New Option for a Center for Seniors and More
By Gregory T. Federspiel
An exciting new possibility has been presented to the Town. Knowing of the Town’s desire to create a center for our growing population of older residents, the Cornerstone Church approached Town officials about obtaining an option to purchase their current home at 20 School Street once the Church builds a new church on lands it has purchased at the corner of School and Mill Streets.
While the Selectmen can enter into the option, ultimately voters will need to make the final decision whether or not to purchase the property. Such a vote will likely be put before residents at this spring’s Annual Town Meeting. In the meantime, work has advanced to determine the feasibility of converting the historic structure into a full-service senior center and multi-purpose community building.
The building is impressively solid with massive timbers throughout. A preliminary inspection of the building found no structural concerns. With roughly 7500 square feet of floor space, the building provides amble room for a wide range of uses. An initial renovation plan, developed for the Town by local architect John Harding, shows a welcoming reception area and reading/computer use space surrounded by offices and multi-purpose rooms on the first floor, including exercise rooms and smaller meeting spaces. The expansive second floor would be home to a commercial kitchen, a very large multi-function room (enough room for some 350 people seated auditorium style or some 250 people at tables.) The space could be split in half to provide two large function rooms when needed.
The Church has offered to sell the building to the Town for $1.2 million, the appraised value. If voters approve the purchase, a fundraising effort would be undertaken with the goal of raising the funds needed for the renovation of the building. Final estimates are being developed on the cost of converting the building to public uses, including an elevator and a required sprinkler system, and should be known by the end of this month. Early indications are that there are interested in individuals willing to make significant donations to make the new center a reality.
Council on Aging Director Nancy Hammond has identified a wide array of services and programming that could be provided to our older residents from such a new center. From congregate meals to numerous exercise classes, from lecture series to bridge games, and from flu shots to other health services, the list is long. The Town’s population of residents over 60 is expected to grow rapidly and is expected to be close to 40% in the not too distant future. Additionally, the various meeting rooms could be available for many different groups, both private and public.
The Selectmen reviewed the plans for the building at their meeting on January 6 and hope to sign off on the proposed option and proposed purchase and sales agreement at their meeting on January 21.