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Will Pieces Fall into Place for Thomas Clark House?

Selectmen are OK with plans to move pre-Revolutionary building but not with town money.

When it comes to the future of the – the pre-Revolutionary house at 59 Common St. slated to be demolished to make room for new residential development – architect Erik Rhodin admits saving the historic homestead is tenuous at best.

"There are many, many moving parts" to his plan to save the structure built in the early 1760s, admitted Rhodin Monday night after presenting his proposal to the .

Yet the Belmont native who is a principle with Line Company Architects is hopeful that each piece of this preservation puzzle will fit in the end.

"I believe I am getting the support needed to make this work," said Rhodin who brought to the Selectmen essentially the same plan he presented in August that fills in the land in front of the Lions Club – located in the commuter rail station – to the World War II memorial allowing the 1760s portion of the house to be relocated.

Rhodin's to-do list in the coming weeks will include:

• Obtaining the financing to move the building to land next to the commuter rail station on Royal Road and pay for the construction cost of five housing lots for single family or townhouses on upper Royal Road.

• Win approval from Town Meeting and the state Legislature to allow the building to be brought on town land that is currently designated for open space.

• Convince the developer, Mark Baron of Lexington, to delay his plan to begin construction on two house lots until the spring 2012 building season.

• Win the open public bidding for the land on upper Royal Road that will allow Rhodin to recoup the cost of developing the land near the Lions Club and providing him with a "small" profit.

• Get the town's Conservation Commission's OK to build within the borders of environmentally protected wetlands between the commuter rail tracks and Royal Road.

Despite the obstacles before him, Rhodin believes if Baron – who he has been in talks with in the past weeks – can assist him by begin building only one house lot until the coming spring and the town moves quickly on changing the land use and zoning for the proposed relocation site, there is a chance that his plan will succeed.

"[Baron] said that he is receptive to the plan," said Rhodin after the meeting in which the Selectmen gave their blessing as well as a stern warning that Rhodin cannot expect the town to foot any part of the bill in saving the house.

"No, no, no, no, no," was Selectman Angelo Firenze's response to the suggestion of any direct financial involvement by the town in the proposal.

"We have a great idea. But if we have to spend $100,000, it stops being a great idea," said Firenze

Rhodin said his next step would be meeting with abutters such as the Lions Club to seek their view of the project.

"So far, I have heard no one speak out against it," said Rhodin.

tess_shiva September 16, 2011 at 12:53 AM
Wow, this is an ambitious idea. While it is admirable to want to save an historic building (and to sweeten the pot by adding needed housing), there are too many issues that would have to be addressed for the project to move forward fast enough. Wetlands development involves the state, town land involves the voters, low income property development that involves abutters (including a war memorial which involves the Lions) - it's too much to get consensus on in less than a years' time. And my assumption is that the antique structure will sit on town land and require a full renovation to be public-accessible - and then an operating budget to keep it maintained. Perhaps a bit more than our finance-strapped town can handle at this time (or is this proposed to be a Community Preservation Act funded project)?

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