LEICESTER, Mass. — The planned renovation of the Rev. Samuel May Jr. House in Leicester has been put on hold because of funding issues, Becker College confirmed Wednesday. The problems would have required closing the property until all building changes were complete.
"The May House is important to Becker College and the Town of Leicester, but closing it until we could raise the additional funds to complete all renovations was just not feasible," Becker College Vice President of Institutional Advancement Dean J. Hickey said.
In March 2009, Becker College and U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal announced receipt of a $380,000 federal grant to promote economic development through construction of the Town of Leicester's visitor center, which would be located in the May House. The project would involve restoring both the interior and exterior of the historic building.
Becker and Leicester have worked to develop a plan that would support the project while adhering to many state and local building requirements. But the cost of renovations necessary to meet building codes was estimated at more than $550,000. Failure to perform all upgrades, even while doing the planned exterior work, would render the building unfit for occupancy.
"The decision to review the May House project was reached with the support of the Town of Leicester and Representative Neal's office, with the residents of Leicester, Becker's students and the responsible stewardship of taxpayer funds in mind," said Hickey.
May House will continue to serve as a residence hall for Becker students. The college is working with Leicester and Neal's office to repurpose the federal funding.
"There are several worthy projects in Leicester, and our goal is to see that the town might still benefit," said Hickey.
Projects in discussion include the possible renovation of the former Exxon station at the center of town as well as the Alpine — two properties that have been eyesores in town for years, Town Administrator Robert Reed said. Part of the negotiations include what exactly the grant money can be used for, he said.
Leicester selectmen are looking into cleaning up the properties by taking them through eminent domain.