Designs for new Cromwell Community Center unveiled

CROMWELL — Five concept plans for a new shared community center presented to city council last week, offering the first public glimpse of how this long-awaited facility could possibly be built.

The proposed location for the new state-of-the-art community center is in the heart of Watrous Park, next to the site of the new college, according to sketches unveiled at the August 10 city council meeting.

Proposed layouts for approximately 45,000 square foot facility include a full-size gymnasium with a two-lane track that spins overhead, a fitness center, dance studio, locker rooms, kitchen, game room, arts and crafts room, and a expanded food bank, according to plans.

City officials stressed that the drawings are conceptual and that the project still needs to be voted on and approved by city council. The total cost of the project is not yet known, but is expected to be announced once the project managers have finalized the designs.

If completed, the project would be a much needed asset in the community, allowing city officials to expand their range of programs while connecting residents of all ages who use the services.

Michelle Miller, architect at Hamden-based Silver Petrucelli and Assoc., said project officials are focusing on building the community center in the heart of Watrous Park because it would be conveniently located near public services.

The site would also take advantage of some of the park’s walking trails, which Miller called a “great asset” to the city. “We really don’t want to just destroy them,” she said.

Among the list of outdoor facilities are pétanque and pickleball courts, a garden and a terrace. A swimming pool could be incorporated at a later stage of the project, Miller said.

According to plans, the community center would be shared by four city departments: parks and recreation, senior services, youth services and social services. This intergenerational facility would offer a range of programs and services suitable for residents of all ages, Miller said.

Another goal of the project is to provide flexible spaces that cater to a diversity of interests, Miller added.

The desire for a new community center has long been felt by residents and officials, who say existing facilities are limited and hamper the city’s ability to provide services.

Amy Saada, director of seniors services and human resources, said Wednesday that the city’s current seniors’ center “does not meet our needs.” With only one room available for programming, the facility does not offer enough space to accommodate Cromwell’s elderly residents, who make up about 41% of the city’s population, Saada said.

“We can’t offer more than one program at a time,” she says.

The current senior center at 41 West St. shares a campus with City Hall and the library. An effort to build a stand-alone senior center was rejected about a decade ago.

Since then, “the baby boomer generation has exploded” and now constitute a larger segment of the city’s population, Saada said. With the average human life expectancy continuing to rise, she added, older residents need space to exercise.

Saada said a new community center was long overdue in Cromwell. As a community center, the facility would be a welcoming destination for residents to socialize, exercise and learn, she said.

Parks and Recreation Director Scott Kieras said Wednesday that a lack of space at City Hall, which is used for recreation, has limited the types of activities offered. A multipurpose community center would allow for more programming, such as dance, and provide flexibility for other existing groups, including the city’s theater program.

“It’s something I would really like to accomplish,” City Manager Anthony Salvatore said Wednesday. “It’s something the community needs.”

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Jill E. Washington