The fact is, the old building is on the National Register of Historic Places and occupies some prime real estate in the center of the city. It’s just steps from the T, has a small parking lot next door and has some of the best bagels in the area right outside its front door.
But what to do with it?
One proposal on the table is to bring MassChallenge to Newton. MassChallenge is a great organization that helps startups get off the ground through an accelerator program. It’s also been the cornerstone of Boston’s Innovation District and was a feather in Mayor Menino’s cap.
The Newton proposal would bring a few select companies to Newton to continue their incubation period, even after the MassChallenge session ends. These are companies that MassChallenge mentors and investors believe have potential, but are in need of a little extra time to help them achieve success. In other words: putting MassChallenge in the old Library would bring much needed life, business and foot traffic to Newton Centre.
This is also about starting a business ecosystem that can help bring other elements of the innovation economy to town.
The key to making all this happen lies with the Board of Aldermen, which has a procedural vote next Tuesday that could move the project forward. To that end, two supportive petitions are circulating on the subject. One, from the Newton-Needham Chamber of Commerce focuses on MassChallenge (full disclosure: I’m part of the group that is spearheading this effort), while the other also focuses on getting allowing MassChallenge to use the building and stopping Newton Centre library building from being sold to a private developer.
I should note that MassChallenge is a non-profit and isn’t asking or money, just use of the building for a three year pilot program. They’re committed to doing the rest, including paying to renovate the inside and pay utilities (which will result in a savings to taxpayers since the city is presently paying to heat the vacant building).