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Faculty & Staff Newsletter

News
February 2018
Issue: 
23

Aerial view of UMass Waltham facilityPlanning Process Underway on Future of Waltham Facility

A group of campus administrators, including CAFE Director Jody Jellison and Associate Director Joe Shoenfeld, along with representatives of the Chancellor’s Office, Facilities, and Environmental Health and Safety, have been meeting to review the conditions of the UMass Extension facility in Waltham and possible future directions for the site. The group toured the site in late December. The facility, once known as the Waltham Field Station, is a 58-acre parcel that was given to the University (or, actually, Mass. Agricultural College) in 1924 for its use in educational purposes. In its heyday, it sported about 8 buildings, greenhouses and barns and was home to an independent department of the University’s College of Agriculture dedicated to research and extension important to the market gardeners in greater Boston. At its largest, the department consisted of about 60 faculty and staff. The department was abolished in 1989, with faculty transferred to the Amherst campus. Since then, the facility has been used by Extension for office space and more recently, portions of the main building and some of the land have been leased to local non-profit organizations active in agricultural, food-related and environmental  pursuits. Since the abolition of the department, the facility has suffered from a tremendous amount of deferred maintenance. Currently, only one building—the main building or “administration building”—is in use with others closed or collapsed. In 2014, the state passed a five-year Environmental Bond, which included an item authorizing the executive branch of state government to finance the rejuvenation of the site, with a new building, as a “Center for Urban Sustainability.” Despite the authorization, funding for this project has not been released. The current planning conversation is working on alternative scenarios for the site in the absence of the funding from the bond. These scenarios range from renovation to closure.