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 (The AIC) proposal for the Old Library and the Friends of the Josiah Smith Tavern proposal for a restaurant, coffee stand, 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.

The Working Group presented its unanimous recommendation to the Board of Selectmen on December 22, 2015 and since has received the unanimous support of the Historical Commission for both reuses, the Community Preservation Committee for the AIC's design funding request, and the Board of Selectmen for the AIC and to continue work in developing the Friends of the JST. 

Two public meetings were hosted this spring by the JST/OL Working Group as an opportunity for residents to learn more about these two concepts and to ask questions. Weston Media Center filmed both and the videos are available on their website.

A Library in the Library



The Weston Art & Innovation Center (AIC) 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 are being requested from the Community Preservation Act funds at Annual Town Meeting (article 34).

click for larger image

WAIC FLYER light blue w tag.jpg


  • 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 below);
  • 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.

A Tavern in the Tavern

The Working Group is working with the Friends of the Josiah Smith Tavern to further develop the concept for the JST complex. The funding request for this part of the plan is expected to come before the 2016 Special Town Meeting in the fall, after the required Request for Proposals (RFP) is put out this summer. 


Create an 80-100 seat "right sized" restaurant in the Barn and Connector, a coffee stand/ice cream stand in the Woodshed, office space for community non-profits in the main "House" building, with the ballroom to be available as multi-purpose space. Potential partnership with a culinary/educational institution.

click for larger image

JST FLYER PP 5 lt blue.jpg


  • 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;
  • The existing liquor license is available only for the JST;
  • Previous restaurateurs thought the Barn was most viable;
  • Property is large enough to have outdoor dining, parking, septic and rear deliveries; 
  • Sponsoring entity is extremely familiar with the property and history, and has relevant expertise;
  • Uses as proposed in line with original donors' (Jones sisters) intent;
  • Educational partnership, if pursued, adds an additional layer of expertise, offers and supports fundraising, and may help with zoning requirements

Reuses Not Recommended for the Old Library and Tavern

The Following Are Not Supported by the Working Group

After long consideration and study of all proposals, the JST/OL Working Group did not choose, and does not support, the following proposals; however, the sponsors are bringing these concepts forward to Annual Town Meeting. Below are the reasons why these proposals were turned down by the Working Group and are offered here so voters are aware of the Working Group's consideration. Both of these sponsors are seeking general funds to move forward with these concepts.

Restaurant in the Old Library is Not Supported

  • There are several issues with and challenges to this proposal:
    • The JST liquor license is non-transferrable and to obtain one for the Old Library requires an extensive and lengthy legislative process;
    • Problematic combining restaurant and an “arts center” in limited/open space;
    • Greater physical build-out impact on building vs. minimum impact proposed by the AIC;
    • Unclear if it can meet all the by-law requirements of Site Plan Approval
  • Requires joining the Old Library and JST lots in order to have enough septic and parking for both buildings:
    • Restricts ability to deal with these parcels separately, now and in the future;
    • Historic New England preservation restriction on the JST complicates combining the lots;
    • Requires joint septic at increased cost and size (400' pumped connection);
    • Non-municipal use requires on-site parking, which combines the two buildings' parking needs;
    • Joint parking results in greater impact on abutters (St. Julia’s Church, who previously opposed a similar proposal)
  • Requires extended timeline and increased complexity due to:
    • Mandates that sites are combined means both buildings are addressed at once, which slows down the process;  
    • Requires an RFP, which cannot move forward at this time, it will have to go back to be approved by several boards;
    • Requires a two-thirds majority vote at Town Meeting because of combined overall costs and bonding, which is a difficult hurdle
  • The Working Group has a plan with a program progressing for a restaurant in the Tavern on a different timeline because the JST has more complex issues than the Old Library. The recommended Tavern in a Tavern plan has:
    • Viability proven through retained restaurant consultant and architects;
    • Prior proposals show that a restaurant in the Tavern is possible and was the choice of previous restaurateurs;
    • Liquor license is already in place at the JST Barn;
    • Currently, there is significant interest from several professional restaurateurs

Elderly Housing in the Old Library is Not Supported

  • Conversion to residential use would eliminate all public access forever;
  • Residential units would permanently and irreversibly destroy the historic interior and recently restored exterior of the Old Library, which is in the Boston Post Road National Register Historic District;
  • Several Town boards and commissions have already opposed this idea, as presented;
  • Residential use does not add vitality to the Town Center
    • Residents have rejected residential use in the Old Library in the past,
    • Residential re-zoning voted down for Urbanica proposal,
    • Large majority in Weston’s National Citizens Survey opposed/strongly opposed both market rate and affordable housing in the building;
  • Re-zoning and bonding is required and needs a two-thirds majority vote at Town Meeting;
  • More costly and less efficient way to add elderly affordable housing units than adding to the Brook School Apartment complex;
  • Detailed AIC estimate for simply refurbishing the existing space, updating the systems, and adding an elevator is $2.8 million, the numbers for elderly housing will increase from that basic cost:
    • EHC proposal would require significant additional construction expense
    • Reconstruction of the roof, with addition of shed dormer
    • Addition of a structural second floor
    • Cutting through brick and concrete walls to add new windows
    • Building several individual apartment units each with their own systems, fittings, fixtures, and appliances
    • Residential re-construction often more expensive than new construction; even new construction would be +$3 million
    • Brook School Building D cost/unit was $250,000 (building finished in 2004), which translates to $320,000 to $340,000 cost/unit today for new construction
    • Cost of 10 bedrooms in 9 units at $320,000 to $340,000 cost/unit = $2.9 to $3.1 million
    • TBA Architects used by EHC; however, limited design budget ($5,000) may not have considered all the issues