As early as 1997, the governing Board of the library began considering funding sources for planning a facility designed and constructed for the sole purpose of facilitating library services in the community. When examining the potential of forming a partnership with a neighboring community to construct a new building, the town of Mendon agreed to explore the possibility of a joint public library with the town of Upton. This partnership resulted in successfully obtaining a state grant and matching funds from both communities to secure a site, develop a preliminary architectural design, and draft the process for creating a governing district. The success realized in the planning stages of this project further resulted in the submission of an application for a construction grant in the 2000-01 state construction grant round. The project was accepted, and the Mendon-Upton joint public library grant award was wait-listed at the number 11 slot in 2001. While both communities continued to voice their financial support at town meetings, the project was ultimately defeated at the ballots in November of 2003.
The need for expanded library facilities remained, and when the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners announced another grant round to be held in spring of 2005, a feasibility committee was formed to investigate the possibility of building new library facilities within the town of Upton. This committee examined several potential building sites in Upton, and in February of 2005, submitted a grant application to the MBLC. This application included preliminary plans for an 18,000 square foot building designed by Lerner, Ladds, and Bartels architectural firm. This building would be located within a planned village development proposed by a local real-estate developer. The grant application was approved by the MBLC, but the project was put on a waiting list until funding becomes available.
In FY2009, when State monies became available to fund construction grants, Upton was number 13 on the waiting list, however, the local developer’s planned village construction was unable to proceed, and the land including the proposed library site was offered for sale. On March 10, 2008, the Town of Upton voted not to purchase the site for town use. The land was later sold to the Grafton and Upton railroad company, who have developed it for industrial uses. Due to the unavailability of our planned site, the Board of Trustees were unable to accept the State Grant award.
Throughout 2009, the Board of Trustees investigated other possible sites for a new library facility, and negotiated a letter of intent to lease a plot of land from Maplewood Cemetery, which was deemed suitable for constructing a municipal building. At a Town Meeting November 17, 2009, the town voted not to appropriate funds to continue evaluating the property.
In July of 2014, the Town of Upton received a planning and design grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners to determine the feasibility of a new library facility for an upcoming construction grant opportunity. This study examined both town-owned and private land available in town.
During 2014, the Town of Upton opened a renovated and expanded Town Hall building. The Board of Health and Code Enforcement departments re-located to the new building, leaving vacant space in the Knowlton-Risteen building.
At this time, the Library conducted a mold and moisture remediation project. As an end result, library space expanded to 3,200 square feet on the first floor of the building with new carpet, paint, and an improved shelving layout. The extra space provided a reservable public meeting room of 300 square feet.
The library space and Knowlton-Risteen building remained inaccessible to patrons with mobility limitations.
During 2015, a Joint Feasibility Committee appointed by the Library Trustees and the Board of Selectmen explored designs for a combined facility that would house the Library and the Council on Aging department.
In January 2016, the Joint Committee found no feasible path forward for a combined facility, and continued forward with designs for a Library only that would be eligible for an MBLC construction grant.
By August 2016, two designs remained under consideration; a 14,740 square foot single story building located on a privately owned parcel that would be leased from the owners, a private cemetery association, and a 16,000 square foot two-story building located on town-owned land adjacent to an existing municipal playground.
In October 2016, neither site was recommended as feasible by the committee, and the Board of Trustees voted not to make any application for the 2016-17 MBLC construction grant.
During 2017, the Board of Trustees conducted a conceptual design study of the Knowlton-Risteen building to determine the feasibility of two options: making only the first floor accessible, or expanding library space to all three floors.
In 2018, the Joint Feasibility was reformed and the town approved $50,000 funding for conceptual design of a combined Library and Council on Aging facility in November 2018. During 2017 and 2018, the Town of Upton formed an economic development committee with an interest in creating mixed-use development in the downtown area along Main street. The town completed a visioning project, created a special business district zoning bylaw, and purchased several properties in this area for municipal use. These activities revived interest in the joint facility as a municipal anchor for the district.
In 2019, the Joint Feasibility Committee and T2 Architecture completed a feasibility study and conceptual design for a combined community center to be located on town-owned land at 11 Milford Street, adjacent to an existing municipal playground and the privately owned VFW post. On November 5, 2019, the town meeting approved $700,000 to proceed with design development for the community center.
On May 8, 2021, the town meeting approved expending free cash and borrowing to fund the $12.5 million construction cost of the community center.
The Community Center Building Committee continues to manage the project. In August 2021 the projected schedule is for construction to begin in November, with completion in December 2022.