Bob Pressman (in his letter to the editor, April 6, 2023) suggests an unreasonable trade-off between restoring the Ellen Stone Building and purchasing affordable housing.
Pitting a single project against another is not constructive. The Community Preservation Act (CPA) is designed specifically so that towns must spend money on four categories, not all on affordable housing or historic preservation or open space or recreation.
Communities can focus on one category over the others as priorities shift, and the fund often is used to pay for large projects for which no other Town monies are available. Mr. Pressman has identified one project, the Stone Building, that he does not feel worthy of CPA support, but his sentiments could apply to many projects funded out by these monies.
CPA funds are an important part of Lexington’s work to make housing more affordable, but not the only solution to affordable housing. Lexington now has the Affordable Housing Trust in addition to LexHab, requirements for inclusionary units are part of the new zoning by-laws passed with articles 33 and 34, and there is momentum to build inclusion requirements into future zoning and development.
The Town of Lexington owns the Stone Building, and it is of national historic significance. Unless we are going to tear it down, we have an obligation to restore it. Rehabilitation has been delayed for 16 years so far, and it is only getting more expensive.
The $400,000 approved by Town Meeting will in part allow an historic architect to refine designs developed in 2009 that are now in need of updating due to building code changes as well as allow the town to obtain more accurate estimates for the project. More importantly, this design work will outline options for the uses recommended by the Stone Building Feasibility/Reuse Committee — and any other uses that come forward.
The committee’s vision for a 21st-century lyceum includes not only conversations about contemporary issues in the historic 2nd floor Lyceum Hall where Emerson and prominent Lexingtonians deliberated the controversial issues of their day, but also interpretive exhibits and place-based public and K-12 programming that will engage our town’s residents and visitors alike in learning about how a “second American Revolution” unfolded there in the 19th century.
To learn more about how our new organization, Lexington Lyceum Advocates, plans to implement this recommended vision as well as to make suggestions and get involved, please visit lexlyceum.org.
Kathleen Dalton, Carolyn Goldstein, Mark Manasas, and Meg Muckenhoupt, Lexington Lyceum Advocates Board of Directors