The group formed to recommend the future use of the former Groton Heights School has recommended the town solicit interest in the property with a preference given to education.
The Groton Heights Task Force also told the town council Tuesday it should make the zoning changes needed to support other uses, then market the property.
The school is in the city, so the town would have to apply to the City of Groton, like any other property owner to change the zoning.
Built in 1912
Groton Heights was built in 1912 and functioned as a school until just a few years ago. The town took it over in July 2007, after the Board of Education closed it. It has remained vacant since, although the electricity is on and the boiler is working. There’s been some minor vandalism, the task force said.
The school is situated on 2.6 acres between Smith Street, Monument Street and Fort Griswold in the city.
Janet Downs, a member of the task force who gave the report, said any public use would require extensive work, because the building is not up to code and is not handicapped accessible.
To Meet Code: $6 million
The cost of bringing the school up to fire and safety code, not including handicapped access, was estimated at $6 million in 2003. The property was appraised at $489,000 in 2009.
“The committee was very hopeful for along time that an educational use could be found for the property,” Downs said.
The task force stopped meeting for a time because it hoped that Project LEARN, a regional education center in Southeastern Connecticut, might use the school. But the group said in December it was not interested, Downs said.
found people want the school building saved, the property to remain publicly owned, and the site used for educational or recreational purposes.
Town employees have fixed roof leaks and made minor repairs to keep the building stable, the task force said. It will cost just over $20,000 to pay for maintenance, oil and utilities during the coming fiscal year.
The task force issued these recommendations:
- Solicit interest in the property and give preference to education.
- Make the zoning changes needed to support these uses and then market the property. Consider offering a tax abatement to a buyer who agrees to renovate the building and make a portion available to non-profit groups.
- Keep the property until the economy improves.
- Seek grants to renovate the building, and rent space to non-profit and community groups.
- A survey of residents last winter found that people want the building saved, the property to remain publicly owned, and the site used for educational or recreational purposes.
The structure of Groton Heights is considered solid despite its age, and the site has historical significance. The first Groton Heights School was a wooden school built in 1888, and was called Groton's "First District Schoolhouse," according to former Mayor James Streeter, town historian.
The building is also where Groton's first library was located in 1888.