Save Old Southworth group envisions cultural center for former library

By Douglas McCulloch | Oct 13, 2017
Photo by: Douglas McCulloch The Old Southworth Library building.

The Old Southworth Library could become an arts and education center if a newly formed non-profit group has its way.

The new group, calling itself Save Old Southworth – or SOS for short – formed last month and has submitted a proposal to the town on what to do with the old Elm Street building, according to Kathleen DelSordo, who serves as the group’s facilitator.

SOS has formed a new non-profit entity, called the Dartmouth Cultural Center, Inc., and has prepared a preliminary reuse plan for the building. DelSordo said SOS envisions to reopen the Old Southworth Library as a cultural center for local artists, complete with gallery space, areas to teach classes and workshops, and membership-based programs.

“We want to retain the beauty of the building, and we thought a cultural center would be the best use for it,” DelSordo said, noting that in the past the building served as a cultural center for the town as a library and as a senior center.

DelSordo said she’s already attracted interest from an artists’ group and businesses in Padanaram who are on board with the idea, including the South Coast Artists group.

“There is a lot of interest in maintaining the building and doing it for the arts,” DelSordo said.

The 1,386 square-foot building at the corner of Elm and Prospect Streets, which dates to 1889, has been vacant since its previous tenant, Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust, moved into a new headquarters in 2015.

Town officials initially proposed selling the building, but that proposal was defeated at Town Meeting in 2016. Since then, officials and a newly formed committee brainstormed ideas for a potential reuse of the building, and opened up requests for proposals for three options in September.

One option is an outright sale of the building, assessed at $234,600, for a minimum of $275,00 – or two lease options, one for a ten-year and one for a three-year lease with the town retaining ownership of the building.

DelSordo said her group submitted a request for proposal for the three-year leasing option.

The Select Board has not yet decided on a proposal, and is scheduled to discuss the proposals received at its next meeting on October 16, DelSordo said.

At Town Meeting on Tuesday, voters will decide to give the Select Board authorization to sell the building should the board decide to move forward with a sale proposal.

DelSordo hopes to either convince the Select Board or Town Meeting voters to withdraw the article, giving the group more time to refine its operating proposal.

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