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Town May Convert Parker School to Senior Housing

The town council will discuss a possible contract on February 14.

The town council is considering converting Parker Memorial School into senior housing, according to a discussion at Wednesday night's school board meeting.

Superintendent William Guzman included Parker School in the meeting agenda so that board members are aware of the potential changes. Guzman said that the board would have to return the "use and control" of the school to the town so the town may more easily apply for potential funds.

According to the school board agenda, town staff members and David Berto of Housing Enterprises, Inc. have looked at the unoccupied portion of the site and determined that more than 40 units could be developed. 

In the town council's February 14 agenda, the council will vote to set a public hearing on a proposed contract with the non-profit organization, The Access Agency. The agenda also notes that there is a large need for affordable senior housing in Tolland.

"This is an exciting possibility to meet an important town need while at the same time making an excellent use of a vacant building," Town Manager Steven Werbner said of the idea.

The Recreation Department is a portion of the school.

To view the council agenda, visit the town's website.

Francis Brochu February 13, 2012 at 02:10 PM
I can't see this as a good location for senior housing with the adjacent intermediate school and the rec dept and rec playing fields.
Jim G. February 13, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Seconded. Whatever they do with this building, it needs to be town/school/rec related. Everything else will be in the way or conflict with the surrounding school.
Josh Freeman February 13, 2012 at 03:26 PM
The location is pretty close to the Town Hall & Library as well as the Senior Center which I would consider an advantage. Walkways could actually directly link these facilities to each other alleviating the need to drive to get to and from these facilities. I think the proximity to the school/rec department are concerns, but could also be a great opportunity to mix age groups more effectively than we do today in town. I'd like to view it as an opportunity, but I do know it is at least a challenge (parking, traffic, usage mix, etc). One thing to think about is the lack of senior housing is not a Tolland-only issue. Waiting lists are long in all surrounding towns and this facility will be costly to renovate for town use in some other manner but we may be able to leverage outside funding opportunities if it's use was for senior housing since there is such a need. Please do keep an open mind and participate in the conversation - That is the most important thing. We're trying to figure out the best use for the facility and explore options, but nothing is determined yet. Thanks, Josh
MaryAnn February 13, 2012 at 07:04 PM
The Town Council has identified a long standing need for more senior housing for several years now in Tolland and the surrounding area, and this might be a viable way to meet that need and use what is quickly becoming an eyesore in the center of town since the desertion of the building by the BoE. The site could be a great location for sr housing. Josh makes some very good points. What better place than in the midst of activity to keep seniors vital and connected with the community? There could be walking paths - it is close to the ADA path into Crandalls that already exists, close to the Library, Sr. Center, and town hall, churches, art center. And think of the opportunities for intergenerational activities with the intermediate school next store and the preschool in the existing building. I think the Council should keep this on the front burner and seek grants and state and federal funding to get it going.
JK February 15, 2012 at 06:49 PM
I like the idea.
Jim G. February 15, 2012 at 07:11 PM
This still strikes me as an idea that sounds great on first thought but presents so many problems that the supposed advantages fade away pretty quickly. Yes, we have a largely unused building; okay, some see a need for more elderly housing here. Do those two things necessarily coincide? Even if you think you know the facility, call it up on Google Maps and look at the aerial layout. How are you going to disconnect this facility from the TIS building and grounds that surround it? Where are staff and visitors going to park? Will every visitor and maintenance/supply/service person have to check in with TIS, or do we want random strangers having close walk-through access to school grounds? Those are the practical considerations; how about financial? If the building is in such poor condition it can't be used as a school, who pays (short term and long term) for the cost of renovation and conversion to anything like comfortable living arrangements? And how many seniors will want to live in the middle of an elementary school? (Some will appreciate the vigor and activity, but all? A majority, even?) Nope. This all adds up as two disconnected problems with no solution between them, only the potential for an aggravating funding sinkhole with no upside for anyone - town, school, town residents or facility residents.
Josh Freeman February 15, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Jim, I encourage your participation (and others) at the Public Hearing on the topic at the February 28 Town Council meeting. I suggest that more discussion and thought is going into the idea than you are giving credit. Some of the concerns raised are valid, but saying there is no solution or potential upside is a stretch. Regards, Josh
Jim G. February 15, 2012 at 07:58 PM
I'll be traveling, unfortunately. It's possible that all these issues have been considered and may be solved or solvable, but from over here it looks a bit like another case of Maslow's Law... "When your only tool is a hammer, all your problems start to look like nails." I think trying to force an ultimately unworkable solution onto this building is skimming over some nearly-insoluble hurdles. Nothing can change the fact that it's a school building in the middle of an active elementary school: there are things it is suited for and can be cost-effectively converted into, and things it isn't and can't be. Any kind of private use means some deep conflicts between it and the school. Any use beyond general "office" purposes means very expensive remodeling and upgrades. Tear it down if it's too old and outmoded for school or town use. Repurpose it for town office/meeting/infrastructure needs if not. All other solutions have cost and implementation hurdles so great as to almost assure failure.

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