Petitions and Town Surveys
  • McGinley Kalsow & Associates - historic preservation architect to perform a feasibility analysis for the Tavern and Barn. This analysis informed potential sponsors about the buildings and helped the Working Group evaluate the Statements of Interest that relate to the JST/OL.