If the Ashland School District decides to sell the Briscoe School building at North Main and Laurel streets, which is looking more likely, turning the facility into a new City Hall could be a positive move for the city and for the surrounding neighborhood.
The existing City Hall, on the Plaza downtown, would not survive a major earthquake, and renovating the structure has been estimated to cost $7.4 million.
If the City Council decides to move City Hall elsewhere, Briscoe is only one of several possible locations. No plans have been made yet; a city committee is compiling options for the council.
When the school district first broached the idea of selling Briscoe, residents were concerned that the school property could wind up being developed for housing. Selling to the city would prevent that.
Another fear is that a City Hall project would mean losing the open space behind the building to a parking lot, along with a playground that now serves the neighborhood.
Suggestions that parking lots are going out of style are a little premature. Yes, Ashland wants to be less car-oriented, but city employees, some of whom don't live in Ashland, have to get to work somehow, and some employees need to come and go by car as part of their jobs.
There should be plenty of room to provide parking and retain much of the grassy field and playground. In any case, a City Hall campus would be a better fate for the property than private development.