WESTON — After two years of meetings, the Lachat Town Farm Commission unanimously chose a design-build firm Wednesday night for the construction of an educational center at the Juliana Lachat Preserve, with an expected late May groundbreaking.
After considering four bids, the commission chose Verdi Design-Build, which happened to be the lowest bid at $2.97 million, to construct the Daniel E. Offutt III Educational Center.
“We’ve been basically engaged for close to two years in this exploration of what the right building is for Lachat and a respectful tribute to Daniel Offutt and so hopefully those two factors are coming together,” said Rob Sanders, architect of the center.
The 5,200-square foot timber-frame building will contain an assembly room, an art studio, a commercial-grade demonstration kitchen, an indoor classroom and an open design that will permit fireside concerts and lectures from October to May.
Sanders said Verdi has its own division for earth-moving and underground work, which will save money because the firm hires fewer subcontractors while incorporating a broad knowledge of construction techniques.
“Because of the sensitivity of the Lachat site with concerns about adjacent wetlands and its topography, and the need to bring in utilities — electrical, gas and a new septic system for essentially all of the developed buildings on the site— we thought it was a real strength of Verdi’s to have fundamental knowledge of what it takes to be the operator there, rather than having a subcontractor,” he said.
The project is privately funded through Friends of Lachat, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, that received a pledge of $2 million, and additional matching funds of $1 million from the Daniel E. Offutt estate to build a new educational center at the farm.
The 42-acre preserve was deeded to the town and the Nature Conservancy in 1997 by owner Leon Lachat, who dedicated the property — then a working farm — for educational and public use with a focus on Weston’s agricultural roots.
Other buildings on the property comprise a pre-Revolutionary homestead, including the Lachat farmhouse that is listed on the state Register of Historic Places, a milking barn, and a carriage shed.
The 11-member town-appointed commission, led by chair Elizabeth Zeppernick, oversees the operations and finances of the farm for the town and reports to the Board of Selectmen.
View the architectural animation video. The building’s size was reduced after the animation and architectural drawings were produced.