Save Old Southworth launches website for proposed cultural center

By Douglas McCulloch | Nov 17, 2017
Photo by: Douglas McCulloch The Old Southworth Library

A group aiming to save the Old Southworth Library has launched a new website as members work to meet a March 2018 deadline to place a bid for the vacant Elm Street building.

Save Old Southworth debuted a new website, dartmouthculturalcenterinc.org, for its proposed Dartmouth Cultural Center earlier in the week. It’s envisioned to serve as an arts and cultural resource for the town, explained group facilitator Kathleen DelSordo.

The website outlines a goal to turn the former library into a venue for local artists and artisans to host classes, workshops, demonstrations, and exhibits, along with crafts education and community events.

“There’s a whole group of artists we’re working with through South Coast artists groups,” DelSordo said.

The group is now an officially recognized 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit, as DelSordo said the certification came in earlier in the month. The certification means the group can begin accepting tax-deductible donations and look into grant funding to achieve its mission, DelSordo explained.

In conducting research of the building, DelSorto said the group learned of a surprising fact - the building is included in a national historic district, which could prove advantageous for securing grant funding down the road.

“We were quite surprised since I don’t think even the neighbors realized it was designated in a historic district,” DelSordo said.

After the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust vacated the town-owned building in 2015 and moved into a new headquarters building on Chase Road, town officials initially proposed selling the historic property, which dates back to 1889.

Town Meeting voters put a stop to a proposed sale 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 - two to lease the building to a non-profit, and a sale of the property.

Two proposals were submitted by the deadline. One was by Save Old Southworth members, and the other was for a sale of the property.

Save Old Southworth members convinced the Select Board to withdraw an article from the 2017 Fall Town Meeting article that would have authorized the building’s sale once it was decided which bid to pursue, arguing more time was needed to put together a more concrete proposal.

The group now has until March of 2018 to have everything in order to move forward with the lease. In addition to writing another proposal, DelSordo said the group is also working with the Planning Board to extend the Padanaram village business district to the property after concerns of the building’s zoning was raised.

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