Litchfield News

Idea of using former school for housing on the table (06-28-17)

Litchfield’s Board of Selectmen and Bantam’s Board of Warden and Burgesses will know sometime during the fall whether the former Bantam School is suitable for affordable housing.
Selectmen on Tuesday authorized spending $10,000 to pay Housing Enterprises Inc. to review the Bantam building and recommend if it could be repurposed for affordable housing, or should be razed to make room for construction of several units of affordable on the 10.5-acre property.
Bantam’s Board of Warden and Burgesses will cover half of the cost of the review, which is expected to take three to four months to complete, according to Housing Enterprises Inc. President David Berto.
Housing Enterprises Inc. helps nonprofit organizations like the Litchfield Housing Trust plan affordable housing projects. The housing trust would be the developer of the Bantam property using grants from federal and other sources.
The review of the building, Berton said, will include measuring the structure to determine exact square footage and reviewing its historical significance. The building was built as a school in the 1950s and was designed by famous architect Marcel Breuer.
When the study is complete, it will be presented to the selectmen and the Bantam board for consideration.
 Selectmen also authorized a Phase 2 environmental study of the Bantam property that will determine if underground hazards such as oil from excavated storage tanks and solvents are present in the soil. The soil has to be clean before an affordable housing project could be undertaken.
The cost of the Phase 2 study will be $6,000 and will be shared by the town and the Bantam board.
The fate of the Bantam building is tied to the concept of a new town hall in Litchfield. If the Bantam property can be repurposed, selectmen could renew discussion of the idea of building a new town hall on the lot behind the existing town hall.
A new town hall as planned would cost about $6 million and would contain all town offices, including the five located in the Town Hall Annex section of the former Bantam School.