North Yarmouth gets virtual tour of proposed Wescustogo Hall

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NORTH YARMOUTH — Residents got their first walk through a proposed reconstruction of Wescustogo Hall, along with an adjoining renovated North Yarmouth Memorial School, at two public hearings Feb. 15.

Matt Ahlberg of Barrett Made presented 3D animated renderings of the structures, allowing a glimpse of what could be, if town voters in June approve the potential $3 million project.

The Portland-based design and build firm is working with the town to design a community center composed of a partly demolished – and renovated – NYMS, and a new Wescustogo connected through a lobby, viewable from the corner of Memorial Highway (Route 9) and Parsonage Road.

Fire destroyed the former Grange on Route 115 in 2013. Parking limitations at that site, which neighbors the Village Green, largely prompted the town to explore an alternate location for the building.

The Select Board in January 2017 supported the former NYMS property – which School Administrative District 51 closed and transferred to the town in 2014 – as the location of a new Wescustogo.

Two other forums, hosted by the Wescustogo Building and Design Committee and the Living Well in North Yarmouth Committee, are to be held at NYMS (120 Memorial Highway) at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 10, and 7 p.m. Thursday, March 15. Those who need rides to and from the daytime forum can call Living Well member Ginny Van Dyke at 829-3848.

Of the $3 million project cost, the select board has called for no more than $2 million to come through bonding. The rest could come from around $500,000 in remaining insurance proceeds from the original Wescustogo, and the balance through fundraising.

More specific pricing for the project should be ready next month, Ahlberg said.

The town would demolish much of the 42-year-old school building, while preserving and renovating the stage, gym and kitchen area, which together measure about 4,150 square feet. The backstage area would be converted to a community room, and the hallway running alongside would be refurbished and opened up with new windows.

Entry to what has been dubbed the North Yarmouth Community Center would be through an approximately 1,200-square-foot lobby, which the 3D tour showed as having a coat check, restrooms, a ticket booth for Wescustogo events and a mural evoking the original Grange.

Some residents have conceptualized the lobby “as a place for people to casually meet, (or) have a conversation after a meeting,” Ahlberg told the audience, calling the space “generously proportioned” for that purpose.

The new Wescustogo would be about 4,500 square feet and fit about 300 people, and able to be divided off into three distinct areas via sliding partitions to facilitate separate simultaneous activities.

Resident Dixie Hayes noted the importance of having video recording capability in the facility so SAD 51 Board of Directors’ meetings could be held in North Yarmouth, instead of always in Cumberland.

An as-yet-undetermined number of solar panels would sit on the southern side of both buildings, with an eye toward the center being net zero – generating as much energy as it uses.

Ahlberg called the center “very flexible,” adding that it “will serve a lot of different functions for the community, but also allow for the site to be further developed in the future if the need arose.”

Darla Hamlin, a member of the Wescustogo committee, pointed out how residents could be at Wescustogo for a meeting, and bring their children along to meanwhile play in the gym.

“You don’t have to get in your car to go get (them); you’ll be in the same facility,” she said. “So you can meet them in the lobby; it expands the use of this by having the gym.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

This visual is part of an animated 3D walk-through of a future Wescustogo Hall, right, in North Yarmouth. The building, to replace the Grange destroyed by fire in 2013, would be connected through a lobby to a renovated and pared-down former North Yarmouth Memorial School, left.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.