Town receives grant to fund half of old library accessible entrance

The Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund awarded a grant of $192,000 to the town of Harvard last week, which will be used to help pay for the old library’s accessible center entrance project. Funding for that project, which totals $382,000, was approved at Special Town Meeting last fall and authorization to borrow that amount passed at the May 8 Town Election this year.

This week’s announcement also included a $7,000 optional grant to the town for a systems replacement plan, a 20-year capital needs assessment of a facility and its mechanical systems. According to Select Board Chairwoman Lucy Wallace, the board will discuss at a future meeting if and how that grant might be used.

Chris Cutler reveals the flooring that was under the rug in what used to be the arched entryway of the old library. Abacus, the project’s architect, thinks the tiles—believed to be original to the 1886 building—can be restored. (Courtesy photo)

The Cultural Facilities Fund was created in 2006 to promote the construction, repair, and renovation of cultural facilities across the state. Since its inception, it has awarded about $110 million in grants, each of which must be matched with cash contributions. The fund is administered by MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the award will be made when the state makes the funds available to MassDevelopment.

Harvard Cultural Collaborative board member Mark Mikitarian notified the Press of the grant and said it was the result of many hours of work by a number of volunteers from both the HCC and the Old Library Accessibility Committee (OLAC). He particularly called out Julie Meyers, the collaborative’s volunteer coordinator, as the “most valuable player” in the effort, noting her ability to “wrangle content from a plethora of sources into a cohesive set of answers” for the grant application.

Mikitarian also credited resident Rebecca Wright, whose experience as director of development at the Fitchburg Art Museum made her “an invaluable resource to the application effort,” he said, as well as collaborative board members Willie Wickman and Jan Daley, who secured letters of support from various state and local officials and organizations. In addition, he mentioned the contributions of Assistant Town Administrator Marie Sobalvarro and OLAC Chairwoman Lucy Wallace for their help with the financial and historical details about the old library building. He also recognized the contribution of OLAC member Wendy Cote-Magan, whose successful efforts to secure variances for the old library from the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board helped demonstrate the town’s commitment to maintaining the building and making it accessible.

The project to restore the old library’s center entrance on Fairbank Street and to make that entrance accessible is in its design phase. OLAC is currently seeking Historical Commission approval of the design. It hopes to start construction in September and complete the project by the end of this year.

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