WEST HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont joined town officials and local leaders on Wednesday to announce the finalized purchase of the former St. Brigid School property.
The town agreed to purchase the property located at 100 Mayflower St. over the summer for $3 million and plans to turn it into a new community center.
The community center will be the new home for the teen and senior centers that have been operated out of the Elmwood Community Center, an aging building built in the 1920s, as well as the Faxon Library branch.
In July, the state bonding commission approved $2.5 million in funding for the town to use on the project. The town has also included $6 million over the next two fiscal years in its capital improvement program for the project.
Mayor Shari Cantor, noting there are 77 different languages spoken at home in West Hartford, said the facility may also function as a cultural center that anchors the Elmwood community.
“We often talk about the benefit of bringing the community together,” Cantor said. “I don’t think we ever realized exactly the power and positive influence of that until it was taken away from us over these last 20 months. We are so excited to have this opportunity and vision of what this can be for our community.”
Lamont said the project represents the best of a community when it comes together.
“Listening to what this means to this community, I’m just reminded that a community doesn’t just happen,” Lamont said. “There are a lot of building blocks that go into it. I love the diversity here. That’s the best of America and I think that’s right here in West Hartford and that’s why we’re here for this amazing community center.”
The next step, Cantor said, is to gather public feedback on what residents what from the community center.
“That should start very soon. We expect to have a large community input,” Cantor said. “And not just in this corner of town, but throughout the community because this will be a resource for the whole community.”
Town Manager Matt Hart said that will happen in a few ways, including virtual town meetings, public hearings and the creation of an advisory committee.
Hart said the town will also begin a feasibility study that will determine how much of the existing school building will need to come down.
“We expect that to be a sizeable portion,” Hart said.
He added that there’s no start or end date for the construction and he expects it to be a multi-year project.
Hart said it’s possible that parts of the building, like the gym, could be used in the interim. In the future, Hart said the current Elmwood Community Center could be repurposed by being sold to a private developer.
Town officials and other community leaders praised the project, saying it will enrich the Elmwood community. It’s in walking distance to the Elmwood neighborhood and is located adjacent to Beachland Park.
The Bridge Family Center nonprofit operates a teen center in the lower floor of the Elmwood Community Center. It will call the new building home, something its executive director, Margaret Hann, is excited about.
“Young people need us now more than ever,” Hann said. “The teen center is a thriving space. It helps develop tomorrow’s leaders.”
Pramod Pradhan, the town’s community engagement librarian at the Faxon branch, said moving to the new location will be a much-needed infrastructure upgrade. The building has some HVAC issues and the basement is prone to flooding, officials said.
Rebecca Sears, the town's new senior center director, is looking forward to the mixed-used aspect of the center.
“We are very excited about the prospect of a new community center on this site to anchor this neighborhood and embrace the wider community including a vibrant senior center,” Sears said. “This will be a place that welcomes and supports many facets of our town while serving multiple generations.”