Washington residents to vote on sale of historic pavilion
Published 12:00 am, Wednesday, March 21, 2018
WASHINGTON — The sale of the historic Harry O. Erickson Pavilion in the center of town has stirred opposition from a group of nearby business owners, who would prefer to turn the long-vacant building back into a community center.
Residents will be asked to vote on a proposal to sell the town-owned building for $140,000 to the owners of Plain Goods, a small store opposite the pavilion, during a town meeting scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Bryan Memorial Town Hall.
Under the proposal, the new owners, Andrew Fry and Michael DePerno, would restore the pavilion and relocate their store there, setting aside a portion of it for a visitor center with information about the area’s history, recreational opportunities, restaurants and other businesses. There would also be a space to host workshops.
The Board of Selectmen and an ad-hoc committee selected the Plain Goods proposal from among three bids earlier this month.
“It was the most thorough (proposal), and it includes renovation,” said First Selectman Mark Lyon. “They had been pursuing it for quite some time. It’s a legitimate, well-thought out proposal.”
One of the unsuccessful bids was from the group of business owners, who did not make a monetary offer but said they had pledges for $100,000.
The group argues the selection process was unfair and are trying to rally support to turn the building back into a community space. The group, which is trying to set up a nonprofit, hopes to restore an old theater in the building to host lectures, performances, workshops and other community events, as the building was designed to do when it was built more than a century ago.
“The possibilities are really terrific,” said James Scott Weaver, an architect who has been working with the group of business owners.
The group also worries what the sale could mean for the future of the building.
“You do lose control if it does go commercial,” said Suzanne Cassano, a member of the group.
Fry and DePerno have leased the site for storage for the past
11/2 years and opened Plain Goods, which sells clothing, antiques and handmade items across the street from the pavilion, in 2015. They said their business is thriving and have been interested in expanding to the pavilion for some time.
“As designers with a long history of restoring period structures, Michael and I have carefully researched the history of the building and have assessed the sizable scope of work to restore it to its original beauty,” Fry said.
They added that making the building a community center idea could be difficult because of the limited parking and septic system.
Cassano said her concerns were more about the process than the accepted proposal itself. She added the business group would have been able to do more with the proposal if they had had more time.
Lyon said the sale and notification process were standard, though he did allow a brief extension for the Plain Goods owners’ proposal because they had to leave town for an emergency and had been working on it for a long time.
“It hasn’t been kept under wraps,” Lyon said of the decision to sell. “We’ve been talking about it quite some time.”