Hamden’s Keefe Community Center goes online for long-awaited upgrades

HAMDEN — Y’Isiah Lopes has big dreams for the Keefe Community Center.

As he shows visitors around the property, Lopes, who runs the center, points out where the facility could benefit from improvements. And thanks to $1.3 million in state assistance, the city-owned building at the corner of Dixwell Avenue and Pine Street could finally get some upgrades.

There’s the Old Boiler Room, which houses a metal contraption so old it looks like workers once shoveled coal through its two small doors. If the room were empty, Lopes says, it could house a commercial kitchen or office space.

Upstairs in what was once a school gymnasium but is now used as a meeting space, Lopes notices a bulge in an uneven floor segment. Above, a hole in the ceiling needs to be repaired.

In a nearby hallway, a small water fountain bears an “out of order” sign.

Lopes opens the door to an adjoining bathroom. For him, it’s like stepping into a time machine.

“The bathrooms look like the 70s or 80s,” says Lopes.

The Keefe Center also lacks a sprinkler system, according to Lopes, who thinks it’s especially important to install one because of all the programs the building houses: Sleeping Giant daycare, YMCA after-school programs, child education adults, city youth services and Hamden food. bank, among others.

The exterior of the building, where gaps penetrate between some bricks in the wall, shows signs of wear.

A fence bordering the parking lot tilts to one side. Lopes would like this fixed and he would like to add accessible parking spaces.

At an adjacent playground, Lopes points to a hole in the spongy, grassy floor. This needs fixing, he says, and the playground could be improved – as could a nearby concrete pavilion that bears children’s chalk art.

If the city were to repave the pavilion and set up a tent nearby, he said, the space could host events.

Although officials have yet to decide which upgrades to pursue, Lopes learned last week that the State Bond Commission had approved $1.3 million for upgrades to the Keefe Community Center.

“I was excited and couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I just can’t wait.”

“A lot of what we do in Hamden operates out of the Keefe Community Center, and we need a building that shows we value the people of Hamden,” said Mayor Lauren Garrett, who credited the city ​​state delegation for lobbying to secure the fund.

“Our state delegation is pretty awesome and they were able to get us the money,” she said.

The commission also approved $4.3 million for a new fire station to replace the Circular Avenue station. The money is in addition to an additional $4.3 million approved earlier this year, according to State Sen. Jorge Cabrera, D-Hamden.

As for the Keefe Center, he said it has been a “district priority for some time.”

“I’m really happy it happened,” Cabrera said.

He noted that the city makes extensive use of the Keefe Center. Last winter, for example, the city installed a warming center outside the building and used it to serve families displaced by an apartment fire.

Formerly the Margaret L. Keefe Elementary School, the community center was built in 1904, according to the City Assessor’s Office.

“It’s just a resource that we’ve had for a long time to upgrade and update,” Cabrera said. “He is a valuable asset to the city.

The building needs repairs to its windows, HVAC system and brickwork, according to Garrett, who also said there were leaks that needed to be fixed.

The city must decide which improvements to prioritize.

“We have $1.35 million to spend and it’s really going to be about seeing how far we can stretch the money,” Garrett said.

But regardless of how the money is spent, Lopes believes the reparations will excite the community, he said.

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Jill E. Washington