MV Museum takes more time to weigh Marine Hospital site option


The Martha’s Vineyard Museum (MVM) signed a four-month extension on Monday, January 31, on an option to buy the former Marine Hospital property in Tisbury, according to executive director David Nathans.

The 4.4-acre property off Lagoon Pond Road, owned by the St. Pierre family, went on the market last April for $3.195 million, according to broker Karl Buder of Coldwell Banker Landmarks Real Estate. A long-time museum donor brought the property to the museum board’s attention. The donor offered to fund an option to buy the property, which took it off the market until January 31, and a feasibility study to look at options for restoration and new construction on the site.

“The extension on our option defers our decision on the purchase of the property through the end of May,” Mr. Nathans said in a phone conversation Monday. “That gives us enough time, now that the plans are not in final form but finished enough for us to do the critical second part, to make sure there is the financial capacity to support our purchase, renovation, and expansion.”

Last October the museum asked for proposals for a feasibility study by an architectural design firm. South Mountain Company of West Tisbury and Oudens Ello Architecture of Boston teamed up on the winning bid, awarded in November.

The former Marine Hospital includes the original wood-framed, shingled structure built in 1895 and a 1938 brick addition. Mr. Nathans said that although the feasibility study did not reveal any big surprises or insurmountable problems, it affirmed it would be too expensive to reconfigure the 1938 concrete and brick building for museum use and it would be better to tear it down.

In its place a new wing would be built for a function/lecture hall and climate-controlled storage and exhibition space. The original building would be renovated to include a lobby, gift store, offices, research library, and classroom.

“We feel the site has enough size to work for us for the foreseeable future,” Mr. Nathans said.

He and the museum planning committee met at the Tisbury Senior Center with about six property owners who live near the Marine Hospital on January 19. “It was incredibly positive with that group,” Mr. Nathans said. “They were right to ask lots of questions about operation times and things of that sort, and I think we gave them what were reassuring and acceptable answers.”

Mr. Nathans, South Mountain Company president John Abrams, and architects Conrad Ello and Matt Oudens met with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission for a preliminary project discussion on January 27. Mr. Nathans said it was helpful as a kind of “heads-up” if the museum board moves forward with the site purchase and to a more formal project application.

“We’re excited, and now the next stage of the work begins, which is going out and selling it, to see if we can get the pledges that are needed to make us feel confident,” Mr. Nathans said.

Formal fundraising would not begin until the board makes a decision on the property’s purchase, Mr. Nathans said.

“We don’t expect to raise 100 percent of what we think we need before we make a decision to purchase,” he said. “If we did, then great, but realistically we expect to raise some significant amount that gives us the confidence that the rest could be raised in a reasonable amount of time. At that point we’d go more formal.”

Mr. Nathans said the museum would look to the Island’s most recent successful major fundraising campaigns for Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and the YMCA as examples of what works and what doesn’t.

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