Editor's note: Town manager Richard Branigan anticipates the community center and senior center's move to Stanley T. Williams will be sewn up within a year. He says there's early talk to redevelop the former community center's building commercially, but there's nothing set in stone for the senior center once vacated. Mr. Batter has a few ideas..
With to move the town’s senior center and community center into the now defunct Stanley T. Williams Elementary School, there is an exciting opportunity to find new applications for the two buildings along Route 80 currently fulfilling those functions. My esteemed editor has placed his confidence in me to achieve those ends.
As a self-proclaimed naturalist, my first instinct was that the town should simply tear down the buildings. Let the weeds grow. Plant some trees. Return these parcels of land to the earth and maintain some vestige of our agrarian beginnings. But such a decision would most likely not please the town, or my editor. Most importantly, it wouldn’t make for a very good column. Thus, it may be in the best interest of all parties involved to consider other options.
Because this situation arose over a budget crisis to begin with, I then considered the possibility that raking in a profit on behalf of the town might be the determining factor in what happens to these buildings. A brothel and a gambling hall, respectively, came to mind. Looking for something equally unfulfilling and nearly as profitable? Why not put in a second McDonald’s? If the lines got long at the drive-thru of the first, a second would benefit from run-off customers. McDonald’s would undoubtedly help finance the move, so that nothing came out of the town’s purse. We might have to change the town’s name, or at the very least change Route 80 to the Mayor McCheese Highway, but such is the cost of insatiable capitalistic enterprise.
Alright—maybe the decision shouldn’t concern money for once. We are in a unique position to look beyond it for a change. These two buildings have served the community well, and have a chance to do so again with a touch of modernity. One faithful reader - and the only to have e-mailed me about the column I write who is not my mother - suggested the establishment of a community theatre. With minor alterations, the senior center could easily house a stage and a small audience. There are not many outlets for the creative North Branford citizen, and I do believe that an investment in the arts would greatly help the town.
As for the community center, its architecture is already well-suited for artistic endeavors. There are various rooms readily available that could allow for painters and artists to create and showcase their work in a gallery format. Additionally, there is suitable space for local bands to use the space to practice and host concerts. This would allow for collaboration between musicians and help those just beginning to find peer mentors. As a writer, I know that those like me only need a small space, a typewriter, and the soft percolation of a coffee pot in order to find the space valuable. Fiction readings, poetry readings and open mic sessions could help keep the venture afloat.
For the sake of argument, there are several other ideas that came to mind. Installing a projection screen and stadium seating could allow for a showcase of old films. We could create a local museum to celebrate our town’s heritage and history. We could create a farmers’ market in which the town’s farmers could conglomerate and sell produce. We could knock town the community center and build a bullpen for Wall Field, so that our young hurlers could warm up adequately, putting them out of harm from foul balls and strained elbows. We could open up the door to local businesses to fill the void. Rest assured, there are innumerable opportunities that are in our hands.
What is important to remember is that, ultimately, this decision belongs to the townspeople. If we do not raise our voices, the decision will be made without us. Thus, I ask that readers submit their own ideas about how the buildings be used.