The Re-Use of the Brown School

The Community Coming Together Working on the Brown School Park, September 2013.

The Community Working on the Brown School Park, September 2013
The Community Working on the Brown School Park, September 2013

In 2013 the city rallied to protect the Brown School Park after the Brown School was decommissioned. The neighborhood desperately wanted to at least keep some of the community feeling that the Brown School created. Citizens worked really hard on a petition drive to protect the Brown School Park. And on September 30, 2013 the Newburyport City Council passed an Order that protects about 10,000 square feet of the Brown School for a park in perpetuity, it was then approved by the Newburyport School Committee.

The 2013 Order to protect the Brown School Park

The 2013 Order to protect the Brown School Park
The 2013 Order to protect the Brown School Park

In the fall of 2013 Mayor Donna Holaday reassured the South End that the Brown School would not be closed, “we were considering the possibility of selling the school for some mixed-use housing, but after listening to residents and looking at the broader school and youth needs of our city, we believe we have come up with and better option.” Mayor Holaday’s words, not mine.

Mayor Holaday’s 2013 Letter

Mayor Holaday’s 2013 Letter Not to Sell the Brown School
Mayor Holaday’s 2013 Letter Not to Sell the Brown School

In 2014 the City spent $40,000 on the Brown School Feasibility Study *, which is excellent. However it does point out that in 2014 the Brown School and the land is worth over $5 million * (it has recently been appraised at $5.8 million) and the cost in 2014 to develop/fix the Brown School is close to $14 million — that’s a total of $19-20 million dollars *, that’s a lot of money.

This year, just recently the mayor did a complete about face. In the Thursday January 25th meeting the mayor said that the Newburyport Youth Services (NYS) would be removed from the building *** (the Brown School neighborhood loves having the NYS there **) and the building would be used for all affordable housing. In my opinion that is nuts given the density of the neighborhood and the parking and traffic issues.

To my dismay, what now seems to be happening is that the neighborhood and the Brown School Park are now pitted against the affordable housing folks which is awful. We want to work together to meet all the needs, not have the community divided against each other.

These are Links to:

The Brown School Re-Use Updates

* The Brown School Re-Use Feasibility Study 10/30/14

**The Public Comments (which are very favorable) to the draft of the feasibility study and options as of 11/18/14

*** From an email from the Director of Youth and Recreation Services, Newburyport Youth Services (NYS), February 1, 2018

“Dear NYS Friends and Families,

It was announced last Thursday at a public meeting that NYS will no longer be part of the re-use proposals for the Brown School. The plan, as of now, is that the City hopes to move forward with a Request for Proposals (RFP) to developers focused on creating affordable housing. At the meeting, the Mayor did state the City may retain the gymnasium (to be overseen by NYS) and then find, buy, lease or build a new space for NYS.”