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NOTE (Tuesday, August 7, 2018): This post has been updated to correctly reflect the source of the $15 donation that served as the seed funds for this project .
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Setting their names in indelible ink on Wednesday, August 1 were town officials and various board members who signed a steel construction beam that morning.
Standing under an awning in Fairfield Hills as light rain fell, the crowd clustered near the entrance to Newtown’s new community and senior center, taking shape in steel and concrete.
Among those leaving their permanent mark on the final construction beam were past First Selectman Pat Llodra, under whose eye much of the new Newtown community and senior center planning took place; First Selectman Dan Rosenthal, who now keeps an eye on the project; Matthew Ariniello, the Community Center Director; Senior Center Director Marilyn Place; Community Center Committee Chairman Kinga Walsh; Town Clerk Debbie Aurelia; and many others who had a hand in the centers’ planning and development in past years.
Noting all of the “work and effort and number of people involved,” in the community center project, Mr Rosenthal said, “This truly will be a center for all ages.” The center will be a gathering place for the community, he said. “It’s exciting to see it take shape.”
Ms Llodra handled the “heavy lifting” for the project in past years, Mr Rosenthal said. Acknowledging the many people gathered for the brief ceremony this week, he said, “There are a lot of folks who care very much about this project. I know it will be a wonderful place when it is done.”
In the minutes before crews raised the final beam into place, Mrs Llodra said, “Remember why we have this place, and what can rise from depths of grief.” Following the Sandy Hook tragedy, the GE Foundation had provided Newtown with a $15 million gift to make the new building possible.
Recalling the many failed attempts at forming a plan that finally gained momentum for the center, Mrs Llodra said, “The journey has been challenging.”
About the new construction just a few feet away, which will include a pool, café, art rooms, multi-purpose rooms, kitchens, an outdoor patio, common rooms and meeting rooms, and more, she said,
“Let’s embrace this and make it the best we can to honor why we have it. I am proud of all who made this happen.”
“The spirit of our community was alive today, I am glad that we had the opportunity to bring everyone together who has made this project possible to this point,” said Mr Ariniello. “This was a huge milestone in the project and I look to invite the community back for some hard hat tours in the future. We have a lot of work still ahead of us but, we could not do it without community involvement.”
Also joining the crowd was architect Rusty Malik of Quisenberry Arcari Malik LLC, project designers, and many representatives from Caldwell & Walsh Building Construction Inc, overseeing construction.
Less than 30 minutes after gathering, members of the crowd held permanent markers in hand and wrote their names on the beam. Minutes later, Project Superintendent Salvatore Spadaro and Assistant Project Manager Trevor Prescott carried the beam to a new location, from which it was hoisted into place.
The new 45,860-square-foot building will include separate community center and senior center areas.
The community center’s facilities, totaling approximately 35,210 square feet, will include an arts and crafts room; six multipurpose activity rooms to accommodate activities ranging from music to group gatherings; a commercial kitchen; an approximately 5,000-square-foot banquet room; a six-lane, 25-yard pool; a zero-entry activity pool; and outdoor connections to the surrounding area of the Fairfield Hills campus.
The separate senior center of 9,450 square feet will cater to seniors’ programs and activities and strive to enhance and expand the current program offerings.
The project is funded through a 2013 gift from GE of $15 million for the development, construction, and operation of a community center. From GE is $10 million to design and build and another $5 million to underwrite at least five years of operating expenses.
The town is bonding an additional $5 million approved in the year’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to supplement the initial $10 million capital gift. Another $3 million of CIP money is funding the senior center.