The Central School building at 20 Academy Street will undergo renovations over the coming year beginning in the fall of 2019. Town Meeting in 2019 appropriated $8 million for renovations that will achieve three goals: developing a modern, expanded space on the ground and first floors dedicated to the Council on Aging, Arlington Senior Association, and community events and activities; improving major building systems, including HVAC, electrical, bathrooms, and the building exterior; and relocating the Health and Human Services Department, including Veterans’ Services, to the 2nd floor. The building will also become fully accessible and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Renovation planning work began in 2015 when the Town created the Central School Feasibility Study Group and then hired Sterling Associates Inc. Architects (SAIA) to conduct a feasibility study. The study group was composed of representatives from Health and Human Services, Arlington Redevelopment Board, Town Manager’s Office, Arlington Senior Association, Council on Aging, and Capital Planning Committee. The study reviewed existing building conditions, considering current and projected programming in the building, and provided general specifications, drawings, and estimated construction cost. Public input and dialogue on the feasibility study was held over 2016 and 2017. In 2017, after two separate Requests for Proposals processes, the Town hired Vertex as the Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) followed by SAIA as the architect to design plans that were responsive to the issues identified by the feasibility study.

The renovations will be completed in phases, beginning with updates to office suites on the 2nd floor and followed by reconstruction work on the ground and first floors and replacement of major building systems. The project timeline is projected to last up to 15 months. Other tenants will remain in the building while renovation work occurs. Council on Aging and other programming will be moved to a range of locations – notification of these changes will be separately promoted and communicated. While the ground and first floors are being renovated, some meeting room space will be available for rent on the second floor.

The Department of Health and Human Services will be kicking off a campaign to raise funds aimed at meeting the unique opportunity to raise $300,000 in order to fully furnish and equip the new center upon its completion. New accommodations will ensure a modern, comfortable and accessible space that is truly a destination for Arlington’s residents. To learn more, visit: https://arlingtoncommunitycenter.org/.
 
The Arlington Redevelopment Board maintains jurisdiction over the Central School property as part of its Urban Renewal Fund started in the 1980s. In 1981, the Town oversaw a feasibility study of the Central School building concluding that the building was ideal for social service agencies and offices. In 1982, a Senior Center Committee reviewed many sites and concluded that the Central School would be the most appropriate location for its center. By 1984, the Town designated the ARB as developer of the site. Community Development Block Grant, State, and Town funds supported the $3 million dollar substantial rehabilitation project. Upon completion of the project, the 19th Century structure was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and added to the Pleasant/ Gray Street Historic District.  

For additional questions and information about the renovation plans and process, please contact Jennifer Raitt, Director of Planning and Community Development or Christine Bongiorno, Director of Health and Human Services at 781-316-3092 or 781-316-3170 respectively. Renovation plans are on view at both departments or at www.arlingtonma.gov/projects.