February 24, 2020
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Senior Center, Library Will Work with Madison to Avoid Redundancy with Academy Design

Published Feb. 12, 2020

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As town officials begin a deep dive into the purposes, philosophy, and amenities of a potential community center project at Academy School, with residents expected to vote on the $14 million initiative in the fall, the question of what kind of community spaces Madison residents need, want, or already have is one that the whole town will have to answer.

Two other community spaces, though, could overlap with Academy’s purposes: the Madison Senior Center and the E.C. Scranton Library.

Many residents surveyed in a poll last winter also brought up these two places as resources that might serve the same purpose as Academy in some areas. First Selectman Peggy Lyons said she has spoken with both Library Director Sunnie Scarpa as well as Director of Senior Services Austin Hall about the space provided at their facilities as she considers specific designs for Academy.

The preliminary proposed design for the Academy community center includes seven rooms available for arts, educational, dance, or meeting space; two for social or game space; one for art galleries or “gathering space”; one multifunction media room; an approximately 2,400 square foot auditorium; and an approximately 5,400 square foot gym, among other spaces.

Senior Center Spaces

The Ad-Hoc Community Center Design Committee for the Academy project wrote in its final report last summer that the Senior Center’s community-oriented space was limited, and unlikely to fulfill some of the needs Academy would, specifically in the realms of arts and culture.

Elle Gillespie, who works at the senior center, told The Source that there are approximately eight Senior Center rooms available for community use. They range in size from the café, which can seat 70, to smaller rooms used to play cards and that hold about 16 people, she said.

Other rooms include an activity center and a library, both of which are available to be rented out, and can hold around 20 people each, Gillespie said.

The café is almost always in use by the center’s members, which number about 1,000. Gillespie said other rooms are used for various purposes in the community, from condo association meetings to birthday parties. She said that members get priority for space, and though they are often relatively quickly booked up, it is “dependent on the day” whether or not there is space available.

Gillespie said the senior center has also looked at how it rents space, because members will sometimes reserve a room but not use it. Members also have priority for reserving some of the spaces, she said.

Library Spaces

Another community space that will offer a bevy of resources in the areas of space and community programing is the E.C Scranton Library, set to re-open downtown on July 1 with an additional 20,000 square footage and a number of brand new community-centered opportunities for residents.

Scarpa told The Source that there are a lot of things the library will offer residents that some people might not be aware of or expect. She specifically said that libraries work to be flexible and fill whatever needs the community requires.

The library will offer seven rooms available for the public to use—up from two before the renovation—ranging from a large, 90-seat program room to a hyperflexible “maker space” that Scarpa said is ideal for crafts, but also will be used for many other purposes, possibly including virtual reality games or activities.

Scarpa told town officials at a budget hearing last month that she expects the new library to be able to support at least 100 private groups, clubs, or organizations using these community spaces on a regular basis for monthly, weekly, or semi-regular meetings. The old library supported about 50, she said.

The library will also be doubling its programming, with a new dedicated children’s room and teen space that Scarpa said will be significantly more efficient and offer a large variety of programs, from video gaming to music to world cultures.

In recent conversations with Lyons and other town officials, Scarpa said she has really delved deeply into what the library will be able to offer, versus what it will not be able to do—specifically dance studio or performance space.

Scarpa said that in her experience, there has been a spirit of collaboration and communication between Madison’s various community spaces.

“Everyone really wants to work together. We don’t want to do anything redundant. We want to support what other people are doing and find what we can offer the community that’s unique and within our mission,” Scarpa said.

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