Phase One

Updated: Feb 3, 2020

It's a chilly but sunny Monday morning in Western Mass and though the holidays start literally this week, the BSS Friends are still hard at work.

Hard at work doing what, you ask?

Good question! It's time we let you in on what's happening behind the scenes. Over the summer when the Belchertown Cultural Alliance and BSS Friends were conceived it was for the express purpose of preserving "Berkshire Row", the three original state school buildings at the front of the campus which includes the Administration Building.

Today, most of the campus has been demolished with only twelve of the original forty one buildings still standing on the main campus, most earmarked for later demolition as the new development parcels are leased. The first new construction, Christopher Heights, was completed last spring with a few other potential lessees waiting in the wings.

As many of you who follow the Facebook page already know, the Administration Building was listed for sale in 2015 on a commercial real estate site. Long story short, the Friends connected with MassDevelopment, the agent for the building which is officially owned by the Belchertown Economic Development Industrial Committee-- the BEDIC was created when the state school closed as the entity responsible for finding a suitable use for the property, a daunting task to say the least- and they invited us to share our ideas for the Administration Building.

The Administration Building has been abandoned since 1992 with no real development interest since. A few have come forward and connected with the BEDIC but unfortunately did not result in any kind of commitment. Enter the Friends. This past Wednesday we presented a proposal to the board that would allow the Administration Building to live and breathe again, providing ample space to house the history of Belchertown State School as well as disability and special education history in general along with flexible commercial space in another part of the building.

Understandably the board had questions for us. The idea of saving the Administration Building sounds like a dream come true but the reality of preserving a building on that scale (14,000 square feet to be exact) is crippling. Where will the funding come from? How would the building give back to the town? Are the Friends ready to take on such a monumental task?

Presenting our proposal to the board was the easy part. Now comes the really hard work of deciding whether or not this project is feasible and how we will manage to fund it. As we all know, money talks, and no preservation effort can succeed without a solid funding strategy and projections that force us to look well into the future. What do we hope to gain from our project at the end of year one? Year five? Year ten? What happens if we start work on our dream and it all falls apart?

Our task now is to answer these questions and we'd like your help. Do you have experience running a nonprofit? Have you got your finger on the pulse of large scale fundraising? Do you want to help but don't quite know how? This is your chance! And you can help in so many ways.

The first and best way you can help is to join the Friends. We have multiple levels of membership that we hope will cater to every budget. The other way is to purchase something at our Society6 shop. We have some great gift ideas! Most of all, we ask that you share our mission far and wide. If we're lucky, your share will land in the lap of someone who is a fundraising expert, or perhaps even a private developer who loves partnering with nonprofits who are addicted to history! You never know who will see your posts.

Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn where we have our own business page. We'd love to hear from you!

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