Sagamore Group Prepared To Buy Old Hoxie School For $1
By: Michael J. Rausch
The path leading up to the Ella F. Hoxie School from Williston Road has become nearly impassable because of the overgrowth of bushes lining the walkway. Boarded-up windows, and chipped or faded white paint dominate the building’s exterior, testament to the school’s current state of disrepair. However, the building’s fate could be taking an upward turn in the next several weeks, as the town prepares to hand the building over to a group led by Sagamore Beach resident Allyson Bizer-Knox. Ms. Bizer-Knox said that her group’s goal is to renovate the building and turn it into the Hoxie Center at Sagamore Beach for Art, Science, Education and Culture.
Ms. Bizer-Knox said that her group is waiting for their attorney, J. Ford O’Connor, and town counsel, Robert S. Troy, to finalize a purchase and sale agreement. The agreement will allow her group to buy the building for $1.
Selectman Peter J. Meier confirmed that the $1 sale will be brought before selectmen at their meeting on September 17.
Ownership of the building will allow Ms. Bizer-Knox and her group to move forward with their plans to rehabilitate the aging building into a thriving educational and cultural center.
“Once we have ownership, we will have a lot of responsibility,” Ms. Bizer-Knox said, mentioning that a number of necessary repairs will have to be made before they can offer any programs. Past suggestions for possible offerings have included culinary lessons, movie nights, after-school programs, summer camps and a teen center. The school’s close proximity to the Cape Cod Canal could also make it ideal for marine education programs, she said. Other potential ideas have been floated, include exhibition and performance space for local artists, a conference center, and a satellite branch for the Jonathan Bourne Public Library.
Built in 1909, the Hoxie School closed its doors at the end of the 2009 school year. Two years later, Ms. Bizer-Knox went before selectmen and described her goal for a membership-driven, nonprofit organization that would be housed at the Hoxie building. She compared her vision to the Cultural Center of Cape Cod in Yarmouth, which she described as an arts center that now thrives in what was once an abandoned building.
A lengthy list of the building’s problems include inadequate handicap access, no sprinkler system, lead paint at the front entrance and asbestos covering the ceiling of a room in the basement. Ms. Bizer-Knox said that she met with Bourne Fire Chief Martin Greene, Building Inspector Roger M. Laporte, Health Agent Cynthia D. Coffin and Town Planner Coreen V. Moore at the Hoxie School last week. She said that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss what needs to be done to make the building usable again. Chief Greene said that he and the other town officials agreed that they could not advise the Hoxie group until the specific uses for the building have been determined.
“If they use it for public assemblies, one set of regulations kicks in. If they want to use it for a daycare center, it kicks in lead paint issues,” the chief said.
The chief said that the group was told to submit a set of architectural and engineering plans for review.
“They’re well-intentioned people who want to do some good, but they need to get an architect in order to move forward,” the chief said.
Ms. Bizer-Knox said that she did another tour of the Hoxie building on Tuesday with town officials to determine what is still inside the school, what the town will remove and what the Hoxie group would want to keep. She said that during the walk-through, they found glass on the floor from windows broken as a result of vandalism, and a new leak in the roof. She mentioned that, in her opinion, the state of the building is deteriorating.
“It smelled fresh two years ago. Now it’s starting to smell mucky. We want to get in there as soon as possible, and do some work to bring it back to life,” she said.
To finance the necessary work, Ms. Bizer-Knox said that her group will be resubmitting an application to the town for Community Preservation Act funding. Back in January, the group filed a 73-page request for $213,370 to the Bourne Community Preservation Committee.
The group withdrew the application in April, however, when it was pointed out that they did not own the building. At the time, committee members said that because the group did not own the building, the committee would have no alternative but to deny their application.
Estimates as to how much it will cost to completely renovate the building have run as high as $3 million to $5 million. Ms. Bizer-Knox said that in addition to the CPA funds, the Hoxie group is also researching many other grant opportunities. She specifically mentioned funding through the Cape Cod Foundation, as well as the Massachusetts Cultural Council. She said that the group is also hoping for volunteer help from the community in getting some of the work done.
“This is a grassroots effort with support in the community. We will need more folks in the community to help out,” she said, mentioning cleanup of the building, painting, and plumbing. The group has scheduled that cleanup to take place from 10 AM to 2 PM on Saturday, October 5. She said that the group has already received assistance in the form of pro bono legal counsel from Monument Beach attorney J. Ford O’Connor. Architectural plans are being drafted by David R. MacLean of Cataumet, and exterior motion sensor lights have been donated by Johnson Electric Supply of Sagamore Beach. It is hoped the lights will cut down on vandalism to the school.
Ms. Bizer-Knox said that the Hoxie group would like to get the basement of the building ready for use as soon as possible, so they can rent it out to local artists. She said that the ultimate goal is for the building to generate enough income that it sustains itself.
Anyone interested in joining the Hoxie group or learning more about the plans for the building can attend the next monthly meeting, scheduled for Monday, September 9, at 7 PM at the Sagamore Beach Fire Station, 51 Meeting House Road. People who cannot attend the meeting but are interested in helping out can contact the group at email@example.com, or call Ms. Bizer-Knox at 774-313-9777.