UPDATED, Aug. 24: Carl Wagner of Arlington wrote the following letter dated July 11 to Jack McCarthy, executive director of the Massachusetts School Building Authority:
Recently the Arlington School Committee selected a preliminary design for the rebuilding of Arlington High School. I and many other Arlington residents have concerns that the design will destroy a historic statehouse-like façade and a parklike green space in front of the proposed structures. I ask the MSBA to insist on preservation of the main tower/façade and the green space leading to it before you approve funds to help with the nearly $300 million project.
Arlington’s residents broadly support rebuilding our high school. I attended in the 1980s and my daughter has just graduated from this public school system. AHS is a place of great students, teachers and administrators -- and it does need action.
In order to get AHS ‘on the cheap’ and to possibly avoid temporary classrooms, the current plan is to build over the open space and to gut history. At one place, the structures will be only 20 feet away from the sidewalks and could lead to crowds forced out onto busy Mass. Ave. However, it is the loss of our town’s landmark structure and its park setback that should most concern us. The “Bulfinch” classic façade is even the centerpiece on the project’s public website: ahsbuilding.org.
Our great buildings in Arlington are not so many: the Robbins Library, the Town Hall and our firehouse come first to mind. But chief among the great spaces is AHS. It reminds you of the Boston State House. It is the brick and white trim of Harvard and Tufts and offers the historic charm of old New England.
Classic structures are disappearing, and precious beautiful open spaces being lost forever in towns around our state. I fear because of these losses, Arlington’s voters will be less likely support our override at the ballot box and in Town Meeting next year.
A great AHS can go up -- but it should be behind the historic façade and existing open space. Thank you for the work that you and the MSBA do and for supporting the students, citizens and institutions of Arlington, Massachusetts.
This viewpoint was published Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, and updated Aug. 24, to add a link to photos.