ABOUT THE PROJECT
The proposal is to renovate Bridge Street School and construct a full size gymnasium addition so the building can be utilized as a community center. Residents would have full use of the building and grounds for meetings, recreation and/or programs. Parks and Recreation and Youth Services would also relocate their offices and use the building to run programs. In addition, the Friends of the Kent Memorial Library would have space to sort books for their book sale.
The site plans, construction estimates and all other pertinent information related to the proposal can be found under the Get the Facts tab.
Bridge Street School was built in 1924 and used as an elementary school. The building was closed in 2004 and turned over to the town by the Board of Education. The building is registered on the state historic register, but since its closing has been largely underutilized. The Friends of Kent Memorial Library have used the space to sort books for their fall book sale, police have trained dogs and the outside space has been utilized for sports programs and recreation. Through the years since closing, potential uses and possible redevelopment of this property has been widely discussed.
In 2004, a Bridge Street School Study Committee was formed by the Board of Selectmen to review possible uses of the building including library space needs, senior center, Town Hall staff and other uses. During this same year the Parks and Recreation Commission submitted a letter to the Board of Selectmen expressing interest in moving their offices and programs to the space.
In 2005, a Town Space Needs Study was conducted by EDM in which it was recommended the space be used for a new senior center, youth center and Parks and Recreation.
In 2009, a second Bridge Street School Study Committee submitted a report of recommended uses for the Bridge Street School and associated property to the Board of Selectmen. The report recommended retaining the land and building by the town. The committee also stated that the building was structurally sound but would need extensive renovations. Suggested uses of the building included swing space, town hall annex, central offices for school, Parks and Recreation offices, library annex/storage, community activities center or combination of multiple uses.
In 2010/2011, the building was explored for use as town offices, but during public bonding forums that year the use was not supported.
In 2011/2012, a new library was proposed on the Bridge Street School site but failed at referendum. The town decided to maintain the existing library and make renovations has needed.
In 2012, the town sought proposals to sell the property for redevelopment. A proposal to convert the school into six apartment units and build 59 additional units adacent on the property was presented at a Town Meeting, but failed to pass.
In 2013, the Board of Selectmen sought public input about the building and property and hired an independent facilitator to hold a workshop, Suffield Speaks. The result of this workshop was overwhelming support to retain the building for municipal use.
In 2014, the concept of renovating the building into a community center was presented at two public hearings. Following public hearings the Board of Selectmen voted to move the proposal forward to the Board of Finance. The Board of Finance desired more details of the proposal and suggested an Ad-Hoc Committee be formed to review the proposal in greater detail
The Ad-Hoc committee is a subcommittee of the Board of Finance and commenced their first meeting in May 2014. The committee is comprised of representatives from the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance, Department of Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Economic Development, Permanent Building Commission and members of the public. The committee's mission was to investigate and formulate a plan to repurpose BSS into a community center.