About 75 people attended an input session at Bath City Hall June 25 on future uses for Morse High School. Three work stations throughout the building were available for brainstorming.

BATH — About 75 people interested in the fate of the current Morse High School packed the City Hall auditorium Tuesday to discuss future use of the 90-year-old structure.

The gathering marked the first of many steps in the input-gathering process, City Manager Peter Owen told the crowd. A Facilities Committee review of conditions at the 826 High St. building concluded early this year, followed by a Harriman Architects building study in March. City staff also met with Bath’s Community Development and Economic Development committees in March to discuss possible concepts.

The city plans to hire a consultant to look at conditions at the building, the surrounding neighborhood and zoning, and make recommendations concerning the best use, Owen said. A master planning initiative is due to run from this fall through early 2020, with the city due next summer to issue a request for proposals for redevelopment of the site.

“We don’t have any preconceived ideas of what’s going to happen there,” Owen said. “It’s obviously very important to have the public come in and weigh-in on what people would like to see, or not like to see. Because what we’re really looking (at) is the … second opportunity for that campus, and how it might be used.”

The Harriman report was due to be uploaded to the city’s website this week. People are encouraged to comment at cityofbath.com/morse, or call Assistant City Manager Marc Meyers at 443-8330.

A new Morse, under construction on Wing Farm Parkway, will include the currently-separate Bath Regional Career and Technical Center and be occupied by Regional School Unit 1 in January 2021. The older building, the original section of which was completed in 1929, would then revert from RSU 1 to the city. Owen hopes to have a good idea of how the original Morse, along with the 20-year-old adjacent tech center, will be repurposed by the time the new school opens.

Those attending Tuesday’s meeting brainstormed a variety of ideas during breakout sessions at three work stations. Those ideas were brought back to the larger group near the close of the 90-minute gathering.

At the station regarding the city’s areas of greatest need and big ideas for the site, bringing greater tax dollars to Bath was a priority, along with providing more affordable apartments, and middle-class, single-floor housing for downsizing residents. Site ideas included restaurants, movie theaters and breweries, a mix of commercial and residential uses, elderly or multi-generational housing.

The station covering the right mix of uses – whether commercial, residential or public – drew support for some type of blend that would generate tax revenue, including storefronts, restaurants, movie theaters, and other amenities normally seen only in downtown. Senior and affordable units, as well as homeless shelters, were also discussed as ways to mitigate Bath’s housing needs.

The third station addressed the most important aspects of the site and the buildings that should be retained. The Montgomery Theater, longtime home to MoHiBa (the Morse High Bazaar), rose to the top as a key asset. Preservation of parking, green space and the building’s facade also drew support.

The ultimate decision on Morse’s future use could be made internally, or could go before the City Council, Owen said.


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