Community Center and business incubator for all

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The Kearns Regional Community Center board of directors appreciates all of the support and questions from residents, town officials and the town advisory committee. We firmly believe that good questions lead to better outcomes, whether that is financial stability, small business development or social good.

To that end, we have met with many citizens and endeavored to answer questions on social media and in person. We continue to provide opportunities for conversation, including a Meet the Board event on Friday, March 29, from 7–9 p.m. at East Granby Farms.

The board is committed to bringing to our region and the state a self-sustaining, business-oriented model for how to repurpose crumbling and neglected school buildings. Our conservative estimates, as detailed in our budget, put us on track to be profitable quickly. The community center will have areas that generate revenue (adult daycare, café, teaching and commercial incubator kitchens, performance space, and conference room), in addition to community membership opportunities.

We have no intention of asking the town to foot the bill. By (hopefully) receiving a $2 million bond for renovation, this project will bring those tax dollars back to our region and create jobs. With that assistance, the project aims to be self-sustaining within a year and has a cadre of professionals performing tremendous pro bono work to make this project viable, including grant writers.

Given that this board is raising the funds, managing the renovation, running the facility, and developing the programming in conjunction with other groups, a 10-year lease is both fair and needed to inspire the investment from the state and our region. This project meets the Governor’s exceptions to the “debt diet” because it will be a stimulus for small business through the kitchens and the co-working and conference room spaces. The center by design is entrepreneurial and provides a nationwide model for thoughtful and proactive repurposing of former school buildings. Right now, Granby spends up to $50,000 per year maintaining a property no one uses; as a regional community center, thousands of people from 10 towns will benefit from unique programming and safe space in which to explore, learn and achieve.

The Town of Granby has been studying possible uses of this property and this proposal in particular for some time. We have full confidence that both the town and the advisory committee is proceeding with all due diligence to ensure an appropriate plan for Kearns. We also believe that a community center that benefits seniors, veterans, teens, those with special needs, small business owners, artists, and families is an asset that Connecticut and our region can market to attract new business and new families. Together we can turn a liability into an asset, an eyesore into a warm space for all, and an empty hulk into a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship. Not bad for an old school.

KCC Board of Directors: Alecia Aldrich, Annie Hornish, Kenya Moening, Alicia Newton, Josh Sunderland, Eileen Swan, Matt Tyo