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.”
This means that the city will throw out some of the tenants who are all LOCAL small businesses who serve LOCAL clients.
That’s not very nice.
Where are they supposed to go?
No one knows and no one cares.
There will obviously be a tax loss too.
If this was a private developer buying the building and kicking out small businesses, the city would be up in arms.
But since it’s the wonderful, blameless, angelic city buying it, silence.
Will the city raise any of the rents?
Let’s see a list of the present rents and proposed rents.
Why didn’t the city build a new spot on Arsenal Street when there was space?
Incidentally, the tenants in the building are mostly health-care-related.
Look it up.
Does the city care?
I doubt it.
Just toss them out.
Where are the people who say they care about evictions by Big Landlords, which is what this is?
Counter argument, if the building was for sale, someone was going to buy it. Would you rather see it be used by the town, or as condo space or bio-tech? My point is, someone was going to buy it, and the end result as the same for the tenants. I’m happy to see it used for the public good.
Seems like there is a good amount of first floor retail all over town for the tenants to relocate. Is it ideal, no. But better than other outcomes.
Over the years Watertown sold off too many open spaces and properties or neglected to buy them at much lower prices and limited future options for schools and other needs and green space. If we are ever to gain back any of the spaces, now is the time as the land and building costs have gone up extensively and more than likely will continue to increase. I believe we need to maintain flexibility in our small city for future needs that we can’t even anticipate at the present time. We don’t often have this opportunity.
Hopefully reasonable deals can be worked out so many of the tenants can remain in this building and providing income to Watertown as well as keeping their businesses running in the same location. We are taking in a lot of taxes from other developments. If those monies are used smartly, we should be in good shape going forward to meet our needs and keep our individual taxes down.
It’s too bad that the town didn’t buy the Sterritt Lumber site a few years ago which, I believe, would have only cost around $2 million. Now the site would cost about $10 million if the City had any interest in it. If it were purchased then, we wouldn’t have a huge bio lab going in that towers over the single family homes across the street. That could have allowed the Dept. of Public Works to consolidate their properties and left Orchard St. open for a possible new high school site or at least a temporary site rather than being forced to use Moxley Field.
Planning is important in any business or city. We tend to be reactionary in Watertown.
The old police station and two former branch libraries sit there and rot away year after year. Why isn’t Watertown unloading those properties since they all would require significant upgrades in order to be functional again? Seems like a no brainer to sell them in order to finance any upgrades for either the Phillips or Parker schools.
The East Branch Library was sold to St. James Church in 2017.
The city has tried to sell the North Branch Library too, but have not yet done so. The old police station had been eyed to expand City Hall offices, or school offices, or the Hatch Makerspace. Should be interesting to see what happens with that property.
Congratulations to City of Watertown, specifically including the City Counsel and City Manager, for buying back the Parker Elementary School. The Parker School was listed for sale by the current owners in March 2022 for 15 million dollars. When the Town sold the property in 1986 the new owner built an addition that more than doubled the size of the original building which they also upgraded and converted from classrooms to offices.
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A few random thoughts:
I agree with all who are concerned about current small businesses at the Parker School, but I can see the benefit of consolidating City services in one place, providing that there is enough parking and access.
Here’s what I’m thinking:
Hatch is a treasure! And it is part of the Watertown Library services, so using the old police station or perhaps part of the old City Hall makes some sense, consolidating Library services within a small area.
Could these places also be at least a temporary place for Adult Ed, since the high school will be torn apart? (Does adult ed even exist anymore?) This would also bring people into downtown at night, usually after traffic has calmed down.
Charlie has an announcement in Watertownmanews for a Watertown Business Coalition event. Would this be a group that could be of assistance to any small businesses transitioning out of the Parker School? It might also lead to an increased membership in this group.
I think that the City should provide support for these moving businesses. It takes a lot of thought and effort to move a business. How about City sponsored consulting for the move?
How about the City pays for a percentage of the moving costs for businesses it displaces, provided the business remains in Watertown? And if the business remains a tenant in some other City building, some advantages, like a long lease for that site?
I am concerned that there’ll be an effort to push all into Watertown Square, exacerbating the problem of 9 to 5 businesses, which shut down, just when we want to draw more walking traffic in the Square.
I’m also concerned for the fate of our current City Hall, which has potential to house an array of small businesses that ARE open to the public in the evenings. It has the added advantage of keeping a unique, New England style building in the Square and on Main Street, a street that has played a very important part in New England’s and the country’s history since the 1600’s.
And two random questions:
Is our current graduating site for Watertown High School seniors still outside, at Victory Field?
Is there space for a Trader Joe’s in Watertown?
Just random thoughts…
Thanks for you comment. Yes, WHS graduation is held at Victory Field (unless it is raining)
And what about all the people who live there? Is the city going to rehouse them? Or are they going to give them the boot and doom them to leaving the city? This is mostly elderly housing and knowing the city’s record; they’re not going to do a single thing for the community. It’s all about profit with these people and it’s absolutely disgusting. The city of watertown gets worse and worse every year. Soon enough they will lose all of their community driven folks and replace them with yuppy money just like the rest of the area surrounding Boston. Shame on you watertown.
The Parker School building has been turned into offices. No one lives there.
The re-acquisition of the building at 124 Watertown Street raises a few questions in my mind:
1) To what extent will to strategies of RESILIENT Watertown be included in the upgrades to this building?
2) Will there be an energy audit that includes an assessment of the thermal integrity of the building envelope?
3) Will their be consideration of a solar powered or hybrid ventilation system be included as part of making this building more resilient in its ability to function were the electric grid to go down?
4) Will the geometry of air movement through the building be considered with respect to i’s ventilation effectiveness?
5) Will the healthfulness of the indoor environment be included in the planning for the future of this building?