AYER -- Selectmen unanimously approved the Fletcher Building Historic Preservation Restriction sought by building owners Robert and Janice France .
The PR is a voluntary legal agreement that provides assurance that an historic or cultural property's inherent values will be preserved through subsequent ownership by placing restrictions on the demolition or alteration of its significant historic features.
Although the Community Preservation Act does not require such a restriction on a Historic District building, the Historic Commission had recommended that it be a condition of CPA funding.
According to an October 2011 report in this newspaper, the Ayer Community Preservation Committee voted to place a $250,000 article on the Annual Town Meeting warrant to help fund the rehabilitation of the vacant building.
Bonnet Realty, for which the Frances are the principals, had requested the funding as part of the capital needed to rehabilitate the building with two first-floor retail stores and two single-bedroom apartments on each of the three upper floors.
All six apartments of the 49 Main St. building will have "affordable" rents fixed at $650 per month.
Bonnet Realty secured voter approval at the fall ATM for a permanent easement so that the company can maintain and insure the sidewalk on the Pleasant Street side of the building. The space is needed for the construction of a wheelchair-accessible ramp into the first floor retail space.
To secure additional funding for the $1.8 million renovation, Bonnet Realty also obtained a $750,000 state grant from the Department of Housing and Community Development, and a low-interest $200,000 Ayer Industrial Development Financing Agency loan from Ayer's Urban Development Action Grant fund.
The historically significant building will have an exterior makeover that will keep the interior structure of the building intact, which will ensure historic tax credits.
Robert France is the CEO of Senate Construction of Shirley, which is performing the job.
France said that the only impositions he saw in terms of the PR, was going through the process to make the changes to the building within certain guidelines, and the limitations placed on him when he goes to do repairs.
He said that the Massachusetts Historic Commission is understaffed, which is why his application took so long to be approved. He was pleased that selectmen gave their stamp of approval.