Newburyport Recreation Center Unveiled

Tuesday February 06, 2024

Massachusetts National Guard Building in Newburyport

NEWBURYPORT – The city wants to renovate and expand a building on Low Street that once enrolled and trained Massachusetts National Guard soldiers for war into a sleek, indoor-outdoor facility that is safe for children and teenagers to gather, learn and play.
Mayor Sean Reardon, who inherited the purchase of the National Guard building on Low Street two years ago in the first month he was in office, unveiled plans to build a Recreation and Youth Services Center.
It may be the final step for a Youth Services Department, which has been nomadic in recent years with little space of its own. The heating system at the former Brown School, where the department was based, conked out for the last time in late 2021.
A few months later, the city had bought the old National Guard building at 59 Low St. for $220,000 with plans to turn it into a new an eye toward turning it into youth services facility.
The City Council, which will formally get the plans for the new Recreation and Youth Services Center this week, have three options ranging from $3 million to $8 million.
The EGA PC Architects were hired for $200,000 to design a $5.6 million building. A 3D version of that plan is narrated by 12-year-old Benjamin, 13-year old Sophie and 13-year-old Ryan and can be viewed on the city’s website at
In what will compete with the Lower Merrimack Valley Boys and Girls Clubs in Salisbury, the old National Guard building will be renovated to be an inviting place for students, featuring space for sports, arts, electronic games and quiet places for study and conversations.
The proposed building would have a multi-purpose gymnasium, study room, hangout area, game room and art room/kitchen where children and teens can bake and paint. There will also be space for early education programs for children from infants to second grade.
Outside will also be a picnic area, a half-court for basketball and a play lawn.
The center will have office for instructors, administrators and counselors.
The location at 59 Low Street seems like it was meant to be a youth recreation center. It is across Low Street from the Nock Middle and Molin Upper Elementary School and across a bridge over wetlands from the River Valley Charter School.
The skate park is at the rear of the Nock School. It is only a few blocks from the Graf Skating Rink and about a mile from the Newburyport Tennis Center, which has six indoor tennis courts and offers clinics to the NYS. Both the skating rink and tennis courts are on Low Street.
A modular gym for all ages, a snack bar, an outdoor basketball court and a conference room are all part of Mayor Sean Reardon’s plans for the proposed Recreation and Youth Center at 59 Low St.
Reardon is expected to begin selling the proposed center later this month when he shows the schematics to the City Council.
The formerly named Newburyport Youth Services has been in need of a new home ever since
“We purchased the building in the first month I took office. So, this whole process has been a lot slower than I would like,” Reardon said. “But I do think we’re moving through it in as responsible a manner as possible.”
Since then, NYS took over the responsibilities for adult recreation in the city while also changing its name to the Recreation and Youth Services Department.
In November 2022, Reardon presented the City Council a trio of possible renovation plans for the property, which included an $8 million plan, a $5.6 million proposal and a $3 million plan.
Last winter, the council approved spending $200,000 to have local company EGA PC Architects go to the design development phase for the proposed $5.6 million project, which includes a gymnasium.
Reardon was expected to first unveil his vision for 59 Low St. on Thursday night during a special public meeting at City Hall. Attendees were expected to get a good look at the proposal, as well as take a virtual 3D walkthrough.
With the center’s plans now complete, Reardon said he expects to begin the conversation with the City Council on just how to pay for it after the plan is submitted as a communication in the council’s Jan. 29 meeting packet.
The new design, according to the mayor’s community presentation, includes a modular gymnasium for all ages, along with space for early education programs for infants up to second grade.
Space for youth programs and a youth center for sixth-graders through high school seniors is also part of the plan, which includes quiet homework space that doubles as a conference room, connected art space, and a flexible design to handle small events.
Space is also available for youth and adult recreation and includes flexible, multipurpose spaces for art, science and technology, as well as cooking programs.
Administrative space, including five offices for eight full-time staff members, is also included in the design, along with a lobby that includes a snack bar and sitting area with restrooms, as well as separate, secure and flexible outdoor spaces and a secure building with access control.
Managed traffic flow and parking with safe crossing from the high school and Rupert A. Nock Middle School is another feature of the plan, which offers a centralized location for recreation and enrichment programs.
The former National Guard building would also be renovated under the current plan, which includes a large lawn area for play and an outdoor basketball court.
The virtual 3D walkthrough of the planned Rec Center also highlights the added storage place the proposed facility would provide the city.
The mayor added that he hopes the City Council can come together and find a consensus that will move the project forward.
“There will need to be a zoning change and we will also have a bond request for this project,” he said. “But we wanted the City Council to see the plans first and discuss it before submitting those other things.”
City Council President Ed Cameron said he has seen the new plans and appreciates the due diligence exhibited by the mayor and his staff.
“The numbers seem credible and solid, and I think the council will need to move forward and decide it if is something we want to happen,” he said. “Finances are, of course, the biggest question of the day. But it will come down to money.”
Cameron added that he expects the plans will be referred to the council’s Budget and Finance and Planning and Development subcommittees once it is submitted as a communication.
“I appreciate the mayor bringing this forward and giving us a chance to get a look at it,” he said. “We will see what happens.”
Reardon said he has been getting a lot of questions from people around the city about the new center and he’s happy plans call for a building that will work for people of all ages.
“It also provides something the Senior/Community Center doesn’t when you talk about space where people can be active and make connections” he said. “I feel like it’s just an extension of what we’re doing in having space (in city buildings) that all ages can use.”

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