Bridgewater Grange for sale, but it will be torn down if town doesn’t approve buyer’s plan

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox
Bridgewater Grange

Bridgewater Grange

H John Voorhees III / Reporter

BRIDGEWATER - Want to buy Grange Hall?

Those interested in purchasing the historic landmark are encouraged to make an offer soon, First Selectman Curtis Read said. Otherwise, the building will remain in the hands of the town — and will be torn town.

The town has been involved in an over five-year-long dispute with a group called The Bridgewater Preservation Association (BPA) over whether Grange Hall, an historic landmark on 11 Main Street South, should be renovated or torn down.

The BPA had previously presented a plan to purchase the Grange from the town for $1, and restore it. Residents voted against the plan in May.

In August, Todd Levine, historian at the State Historic Preservation Office in Hartford, requested Read put the Grange up for sale for six months. Levine said if it’s not sold within that time period, Read would be then able to move ahead with tearing down the building. The matter was later taken up by Attorney General William Tong’s office.

As per an agreement with the state and Tong’s office, the town was required to place an advertisement for the sale of the Grange in the November/December 2021 issue of Preservation Connecticut Magazine. The online edition of the magazine was published earlier this week.

The asking price of the building is $400,000, and the land has been assessed at $267,000. The appraised price of the land is $123,600. Prospective buyers have until the end of January 2022 to come forward, Read said.

Additionally, Read said the town’s agreement with the state required the town create a list of stipulations for purchasing the Grange. The list, for which Hearst Connecticut Media obtained access to, is available to those who express an interest in purchasing the building.

Read added the $400,000 is “just the beginning of the process. That amount is a nonrefundable down payment with proof that they have an additional 1.2 million dollars in the bank or dedication to this project that we can prove — so it might be a bond or money in escrow — that they have enough money to renovate the building.”

Additionally, according to the state, the building has to undergo an historic renovation. “The facade and the layout of that building can’t change,” Read said. “They have to also comply with all building permits and safety requirements, such as fire codes.

He said the building is a “major project.”

It has no water supply well and no septic system. It also has asbestos and lead paint.

Unless the building is purchased to be restored, the town plans to demolish it in 2022.

“Municipality has complete authority”

Regardless of what offer the town gets for the Grange, Levine said according to the agreement with the attorney general’s office, the “municipality has complete authority” to sell the building with whatever conditions that they decide.

Read said once potential buyers present their plan, the town would need to approve of their future use of the building, “which they have to maintain.”

Additionally, according to the town’s stipulations, the Grange and property would be turned back over to the town at no cost to the town, after two years from the purchase date, if the buyer doesn’t complete the renovations.

Levine said he’s in favor of the town selling the building if there is an offer for their asking price.

“That would be a potential benefit to the municipality,” Levine said. “You either spend money to demo the building or you sell it to somebody who is going to rehab it and you gain money for the municipality. There is a responsibility to the municipality to consider all their options.”

However, Neil Olshansky, president of the BPA, said there is a “contradiction” in Read’s asking price for the building.

“The building is condemned and has no value, yet the asking price is 3.5 times the appraised value of the land,” Olshansky said.

“If the building has no value, why is it accessed at $267,000?” he asked. “Either the building has value and is worth saving, or it has no value, which is Curtis’ claim for years now — and the appraised value of the property should be significantly less.”

Future plans for the Grange

Read is looking into some ideas for what the town would like to see on the property, if the Grange is taken down.

One idea involves restoring another historic building.

“We have a commission looking at a memorial for veterans since World War II,” Read said.

Another idea is building a memorial garden that will welcome people into town.

Initially, Read considered building a community center on the property. However that’s no longer a feasible plan, he said.

“The site has too many restrictions. There isn’t any good supply of water. There is no septic, whatsoever,” he said, adding a community center may be built in a different location in town.

In general, when considering what should be built on the property, Read said the town is looking for something that’s part of “keeping the town somewhat open, displaying the more interesting architecture” of the Bridgewater Village Store & Bistro and St Mark's Episcopal Church.

ARPA (American Rescue Funds) may be used to have a veterans memorial on the property and also build benches “where people can sit and enjoy the center of town,” Read said. “It would be part of the ambiance of Bridgewater.”

Weather plays a factor in the date the Grange would be demolished.

“The bottom line is we’re in the middle of January,” Read said. “We’re not going to be taking down the building in the middle of a blizzard or a potential time where the ground is completely frozen and you can’t do the foundation work.”

He added a spring date would be planned for the demolition.

Read reiterated the town needs to be presented with a very thorough, comprehensive plan from whoever expresses an interest to purchase the building.

“The town is in the driver’s seat,” Read said. “It would take a heck of a good plan.” 203-948-9802