Metro, Politics

Public Buildings Commissioner Outlines Public Utility Projects Amounting to $265.5 Million

Public Buildings Commissioner Josh Morse presented numerous planned projects to the Newton Public Utilities Committee Wednesday night. Newton is due to spend over $265.5 million on public utility projects within the next four years. 

“Newton is in the midst of the busiest building and design construction period since the response to the Baby Boom in the 1950s,” Morse said. 

One project, the Horace Mann Elementary School project, will build a horseshoe-shaped addition around the school gym, and will cost around $23 million. 

“The bulk of our addition is going to be classrooms up on the second floor,” Morse said. “The existing cafeteria is going to be converted to the library.” 

Morse also discussed plans for the construction of the Cooper Center for Active Living, the new senior center. The building was recently named after the late Audrey Cooper, a Newton resident who, in addition to many other community involvements, helped establish Newton’s original senior center. 

The center will include a dining area with a stage, a gym complete with a walking track, and a deck overlooking Newtonville. The project is expected to cost $29.2 million and be completed in the fall of 2025. The ground-breaking for the project will be held on March 7 at 10:00 a.m. 

The Countryside Elementary School will remodel its cafetorium, clean up wetlands, and provide more room for special education support spaces. The project is expected to cost $74.7 million and be completed in the fall of 2027. 

The Franklin Elementary School will remodel its interior to meet accessibility concerns, along with other remodeling initiatives. 

“Once you’re on [the main floor of the building] there are six different interior elevation changes, only three of which are accessible,” Morse said of the school. 

The main entrance of Franklin Elementary School currently sits 14 feet above Derby Street, another cause of inaccessibility. The project is expected to cost $61 million and is expected to be completed in the fall of 2027. 

The Lincoln-Eliot Elementary School project began construction last fall, and included the demolition of the convent, formerly the primary portion of the building. 

“The floor-to-ceiling heights were extremely small, so it could not be repurposed for our needs,” Morse said.

In the convent’s place will be a new building, containing a library and office space. The project is expected to cost $54.9 million and be completed in August 2025. 

The Police Facility Project will assess the existing conditions of the police headquarters building, the police garage, and the police annex to ensure space is maximized. 

“[The project will] provide them with the square footage that they need to be a 21st-century policy facility,” said Morse.

Morse also proposed 25 Chestnut Street as a potential location for a new training facility for Newton police. The project overall is expected to cost $13.5 million. 

The Gath Pool Project is currently in progress. The new facility will include ample seating, a competition pool containing a shallow and deep end, two diving boards, and an accessibility ramp, amounting to $9.3 million and expected to be completed this coming June.

At the meeting, the Public Utilities Committee also approved $1.19 million to complete the funding for the Newton Free Library’s chiller and related cooling equipment. 

“[The project] really will allow us to bring more people into the library … to take a break from hot weather,” said Jill Mercurio, library director at Newton Free Library.

February 22, 2024