As a committee created by the New Haven Board of Aldermen considers plans for the historic Goffe Street Armory, Ward 1 Alderwoman Sarah Eidelson ’12 is leading the charge to transform it into a community center.
The Goffe Street Armory Planning Committee met Tuesday night to brainstorm uses for the space and hear suggestions from community organizations that might eventually run programs there. Though by the end of the meeting four sheets of easel paper were covered with ink, committee members remained undecided as to what purposes the Armory should serve. But Eidelson and Ward 28 Alderwoman Claudette Robinson-Thorpe, the two organizers of the committee, were adamant that at least a portion of the space should be transformed into a community center.
“I think the brainstorm tonight was really informative,” Eidelson said after the meeting. “I think there is huge potential for the armory to be a community space.”
The building, which takes up roughly one city block and offers over 155,000 square feet of available space, was last used by two National Guard units over four years ago. In July, the Board approved a $2.8 million grant for the Armory’s repair and established the planning committee. In coming months, the committee will continue to meet with community members and local organizations in an effort to consider everyone’s opinions.
Because of the building’s size, some meeting attendees proposed using the space as a “multi-purpose complex.” Rachel Heerema, the executive director of Citywide Youth Coalition, a network of people who promote youth success in the New Haven area, said the Armory could offer commercial retail space and office space for different types of city or community-based organizations. Others suggested that it could house services and facilities including legal and health services, rental space, performing arts areas, tutoring centers, a library and fitness centers. Even the idea of a pool was mentioned.
Despite the myriad of ideas that circulated, almost everyone agreed that some of the space should be used as a youth center of some sort. Some of the services suggested for such a youth center were college preparation, driver’s education, a technology center and an arts center.
But the transformation will not happen overnight. According to Robert Smuts ’01, the city’s chief administrative officer, the rehabilitation of the facilities could take 15 to 18 months. Damaged floors, holes in the roof, an antiquated heating and cooling system and aging elevator cords are just some of the repairs that need to be completed.
In the meantime, an amendment to the grant developed by Eidelson aims to use the Armory’s redevelopment to add jobs to the city. The amendment requires that the city employ as many New Haven residents as possible in the process of restoring the building.
“I think there are a lot of needs in this community,” Smuts said. “The Armory ideally is a resource that can help enhance or provide new services to compliment what is here.”
The Goffe Street Armory Planning Committee will hold its next meeting to discuss the project further on Tuesday, Oct. 16.