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A renovated Academy should result in a joint public (community center) and private (commercial) use building, with the larger portion used for a community center and the smaller portion for commercial entities such as a marketplace, restaurant, adult education, art, recreation, and office leasing space, etc. Businesses continually seek leasing space along Route 1 close to town to no avail due to lack of supply, and comments on social media indicate strong support for commercial businesses to share the generous 53,000 square feet of the Academy building with a community center.
It is imperative that the Academy’s plan have a commercial component alongside the community center to generate revenue and fund the operating costs of such. The projected $14 million needed to renovate the Academy building for a community center does not take into account annual operating costs. Those annual costs will increase the town’s operating budget and hence the taxpayers’ annual bill. Thus, generating revenue from commercial enterprises is crucial to offset the operating expenses of an Academy community center.
It was Daniel Hand’s quest that all people have the opportunity for an education that led him to donate generously to construct Madison’s first high school. It is because of Daniel Hand’s philanthropy and advocacy of education for all in the 1880s that Madison possesses the land the Academy building occupies today. Under no terms should the Academy building be destroyed, nor should it be sold for cheap to build luxury condominiums for the wealthy at the expense of the many. The Academy building should be renovated as a community center, but we must be fiscally responsible and provide for the successful future of the center by including in the Academy’s plan a viable revenue stream that will sustain the community center for years to come.
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