Does anybody out there want a barn?
If so, the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department has one for sale.
The department hopes to sell a relatively small white barn that stands in the way of development of Ashland Creek Park on East Hersey Street near its intersection with Water Street.
If no one buys the barn and moves it away, the building will be taken apart, with some of the wood likely used to construct a new garden shed in another location on the park site, said Parks Superintendent Bruce Dickens.
"Our hope is that someone will buy it," he said.
Ashland Creek Park will include a playground, restroom, natural meadow area, walking trails, a garden shed and a greenhouse. A community garden on the site will be shifted and enlarged.
Development could start as soon as late June, Dickens said.
Not everyone is happy about the coming removal or dismantling of the barn, which was possibly built in the 1930s.
Ashland artist Ann DiSalvo, who has a plot in the community garden, said the barn could be used to store tools, seeds and supplies and for the drying and jarring of herbs. It could host potlucks, work parties, group picnics and other events.
"Urban agriculture is the wave of the future," she said.
DiSalvo said the barn is a reminder of Ashland's agricultural heritage.
"There's so little rural architecture left inside towns. Barns are going down. They're not being put up again," she said.
Since the barn is in the Ashland Creek floodplain, bringing it up to code to allow for increased public use of the barn would be costly, according to the Ashland Community Development Department.
DiSalvo appealed plans to demolish the barn and took her case to the Ashland Building Appeals Board/Demolition Review Committee on May 12.
In a split decision, the panel voted to allow the demolition but to first require the Parks Department to place advertisements offering the barn for sale for 30 days to someone who would move it, according to the Community Development Department.
The ads will likely be placed in venues such as local newspapers on May 22, parks staff said.
Would-be buyers will have to submit sealed bids. If someone buys the barn, the person will have two weeks to have it moved by a licensed, bonded and insured contractor, Dickens said.
Estimating the market value of the barn is difficult since real estate appraisals are based largely on comparable properties, he said.
Not many barns are offered for sale, especially with a condition that they be moved.
Ashland architect Tom Giordano, a member of the Building Appeals Board/Demolition Review Committee, voted in the minority against demolition approval for the barn. He also sits on the Ashland Historic Commission.
Giordano said he recently attended a state historic preservation conference and took a class about the disappearance of barns from the landscape.
"We're losing them so much and so quickly. They help preserve the fabric of not only rural areas, but urban areas," he said. "I voted against the demolition, although I support the park project. I had to vote my conscience, especially after taking that class. I didn't want to see it go."
Giordano said preserving and re-purposing historic buildings is often the most sustainable choice.
Asked whether he thinks anyone will step forward to buy the barn and move it, he said, "We can only hope."