In third meeting, Armory possibilities arise

On Tuesday, the Goffe Street Armory Planning Committee had its third hearing to determine how to transform the unoccupied Armory.
On Tuesday, the Goffe Street Armory Planning Committee had its third hearing to determine how to transform the unoccupied Armory. Photo by Vanessa Yuan.

At a Tuesday night meeting, Ward 1 Alderman Sarah Eidelson ’12 and Ward 28 Alderman Claudette Robinson-Thorpe led the Goffe Street Armory Planning Committee in repurposing the unoccupied Armory, which spans one city block and approximately 155,000 square feet.

The committee held its third hearing to address the future of the building on Tuesday, accepting suggestions for how best to utilize the Armory from interested city residents, many of whom were members of local community organizations. Many suggested using the Armory as a community center, though Eidelson and Robinson-Thorpe said there remains uncertainty about how the committee would run community programs while also maintaining the building, given limited funds and projected revenue.

The building was last occupied over four years ago by the National Guard. Since then, the Armory has been left in disrepair, suffering damage to its floors, roofs and heating and cooling systems.

Because of the large amount of space available, some attendees recommended partitioning the building into various spaces. While part of the Armory would be used to house community organizations, the rest of it, a teaching pastor at the Elm City Vineyard Pastor Church suggested, could be rented out to interested organizations at market-rate prices to generate revenue. Other suggestions included using the space for classrooms, parenting and health centers, performances, a library and fitness centers.

Helen Kauder, director of a contemporary art gallery and non-profit organization in New Haven called Artspace, proposed a similar art gallery use for the facility. Last October, Artspace ran City Wide Open Studios, an event that brought together works of art by visual artists in Connecticut, encouraging community members to visit the space and to purchase works of art.

Kauder had first brought this project to the committee’s attention at a previous meeting. At the end of Kauder’s presentation, Eidelson and Robinson-Thorpe said that the Artspace program would be one of the projects that the Committee will heavily consider.

“It’s a win-win situation,” Robinson-Thorpe said. “It costs the city nothing and it might generate funds.”

In a previous meeting, Eidelson said that the redevelopment of the Armory would also add city jobs, as the committee would be required to employ local residents for the project.

The committee is currently waiting for $2.8 million in funding from the state to refurbish the space and will vote on the project after the final meetings. Even so, at the end of the public portion of the hearing, Robinson-Thorpe made clear that some portion of the space would be used as community space.

“What I said from day one is that if the Armory is nothing else, it will be a community center,” Robinson-Thorpe told the News after the hearing.

In the meantime, the committee will continue to listen to public opinion before finalizing the plans for the Goffe Street Armory. Committee members agreed that they would prefer to hear more from city youth in the final meeting, as the refurbished Armory would likely benefit them most.

The last of four public hearings on the Armory will be held on Tuesday, March 5.

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