What the heck is that and why do we need one? It started as two separate ideas:
Recall that the town’s summer programs at Foss field are in need of a facility to run programs and minimally to provide shelter during summer lightning storms. Currently, they high-tail it for the Community Center.
Now recall that the senior community has long advocated for a space to conduct programs and run their meals program. Currently they are using All Saints Episcopal Church.
Recently, the two groups got together and started to explore the notion of a shared facility. The time and space demands of the groups are basically complimentary, where one group’s peak usage is the other’s minimum need. Aside from a small amount of dedicated space for staff and equipment, they both really need just a roof, restrooms, and space – easily shared commodities.
They had looked into converting the old electric building for that purpose, but the seniors at Senior Meals were not enthusiastic because it is difficult to get up to the Lehner St entrance from the Glendon parking lot, and the building would require ramps or lifts to get down into the space. They prefer everything on a single level, and it makes sense. Parks and Rec would also be somewhat compromised as they are looking to get as close to Foss Field as possible.
So I had to recoil as Selectman Murray introduced the idea of using the second floor of Brewster Hall for an inter-generational center. It’s a stretch at best.
As a senior resource, there would be inadequate parking, especially for the many handicapped. The facility itself would require an elevator ride for most of the users. Adding a crowd sized kitchen would take a lot of space. Heating that large second floor to senior comfortable temperatures every day would be difficult and expensive.
As a parks and rec resource it would be impractical because it would be too far from Foss Field to store program equipment and too far to use as shelter from storms.
You may wonder how I know about the inter-generational effort and its needs. The answer is that I spoke with some of the people involved in developing an idea to incorporate a suitable space into a new town office facility on Lehner St. In stark contrast to doing somethoing in BMH, this idea is a natural fit.
Take a look at a concept advanced by Tocag for a Lehner St facility. Back then we were looking at 10,000 sq ft for town offices. This plan has a two story building with town offices entering at street level on Lehner St. and the lower section entering at ground level from the large new parking lot adjacent to Foss Field.
Now imagine that the lower level is expanded (there is plenty of space available) to accommodate the multi-generational center. The senior center would have a row of handicap parking right outside the door at the same level. Parks and Rec would be across the lot from a useful facility. Town offices would be above and all activities could share meeting spaces. Because the lower level has tons of land at grade, we could build an adequate facility now and allow for expansion later.
How much? I can make a solid case (and I will) for less than $200/sq ft. Town offices seem to be willing to accept 6,000 sq ft these days, and with about 4,000 for the inter-generational the cost would be about $2 million. Town offices, senior center, rec facility, room for expansion, plenty of parking, downtown location.
With respect to solving town problems, this Brewster Hall dilemma just keeps getting worse. The tail is wagging the dog.