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Community Center Comes Closer To Final Plan

Published: June 23, 2017

Taking another opportunity for an update about ongoing community and senior center planning, Tuesday evening, June 20, design team member Rusty Malik of Quisenberry Arcari discussed images in a slideshow to the Board of Selectmen and others.

As the architect’s renderings flashed on the screen, showing aspects of the total 45,860 square feet for the community center and the senior center, he presented “where we are, at this point,” as the firm prepares to submit plans to the Planning and Zoning Commission and “move toward a public hearing” in coming weeks. He and Community Center and Senior Center Advisory Committee members have been meeting to refine details about the aquatic center capacity, design features, folding doors, storage and activity space, parking spaces, and more, making slight changes along the way.

Mr Malik said the parking will include about 150 spaces in response to a past concern about needing more handicap spaces.

The parking also includes “access to the back [of the center] for emergency vehicles,” he said, as his firm continues to “develop the next level of details for the P&Z.”

Mr Malik said his team is “making refinements as they move along,” while working with feedback from the advisory committees. “Slight changes” have been incorporated into how the space is organized, he said, but the “footprint is now fixed.”

See renderings at that detail a roughly 17,000-square-foot community center, roughly 17,000-square-foot pool and support area, a shared mechanical space of 1,000 square feet, and the roughly 9,400- square-foot senior center. Plans include a lap pool, recreational pool, meeting rooms, arts and crafts space, administration rooms, kitchens, locker rooms, various multipurpose rooms, and more.

The pools could include a mechanical lift to assist “anyone with mobility issues,” Mr Malik said. “We think it would be an asset.”

The building’s exterior view includes a lot of brick and glass with walkways. Addressing concerns about the facility’s compatibility with other Fairfield Hills buildings’ architecture, Mr Malik mentioned there “was discussion about the building being welcoming and having a lot of light.”

Selectman Herb Rosenthal hoped to make a point that “we made every” new building — the NYA Sports & Fitness Center and the Newtown Ambulance Association garage —”be in keeping” with design guidelines for the campus. He asked, “How can Newtown build a building without adhering?”

“We’re introducing elements of architecture that are there,” but architects are “not trying to mimic” current design, and have made something modern, Mr Malik said.

He also said architects were trying not to have a lot of masonry.

“Each iteration is a slight change” as planning progresses, he said.

Seating, Light, And Parking

First Selectman Pat Llodra asked about seating capacity within the aquatic center. Mr Malik explained options of using seating or benches, but explained that small bleachers would not work in the space because of clearance and accessibility.

Asking for comments from advisory committee members, Mrs Llodra opened the floor to questions.

Carla Kron said the architects “have done a good job of listening and the design now fits in well with Fairfield Hills and you have to realize it’s different, a one-story building — it needs lots of light and a welcoming entryway.”

Senior Advisory Committee member LeReine Frampton asked about the number of people “that can be in the pool area at the same time.” Mr Malik said the programming “will dictate the number of people.” Ms Frampton again asked about “how many can be in the room.”

“When the design is finalized we will come up with that information,” Mr Malik said.

Ms Frampton was worried about swim competitions, but Community Center Advisory Committee members Ms Kron and Kinga Walsh began to shake their heads.

“We’ve all decided this is not a competitive pool,” Ms Walsh said. The pool could be used for scuba demonstrations or water tournaments with “maybe 20 people on the deck,” she said.

“How many people can be in there?” asked Ms Frampton again. A number discussed in the past is possibly 75, “That’s if there is an event,” Mr Malik said. “We’ll come up with activities and what the numbers will be. We’ll put that together.” In July, the design team hopes to go to Planning and Zoning with plans.

With thoughts of a senior bus in mind, Dan Rosenthal asked about a carport.

While architects are still considering scenarios, it was noted that there is a challenge in bringing vehicles close to the building, as parking spaces are lost.

This week, the Community Center Advisory Committee worked with the town to launch two outreach efforts to help inform residents about the most up-to-date planning. They held one meeting Wednesday evening, and plan another for Saturday, June 24, from 10 to 11 am, in the C.H. Booth Library meeting room. The meeting will include a schematic design presentation, and offer details on what is included in the multipurpose rooms for various activities, how three of these rooms can be joined together to make a larger event/banquet space, commercial kitchen, the pools, and more.

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