The town council has yet to vote on whether to accept the recommendation that Southington Community Cultural Arts be given 18-months to raise enough funds to fully renovate the Gura Building as an arts center, but the proposal has plenty of support from .
The commission took a consensus role call this week, requesting that members express their opinions regarding whether to tear the building down or . The discussion led to overwhelming support as nine of the 10 members present put their support behind the arts center proposal.
“This is something that I think many of us feel not only could be successful, but is something that really could be huge in terms of economic development in Southington,” Commission Chairman Michael DelSanto said. “It’s something that may or may not work out, but why not give them the opportunity to try?”
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The Gura Building Use Committee last week made their recommendation, one that came over the past five months.
Miceli said that although the town would consider demolishing it, selling it or leasing it to a non-profit organization, only SCCA expressed any interest in the building. As a result, members were forced to choose between the idea of leasing it for $1 to SCCA or demolishing it at a cost in excess of $260,000.
The proposal was approved by a 4-1 vote, with only committee member Stephanie Urillo opposed. On Tuesday, it was James Macchio who expressed concerns over the building and whether it was the right location for an arts center.
Macchio said he is in favor of finding a location for an arts center in town, but also believes it does not have to be at the Southington Town Green to succeed and also felt that there are better, more viable and cost-friendly options in town.
“My opinion is based on last several years, just being in town and driving by it everyday,” said Macchio, a resident of Berlin Avenue. “Many people have said the building is in serious repair. They’ve had problems with mold, the roofing and parts internally falling apart. That was part of the rationale when looking at the scope of North Center School.”
“I’m not at all opposed to the concept. It’s a good idea, but there are some other locations that the organization could look at that would be better suited.”
Macchio called the current building “an eyesore” and said he doesn’t see it being repairable given the current state, no matter how much money is put in. He also questioned the lease agreement that would be needed, as it would make the town a landlord and require certain liability under state laws.
Planning Commission Chairman Paul Chaplinsky, who also served on the building use committee, said he respects Macchio’s opinion but doesn’t see harm in allowing SCCA to have 18-months .
He said if the group can independently fund the project in its entirely – the renovations are expected to cost in the range of $1.2 million – then it would be something great for the town. If they can’t fund it, he said all that has changed would be the date of potential demolition.
“The vote was a large show of support for the arts proposal and the 18-month window,” he said. “It was a voice roll call, not an official vote, but I felt it was important to see of the commission was behind it and it appears they are.”
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