For more than 70 years, public school children were educated in the building at 124 Watertown St. Now, more than a century after it was built, the former Parker Elementary School will once again be owned by the City of Watertown. This time, instead of public school pupils, it will be house city employees.
On Tuesday night, City Manager George Proakis told the City Council that the City has an agreement to purchase the former elementary school on the south side of Watertown. At a prior meeting, the Council gave Proakis the go-ahead to negotiate a deal to purchase the building.
“At 4:30 (Tuesday) afternoon I received back a signed agreement with owner of the Parker School to purchase this building as an office building,” Proakis said. “This does amazing things for us.”
The agreement will allow Proakis to finalize the details and come back to Council and for the funds to purchase the building. He said he hopes the deal will be completed by January 2023. Proakis did not announce the sales price, but said that he plans to use $2 million from the undesignated funds in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget, plus $1.14 million from the City’s Acquisition of Land fund.
Acquiring the building will alleviate crowding in City Hall and would lead to other opportunities with other City-owned buildings, he said.
The Parker School was built in 1914 and was designed by architect Arthur Gray, according to a post by the Watertown Library on Digital Commonwealth. The school was sold by the then-Town of Watertown in 1986.
The next owner converted the school into office space, which Proakis said is more valuable to the City at this point.
The City seeks to add more positions in the municipal government, Proakis said, including a Deputy City Manager position that was approved by the City Council in 2021 as part of the Fiscal Year 2022 budget.
“I will (soon) post the Deputy Manager position — we do not have space for that person,” Proakis said. “(City Hall) does not have space left for the deputy manager.”
The City will also soon begin looking at what to do with other public facilities located at another site in Watertown.
“It allows us to spread our wings,” Proakis said. “We are trying to figure out how to build a new Senior Center and community center in the Phillips Building site, and the School Administrative offices. And now we can say, let’s shake all those programs around and see how they work”
Proakis noted that the old Police Station near the Watertown Library has also been discussed as a place to move City offices. A study of the re-use of that building determined it would require significant upgrades. That is not the case at the Parker building.
“It doesn’t need major work. It could use a couple small upgrades, but it is in pretty impressive shape,” Proakis said. “Some of it is vacant, but in many places it is occupied. There is a preschool tenant, and a number of medical offices.”
The City would not likely need the entire building, Proakis said, so it could continue to lease some of the space until it is needed.
“It allows us the ability to be flexible with space,” Proakis said. “It takes us out of leasing space, takes us out of the position as a renter and makes us a landlord, and puts us in the position where we control our own future as it relates to buildings.”