Community center planners to look at drawings today

New London - The group looking into bringing a community center to the city is moving forward and will meet this morning to view preliminary drawings of what a center could look like.

The New London Community Center Planning Collaborative also will hear results of a survey that asked residents what they would like to see in a community center.

The meeting will take place at 9 a.m. at the OIC Building, 106 Truman St.

"I'm encouraged by the amount of momentum and the range of community organizations that are involved,'' said Laurel Holmes, director of the Office of Community Health, Outreach and Partnerships at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, which is heading up the collaborative. "I think there's a realization that consolidating resources toward something, rather than dropping pockets of money in multiple places in the city, makes sense."

Earlier this year the collaborative hired the design team of Bargmann Hendrie & Archetype Inc. of Boston and Ballard King & Associates of Highland Ranch, Colo., to conduct a feasibility study. The consultants looked at the city's demographics and reviewed existing facilities. The study also included a survey of residents.

The group has a $13,000 community block grant and has received private donations to pay for the $20,000 study. The Community Foundation is handling the group's finances.

As envisioned by the group, the center would be a public/private venture with the city possibly donating or leasing land and a private company managing it. Holmes said the group is looking into possible private developers who would build the facility at a cost of $12 million to $15 million.

Potential sites include the municipally owned Bates Woods Park and Edgerton School on Colman Street, which is privately owned.

Holmes said the money the city is now spending on the Martin Center for seniors and recreation programs could go toward a new facility.

A goal of the group, she said, is for New London residents to have free or reduced memberships.

Just recently, she said, Ocean Community YMCA, which operates centers in Mystic and Westerly, has expressed an interest in the project. If the Y gets involved, she said, memberships would be charged on a sliding scale and scholarships would be available.

A request for $8 million in state bonding funds for the project is pending, Holmes said.


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